An interpretation of political argument

European Journal of Political Theory 19 (3):293-313 (2020)
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How do we determine whether individuals accept the actual consistency of a political argument instead of just its rhetorical good looks? This article answers this question by proposing an interpretation of political argument within the constraints of political liberalism. It utilises modern developments in the philosophy of logic and language to reclaim ‘meaningless nonsense’ from use as a partisan war cry and to build up political argument as something more than a power struggle between competing conceptions of the good. Standard solutions for ‘clarifying’ meaning through descriptive definition encounter difficulties with the biases of status quo idioms, as well as partisan translations and circularity. Collectively called linguistic gerrymandering, these difficulties threaten political liberalism’s underlying coherency. The proposed interpretation of political argument overcomes this with a new brand of conceptual analysis that can falsifiably determine whether rhetoric has hijacked political argument.


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