The Right to Justification

The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice

Rainer Forst
Translated by Jeffrey Flynn
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/fors14708
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  • Book Info
    The Right to Justification
    Book Description:

    Contemporary philosophical pluralism recognizes the inevitability and legitimacy of multiple ethical perspectives and values, making it difficult to isolate the higher-order principles on which to base a theory of justice. Rising up to meet this challenge, Rainer Forst, a leading member of the Frankfurt School's newest generation of philosophers, conceives of an "autonomous" construction of justice founded on what he calls the basic moral right to justification.

    Forst begins by identifying this right from the perspective of moral philosophy. Then, through an innovative, detailed critical analysis, he ties together the central components of social and political justice-freedom, democracy, equality, and toleration-and joins them to the right to justification. The resulting theory treats "justificatory power" as the central question of justice, and by adopting this approach, Forst argues, we can discursively work out, or "construct," principles of justice, especially with respect to transnational justice and human rights issues.

    As he builds his theory, Forst engages with the work of Anglo-American philosophers such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Amartya Sen, and critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth. Straddling multiple subjects, from politics and law to social protest and philosophical conceptions of practical reason, Forst brilliantly gathers contesting claims around a single, elastic theory of justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51958-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. TRANSLATOR’S NOTE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: THE FOUNDATION OF JUSTICE
    (pp. 1-10)

    Philosophy has defined human beings in numerous ways: as beings that are endowed with reason (animal rationale) and equipped with the unique capacity for language (zoon logon echon), that are also finite and limited, “flawed beings,” and last but not least as social (animal sociale) and political beings (zoon politikon). In my view, what emerges from the combination of these definitions is the image of human beings as justificatory beings. They not only have the ability to justify or take responsibility for their beliefs and actions by giving reasons to others, but in certain contexts they see this as a...

  6. Part 1 FOUNDATIONS:: PRACTICAL REASON, MORALITY, AND JUSTICE

    • 1 PRACTICAL REASON AND JUSTIFYING REASONS: ON THE FOUNDATION OF MORALITY
      (pp. 13-42)

      1. The classic definition of human beings as animal rationale, as beings endowed with reason, means that human beings are justifying, reason-giving beings. “Ratio, raison, reason connote ‘ground’ as much as ‘reason.’ The capacity to reason is the ability to account for one’s beliefs and actions; rationem reddere in Latin, logon didonai in Greek.”² Reasons (Gründe) establish a supportive ground (Grund)—and here the German language makes up for any lack connected with combining these meanings in the same term—on which the beliefs and actions of rational beings “stand,” or on which they can “stand their ground.”

      The ground created...

    • 2 MORAL AUTONOMY AND THE AUTONOMY OF MORALITY: TOWARD A THEORY OF NORMATIVITY AFTER KANT
      (pp. 43-61)

      If we survey contemporary moral philosophy from a Kantian perspective, it seems that Kant’s ethics has in recent decades increasingly prevailed over competing approaches, and over utilitarianism in particular. It is now widely accepted that morality rests on a principle of respect for autonomous persons as “ends in themselves” and that it consists of a system of strictly binding norms that owe their validity to a procedure of universalization. For Ernst Tugendhat, for example, a “morality of universal respect” represents the only credible concept of morality.¹

      On closer inspection, however, things look different. For Tu-gendhat can also serve as an...

    • 3 ETHICS AND MORALITY
      (pp. 62-78)

      The much-discussed distinction between the ethically good and the morally right is central to Jürgen Habermas’s version of discourse ethics, but discourse ethics invented neither the issue nor the terminology.¹ Rather, the distinction expresses the idea of a morality of unconditionally binding norms becoming autonomous from the ethical doctrines and comprehensive worldviews that view this sphere of intersubjective obligations as part of the overall good for human beings.² With that, the unity of the normative world breaks open in a way that demands a fundamentally new account of practical reason.

      In order to clarify the difference between ethics and morality,...

    • 4 THE JUSTIFICATION OF JUSTICE: RAWLS’S POLITICAL LIBERALISM AND HABERMAS’S DISCOURSE THEORY IN DIALOGUE
      (pp. 79-122)

      In the contemporary debate over the foundations of a theory of political and social justice, the approaches of John Rawls and Jür-gen Habermas play a central role. With his now-classic A Theory of Justice, Rawls oriented political philosophy toward justifying principles of justice and structured the discussion all the way up to and beyond his Political Liberalism.¹ At the same time, in Between Facts and Norms Habermas developed a systematic and comprehensive theory of the democratic constitutional state on the basis of his discourse theory.² The theories originally arose out of very different traditions and approaches, but they ultimately arrived...

