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Civil Passions: Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation

Overview

Must we put passions aside when we deliberate about justice? Can we do so? The dominant views of deliberation rightly emphasize the importance of impartiality as a cornerstone of fair decision making, but they wrongly assume that impartiality means being disengaged and passionless. In Civil Passions, Sharon Krause argues that moral and political deliberation must incorporate passions, even as she insists on the value of impartiality. Drawing on resources ranging from Hume's theory of moral sentiment to recent ...
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Overview

Must we put passions aside when we deliberate about justice? Can we do so? The dominant views of deliberation rightly emphasize the importance of impartiality as a cornerstone of fair decision making, but they wrongly assume that impartiality means being disengaged and passionless. In Civil Passions, Sharon Krause argues that moral and political deliberation must incorporate passions, even as she insists on the value of impartiality. Drawing on resources ranging from Hume's theory of moral sentiment to recent findings in neuroscience, Civil Passions breaks new ground by providing a systematic account of how passions can generate an impartial standpoint that yields binding and compelling conclusions in politics. Krause shows that the path to genuinely impartial justice in the public sphere—and ultimately to social change and political reform—runs through moral sentiment properly construed. This new account of affective but impartial judgment calls for a politics of liberal rights and democratic contestation, and it requires us to reconceive the meaning of public reason, the nature of sound deliberation, and the authority of law. By illuminating how impartiality feels, Civil Passions offers not only a truer account of how we deliberate about justice, but one that promises to engage citizens more effectively in acting for justice.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Review of Politics
Sharon Krause offers a significant reinterpretation of the relations among reason, emotion, morality, and politics. Civil Passions will become a major reference point for philosophers, political theorists, and legal theorists working on a broad range of issues, including moral psychology, metaethics, deliberative democracy, and legitimacy.
— Matthew D. Mendham
Perspectives on Politics
As scholars of deliberation move this research agenda forward, they can be grateful to Krause . . . for bringing to the fore just how multidimensional deliberative democracy really is.
— Jurg Steiner
Political Studies Review
Civil Passions is a well-written contribution to this debate and will be of interest both to political theorists and to moral philosophers.
— Liz Sutherland
Journal of the Review of Politics - Matthew D. Mendham
Sharon Krause offers a significant reinterpretation of the relations among reason, emotion, morality, and politics. Civil Passions will become a major reference point for philosophers, political theorists, and legal theorists working on a broad range of issues, including moral psychology, metaethics, deliberative democracy, and legitimacy.
Perspectives on Politics - Jurg Steiner
As scholars of deliberation move this research agenda forward, they can be grateful to Krause . . . for bringing to the fore just how multidimensional deliberative democracy really is.
Political Studies Review - Liz Sutherland
Civil Passions is a well-written contribution to this debate and will be of interest both to political theorists and to moral philosophers.
Choice
Krause's Civil Passions is an ambitious work of political theory that attempts to bridge the age-old divide between reason and emotion in theories of moral and political judgment. . . . This is a well-written, cogently argued, provocative, and important contribution to recent scholarship on democratic deliberation, theories of justice, and the proper role of affect within the political realm.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2010 Spitz Prize for the Best Book on Liberal or Democratic Theory, International Conference for the Study of Political Thought

Winner of the 2009 Alexander L. George Book Award of the International Society of Political Psychology

"Krause's Civil Passions is an ambitious work of political theory that attempts to bridge the age-old divide between reason and emotion in theories of moral and political judgment. . . . This is a well-written, cogently argued, provocative, and important contribution to recent scholarship on democratic deliberation, theories of justice, and the proper role of affect within the political realm."--Choice

"Sharon Krause offers a significant reinterpretation of the relations among reason, emotion, morality, and politics. Civil Passions will become a major reference point for philosophers, political theorists, and legal theorists working on a broad range of issues, including moral psychology, metaethics, deliberative democracy, and legitimacy."--Matthew D. Mendham, Journal of the Review of Politics

"As scholars of deliberation move this research agenda forward, they can be grateful to Krause . . . for bringing to the fore just how multidimensional deliberative democracy really is."--Jurg Steiner, Perspectives on Politics

"Civil Passions is a well-written contribution to this debate and will be of interest both to political theorists and to moral philosophers."--Liz Sutherland, Political Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691137254
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/11/2008
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Sharon R. Krause is associate professor of political science at Brown University. She is the author of "Liberalism with Honor".
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Read an Excerpt

