On Discursive Respect

Social Theory and Practice 40 (2):207-231 (2014)
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Moral and political forms of constructivism accord to people strong, “constitutive” forms of discursive standing and so build on, or express, a commitment to discursive respect. The paper explores dimensions of discursive respect, i.e., depth, scope, and purchase; it addresses tenuous interdependencies between them; on this basis, it identifies limitations of the idea of discursive respect and of constructivism. The task of locating discursive respect in the normative space defined by its three dimensions is partly, and importantly, an ethical task that is beyond constructivism. Interdependencies between these dimensions call into question the possibility of a plausible and coherent form of discursive respect that is deep, inclusive in scope, and rich in purchase. This does not mean that we should reject discursive respect, or constructivism, for that matter. But it suggests that the task of reconciling the dimensions of discursive respect may not allow for widely shareable results. This task needs to be addressed on non-constructivist grounds. Accordingly, we have reasons to concede that constitutive forms of discursive standing are less fundamental in the order of justification than weaker, “derivative” forms, and this is so especially if we take constitutive standing to mark an important good.

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Thomas M. Besch
Wuhan University


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