  7. Part 2 POLITICAL AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

    • 5 POLITICAL LIBERTY: INTEGRATING FIVE CONCEPTIONS OF AUTONOMY
      (pp. 125-137)

      1. Although “liberty” today is generally recognized as a fundamental criterion for the legitimacy of a society’s basic institutional structure, disputes over its content continue unabated. Within the history of political philosophy as well as in contemporary debates, a wide variety of theories provide competing accounts, ranging from republicanism to Marxism, from libertarianism to various forms of liberalism (“perfectionist” or “political”).¹ In the following, I want to suggest that the best way out of these controversies can be found in an intersubjectivist concept of political liberty comprised of an adequate integration of five different conceptions of individual autonomy.

      2. The term “political...

    • 6 A CRITICAL THEORY OF MULTICULTURAL TOLERATION
      (pp. 138-154)

      In times of accelerated social change and intense political conflicts, there is a growing need to hold onto traditional concepts that appear to show ways toward a peaceful way of coexistence. Yet at the same time, we often find that the closer we look at such concepts, we find them deeply ambivalent and to be more an expression of social conflict than a means to overcome it. In the current debates about multiculturalism, within as well as beyond nation-states, the concept of toleration is a case in point. It is a heavily contested concept, such that for some, toleration is...

    • 7 THE RULE OF REASONS: THREE MODELS OF DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 155-187)

      In the following, I want to contribute to a clarification of the much-discussed concept of deliberative democracy by contrasting a liberal model with a communitarian one in order to suggest an alternative to both.¹ According to all of these models, democracy should not be understood as consisting in political mechanisms for the aggregation of given individual interests or preferences, so that, to quote Habermas’s characterization of a standard liberal view, “the political process of opinion and will-formation in the public sphere and in parliament is determined by the competition of strategically acting collectivities trying to maintain or acquire positions of...

    • 8 SOCIAL JUSTICE, JUSTIFICATION, AND POWER
      (pp. 188-200)

      Although the concept of “social justice” has a firm position in our normative vocabulary, this seems to dissolve under closer inspection. This is surely the case at the political level, if one considers, for instance, the discussions about reforming the welfare state in Western societies. For as diverse as the views on that may be, everyone engaged in these debates claims to have the best interpretation of what justice demands.

      A similar situation is reflected at the philosophical level. A variety of understandings of justice are found here, and they rest on entirely different normative premises, include different criteria for...

  8. Part 3 HUMAN RIGHTS AND TRANSNATIONAL JUSTICE

    • 9 THE BASIC RIGHT TO JUSTIFICATION: TOWARD A CONSTRUCTIVIST CONCEPTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
      (pp. 203-228)

      In contemporary debates on the concept of human rights, one frequently encounters the criticism that this is not only a specifically Western concept, but also a tool that Western, capitalist states use to politically and culturally dominate other societies. The first thesis concerns the historical genesis and normative validity of human rights, while the second touches on political issues of their interpretation and application. Concerning the second thesis, one needs to take a closer look at the critique, especially at who raises it and against which policy or institution it is directed. It may turn out that such accusations are...

    • 10 CONSTRUCTIONS OF TRANSNATIONAL JUSTICE: COMPARING JOHN RAWLS’S THE LAW OF PEOPLES AND OTFRIED HÖFFE’S DEMOCRACY IN AN AGE OF GLOBALISATION
      (pp. 229-240)

      Without a doubt, one of the most important challenges for contemporary political philosophy is the question of what it means to speak of a just legal, political, and social order at the international or global level in view of the varied and complex phenomena described by the term “globalization.” This challenge is taken up by John Rawls in The Law of Peoples and Otfried Höffe in Democracy in an Age of Globalisation. Both develop a multistage contract theory that is concerned first of all with the just basic structure of a single state and subsequently with what international and supranational...

    • 11 JUSTICE, MORALITY, AND POWER IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
      (pp. 241-250)

      1. It goes without saying that philosophical discourses about global justice have to start from and respond to the reality of global injustice. But it is worth stressing that this holds true for both the level of description and that of evaluation. We can go wrong in our assessment of the global situation (and its local consequences), and we can go wrong in providing normative theories about it because of the first error. Theories of “explanatory nationalism” that locate the main causes for underdevelopment within poor and badly organized states are a case in point, though it is also important to...

    • 12 TOWARD A CRITICAL THEORY OF TRANSNATIONAL JUSTICE
      (pp. 251-266)

      The first question that has to be addressed when one thinks about issues of justice that transcend the normative boundaries of states is whether one is looking for principles of international or of global justice. Whereas the former view takes political communities organized into states to be the main agents of justice (i.e., who is asked to be just and who receives just treatment), the latter takes persons, regardless of their political membership, as the primary focus of justice (at least as far as the question is concerned with who receives just treatment). On the first view, principles of international...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 267-328)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 329-356)