Amy Gutmann on education

2/17/2009

It is easy to forget that American colleges and universities derive their greatness not by echoing the conventional views of society, carrying the partisan banner of governments, or giving aid and comfort to purveyors of prejudices. Rather, they do so by protecting the freedom of professors and students to read widely and explore topics in all their complexity, to think critically and debate issues where there are grounds for reasonable disagreement, and to imagine and express new ideas and new worlds without fear of reprisal or retribution…. By demonstrating our steadfast commitment to protecting the freedom of faculty members and students to engage in vigorous discourse across the political spectrum without government interference, we can prevent the threat of a chill from becoming a devastating frost.

“Academic Freedom or Government Intrusion,”
Chronicle of Higher Education
, v.52, no.3, September 9, 2005, page B13

To begin to show why deliberative democracy is different from other theories, and how it can more readily accommodate moral conflict, we need to distinguish between first- and second-order theories of democracy. First-order theories seek to resolve moral disagreement by rejecting alternative theories or principles with which they conflict. They measure their success by whether they resolve the conflict consistently on their own terms…. Second-order theories deal with moral disagreement by accommodating first-order theories that conflict with one another. They measure their success by the extent to which they can justify both their proposed resolutions and the moral disagreements that remain, to all who must live with them. They are called second-order because they are about other theories, in the sense that they refer to first-order principles without affirming or denying their ultimate validity. They can be held consistently without rejecting any of a wide range of moral principles expressed by first-order theorists.

Why Deliberative Democracy?, p.126

Deliberative democracy is also a second-order theory, and therefore (like some procedural theories) makes room for continuing moral conflict that first-order theories seek to eliminate. But it avoids the difficulties of procedural theories by explicitly acknowledging the substantive conflicts underlying procedural theories, and by explicitly affirming substantive principles in its own theory. A full theory of deliberative democracy includes both substantive and procedural principles, denies that either is morally neutral, and judges both from a second-order perspective.

Why Deliberative Democracy?, p.127

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~ by severalfourmany on February 17, 2009.

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