Civil Passions Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation
By Sharon R. Krause Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2008
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13725-4


Introduction Citizenship, Judgment, and the Politics of Passion

HOW DO WE DISTINGUISH, as citizens, between laws that are worthy of our allegiance and those we should reject or resist? Democratic procedural criteria are important here, but ostensibly democratic procedures sometimes go wrong, generating laws that endanger civil liberties or obstruct social justice. And while the principle of judicial review gives the courts a role in evaluating legislative outcomes, citizens in liberal democracies also have a responsibility in this regard. As citizens, our relationship to the laws should not be one of blind obedience, after all; it should reflect critical engagement and sound judgment. In fact, we have a political obligation as liberal-democratic citizens to evaluate the laws and to resist (or try to reform) laws that do violate liberty or obstruct justice. How do we carry out this evaluation? What faculties of heart and mind do we use? Americans today are in the process of publicly deliberating about the justice of gay marriage, for instance. In deliberating about an issue such as this one-which brings together questions of politics, morality, and law-what capacities do we employ? In particular, what is the right combination of thinking and feeling, of reason and passion, of cognition and affect,within such deliberation?

The common response to this question is to insist that there is no right combination of reason and passion, at least when it comes to deliberation about important political questions and matters of basic justice. The only way to achieve good deliberation, in other words, is to excise passions from the deliberative process entirely. The worry is that these affective modes of consciousness will cloud our reason and therefore impede the impartiality that is needed for sound moral judgment, equitable adjudication, and fair political deliberation. This is the dominant view (although certainly not the only one) in the history of political thought in the West. It is also the dominant view in political theory today. This book challenges that view. The practical deliberation that we use to assess laws and public policies inevitably incorporates emotions and desires-and these passions can contribute in a positive way to the impartial standpoint that makes public decisions legitimate. To be sure, passions also can impede impartiality, and when they do so they cause problems for the legitimacy of democratic decision making and the justice of its outcomes. Cruelty and bigotry, for instance, should never determine the direction our collective deliberation takes. And a spirit of civility, not jingoism or destructive rage, should guide it. Like civility, the ideal of impartiality is crucial to legitimate deliberation and to justice, and it should never be abandoned. Yet the real possibility of conflict between passion and impartiality does not tell the whole story of their very complex relationship. Civil Passions develops an account of affective but impartial judgment, loosely inspired by the moral sentiment theory of David Hume, and provides a systematic statement of the role the passions might properly play in moral judgment and public deliberation.

In articulating the affective dimensions of impartiality, the book addresses a problem that has plagued normative theories of democratic decision making for a generation. The rationalist models of deliberation and norm justification that predominate in political theory today (as represented, for instance, in the work of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas) suffer from a motivational deficit. The ideal of reason as a faculty that abstracts from sentiment, which undergirds impartiality on this view, disconnects the deliberating subject from the motivational sources of human agency, which are found in the affective attachments and desires from which subjects are asked to abstract. The self as deliberator comes apart from the self as agent. To be sure, both Rawls and Habermas make a place for affect in their theories of justice. Specifically, both recognize the importance of engaging citizens' attachments and desires as a means of fostering allegiance to the rational procedures of norm justification and their results, thereby generating a feeling for justice that lends it stability. Yet both views aspire to limit the contributions of affect to the realm of application, while norm justification itself is conceived as a function of a form of reason that transcends affective influences. In effect, what they give us is a two-stage model: first, reason tells us what justice means and what it requires in terms of laws and public policies; then once this normative matter is settled, we move to the realm of application where we can begin to think about how to socialize citizens into the affective dispositions that support the norms that reason has justified. The forms of judgment modeled by Rawls's original position and Habermas's moral standpoint betray a familiar fear about affect, which is that our passions will impugn the impartiality on which deliberation in matters of justice ought to rest. So the dominant paradigms can accept that affective concerns help motivate right action but not that such concerns figure in the justification of action or the norms that guide it. They are reluctant to tie the content and authority of moral and political norms to the psychological states of individuals. The rationalists see affect as antithetical to impartiality, and they find the source of normativity in a form of reason that opposes passion. Yet to insulate deliberation from affect is to disconnect it from the passions that motivate action.

