During the twentieth century, the view that assertions and norms
are valid insofar as they respond to principles independent of all
local and temporal contexts came under attack from two
perspectives: the partiality of translation and the intersubjective
constitution of the self, understood as responsive to recognition.
Defenses of universalism have by and large taken the form of a
thinning out of substantive universalism into various forms of
Alessandro Ferrara instead launches an entirely different
strategy for transcending the particularity of context without
contradicting our pluralistic intuitions: a strategy centered on
the exemplary universalism of judgment. Whereas exemplarity has
long been thought to belong to the domain of aesthetics, this book
explores the other uses to which it can be put in our
philosophical predicament, especially in the field of politics.
After defining exemplarity and describing how something unique can
possess universal significance, Ferrara addresses the force exerted
by exemplarity, the nature of the judgment that discloses
exemplarity, and the way in which the force of the example can
bridge the difference between various contexts.
Drawing not only on Kant's Critique of the Power of
Judgment but also on the work of Hannah Arendt, John Rawls,
Ronald Dworkin, and Jürgen Habermas, Ferrara outlines a view of
exemplary validity that is applicable to today's central
philosophical issues, including public reason, human rights,
radical evil, sovereignty, republicanism and liberalism, and
religion in the public sphere.
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