Gerald Gaus and the Task of Political Philosophy

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In The Order of Public Reason, Gerald Gaus defends an innovative and sophisticated convergence version of public reason liberalism. The crucial concept of his argumentative framework is that of “social morality”, intended as the set of rules apt to organize how individuals can make moral demands over each other. I claim that Gaus’s characterization of social morality and its rules is unstable because it rests on a rejection of the distinction between the normative and the descriptive. I argue that such rejection is motivated by certain practical aims Gaus wishes his theory to achieve. His method and his idea that morality needs to be understood both as the dictate of impartial reasoning and as a social and historical fact come from the need for his theory to perform the task of settling the problem of order. I discuss Gaus’s philosophical attitude and, finally, distinguishing between “therapeutic” and “evaluative” approaches, I present some points of discussion for understanding the role and scope of political philosophy in general.
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Archival date: 2014-05-27
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