Action is not the only thing to suffer either, for decision making itself is hindered by efforts to abstract too fully from the influence of the passions. In the last fifteen years a revolutionary new literature has emerged in neuroscience and neuropsychology that calls into question the human ability to conduct practical reasoning in the absence of sentiments. These studies, which involve patients who have impairments to regions of the brain associated with feeling, suggest that decision making depends on the affective experience of concern-specifically attachments, aversions, and desires. Patients with affective impairments may be perfectly capable of logical analysis; often they can reason effectively about the costs and benefits of various courses of action. What they cannot do effectively, the studies show, is decide on a course of action. The implication of these findings is that practical reasoning-deliberation that results in decisions about what to do-necessarily incorporates sentiments. Affect has a role in motivating decisions as well as actions, and therefore the motivational deficit associated with rationalist models of deliberation undermines not only compliance but the very process of deliberation itself. This new literature thus poses a fundamental challenge to the rationalist paradigms of deliberation and norm justification that dominate political theory today.

Political scientists have recently begun to explore the implications of these findings for political behavior in such areas as party identification, negative campaigning, the formation of social movements, and international conflict mediation. The point they all press is that our analytical perspectives on political behavior should reflect the fact that sentiments are as essential to decision making as reason is. In fact, sentiments are a part of practical rationality itself. There is no faculty of practical reason that entirely stands apart from sentiment. Among other things, sentiments set the basis for future decisions by providing a sense of what matters, based on prior learning and experience. In other words, sentiments constitute the horizons of concern within which practical judgment and deliberation transpire. What the empirical literature indicates, then, is that we cannot deliberate effectively about practical ends (in politics or anything else) without feeling. The implication is that sentiments must play a more important role in deliberation about justice than the dominant models in political theory acknowledge. What the empirical literature does not provide, however, is a normative account of how feeling should figure in practical deliberation if its conclusions are to be just, and specifically how sentiments might serve the important democratic ideal of impartiality.

Increasingly, normative theorists in moral philosophy, political theory, and the law are recognizing the importance of affect within judgment and deliberation. This recognition marks real progress, for it expands the conceptual framework within which judgment and deliberation are understood, but it has generated its own set of difficulties. Whereas the rationalists suffer from a motivational deficit, the theorists of affect too often suffer from a normative deficit. They frequently fail to provide clear criteria for the legitimate incorporation of sentiment. Not all feelings support sound judgment or fair public deliberation, after all. Consider Michael Walzer's discussion of how "our hostility to aggression is just as passionate as aggression itself." Behind this hostility, he says, is not a faculty of reason that transcends sentiment but a form of reason infused with sentiment:

Behind that hostility ... is a mental picture of people like ourselves living quietly and peacefully in their own places, in their homes and homeland. They are attacked without legitimate cause (that's the definition of aggression), their families and friends, their cities and towns, their way of life, threatened with destruction, perhaps destroyed. Surely our rational condemnation of the attack cannot be understood without reference to that mental picture. In fact, it derives from that picture; it depends on our emotional identification with those people, who are the projected images of the men and women with whom we ourselves live, at home and in peace. Identifications of this sort are the work of the affiliative passions, and they shape our response to aggression as surely as the passion for triumph and domination shapes the aggression itself.

Our judgments of good and bad, right and wrong, are therefore a function of feeling as much as intellectual understanding. Yet Walzer does not specify how we are to distinguish sound passionate judgments from unsound ones. Surely some affiliative passions can lead to poor judgments and unjust decisions. We need to know when and how feelings should be incorporated into the deliberative process; we need to know how far empathic (or "affiliative") concern should reach; and we need some standards or method for discriminating between sentiments that deserve our respect and those that do not.

Another problem is that theorists of affect sometimes defend affective judgment as an alternative to impartiality. The feminist "ethics of care" that emerged in the 1980s grounds judgment in concern for particular others. It eschews impartiality, which it associates with rational respect for universal principles of justice. More recent proponents of this approach sometimes treat justice-oriented judgment and care-oriented judgment as complementary rather than competitive. Yet, like the rationalists, they associate impartial deliberation about justice with a form of reason that transcends sentiment. In this respect, they concede far too much to the dominant paradigm. Iris Young and Martha Nussbaum have similarly championed emotional forms of judgment as alternatives to impartiality. Although their approaches differ markedly from one another (and from the ethics of care), they share a certain skepticism about the ideal of impartiality, which they associate with an exclusive and untenable conception of human reason.

Yet democratic citizens cannot afford to give up on this ideal. Impartiality entails a deliberative perspective that is neither prejudiced nor fragmentary. It involves considering things in a way that is not determined by (or does not simply serve) one's own interests, narrow sympathies, or idiosyncratic convictions. It is also an inclusive, even comprehensive view, which incorporates the relevant perspectives of all those affected by the object under consideration. Impartiality admits of degrees insofar as our judgments may be more or less free of prejudice and more or less inclusive. Few of us achieve perfect impartiality on a regular basis, and cross-cultural impartiality is especially difficult. But for most of us the exercise of impartiality in varying degrees of (im)perfection is a familiar experience. The aspirational ideal that guides us in this exercise is extremely valuable. Among other things, impartiality helps to insulate our evaluations and decisions from the privileges of power. Without some degree of impartiality, public decisions would lack legitimacy and justice would prove elusive. This is one thing that the rationalists get right: impartial judgment is a crucial condition of just public decision making in liberal democracy. It protects citizens from the unadorned force of power on public matters having to do with justice.

Impartiality is also important in the context of individual moral judgment. It aids in social coordination, for one thing, because to coordinate our lives with others we need to be able to think beyond the limits of our own private views. A person whose deliberative perspective was determined exclusively by self-interest without any consideration of the interests or perspectives of others could not succeed in achieving even his own ends over time, much less collective ones. The fact that impartiality helps facilitate social coordination makes it prudent. Impartiality also manifests the virtue that Hume called "humanity," a reflective sensitivity to the sufferings and the joys of others, even a kind of respect for persons as morally significant. Without this virtue, as Hume saw, one's personal character would be marked by bigotry, incivility, and ignorance, and it could never bear its own survey. We can press beyond Hume, as well, to add that exercising impartiality in judgment is a way of treating others as ends in themselves, an obligation that can be justified by means of moral sentiment. One need not recur to Kant to support the duty of equal respect-as we shall see- and this duty makes impartiality important. So while we should be skeptical about exclusive and untenable notions of reason, we should not reject impartiality. To reject impartiality is to saddle affective forms of judgment with a normative deficit. In short, our theories of moral judgment and democratic deliberation have been caught on the horns of a dilemma: they have either been too rationalist to motivate action and decision, or they have been too indiscriminately rooted in the passions to carry normative weight. Civil Passions means to dissolve this dilemma by articulating an ideal of affectively engaged impartiality, and hence an account of judgment and deliberation that is both motivationally and normatively compelling.

The book thus addresses a lacuna that plagues contemporary theory in the political, moral, and legal domains, but it also speaks to a serious problem in American public life today. On the common view of political deliberation, which assumes a dichotomy between reason and passion, one either deliberates from "impartial reason" or one's deliberation is driven by personal passions. And when passions drive deliberation, we think, the results can only be described as debased. Yet the rationalist ideal of impartiality that pervades the public culture is an idyll. It should therefore come as no surprise that public decision making in the United States today most often proceeds by means of interest-based competition, which is another name for the politics of untutored passion. Yet even as we give in to the politics of passion in its lowest form, our elusive ideal of reason continues to engage our aspirations and to tell us that passion-driven deliberation is illegitimate and likely to generate injustice. One result of trying and failing to live up to this impossible ideal of deliberation is cynicism about politics. The widely discussed lack of political participation in the United States today is only partly a product of excessive individualism, the absence of civic virtue, and the lack of social capital. This disengagement also reflects the disillusionment that naturally follows from our attachment to the false dichotomy between reason and passion, and from the absence of an achievable ideal of impartiality.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Civil Passions by Sharon R. Krause
Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

INTRODUCTION: Citizenship, Judgment, and the Politics of Passion 1

CHAPTER ONE: Justice and Passion in Rawls and Habermas 27

CHAPTER TWO: Recent Alternatives to Rationalism 48

CHAPTER THREE: Moral Sentiment and the Politics of Judgment in Hume 77

CHAPTER FOUR: Affective Judgment in Democratic Politics 111

CHAPTER FIVE: Public Deliberation and the Feeling of Impartiality 142

CHAPTER SIX: The Affective Authority of Law 175

CONCLUSION: Toward a New Politics of Passion: Civil Passions and the Promise of Justice 200

Notes 205

Bibliography 245

Index 257

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