Defending diversity: contemporary philosophical perspectives by Lawrence Foster

By Lawrence Foster

Lately the results of "multiculturalism" for American society were the topic of a lot debate. to a few, the time period has come to indicate the fragmentation of culture and the coherent values that derive from it. To others, it signs the appearance of a extra inclusive, tolerant, and really democratic society. Drawing on philosophy's longstanding obstacle with problems with pluralism and relativism, at the traditions of yankee pragmatism, and on glossy theoretical strategies, the essays during this quantity convey readability to this dialogue through reading the underlying values and assumptions of every facet. They current a diverse, insightful, and well-reasoned protection of the virtues of variety, outdoors in addition to contained in the partitions of the academy.

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16 There may be indeterminacy of position with respect to the breadth of application of the right to life, or with respect to the relative priority of autonomy versus the protection of at least potential persons. Even those who take somewhat firm positions on the issue could enter a greater state of uncertainty if they were persuaded that there are no commonly held principles that justify their positions. Furthermore, the second picture of moral conflict leads us to expect significant conflict and even incoherence in the belief systems of many individuals in matters where important values regularly come into conflict.

Perhaps universally held principles exist, but these lack any real normative bite. 11 The other picture recognizes that even in large, hetero- Page 18 geneous societies such as the United States, there are widely held substantive moral principles. It is held to be wrong not only to torture people on a whim but also to torture or even imprison them for criticizing political leaders. Even in one of the most divisive moral debates taking place in the United States, that concerning the moral permissibility of abortion, the source of disagreement seems to be not so much a difference in the ultimate moral principles held by the opposing sides but partly a difference over the applicability of a commonly held principle requiring the protection of human life and partly a difference over the relative weight to be given in the circumstances to another widely held principle requiring the protection of individual autonomy.

In the course of this analysis, the contributors subject the notion of a single, independent reality and truth to searching criticism. But these critiques give rise to their own perplexities, and the articles confront a number of them, because the promotion of pluralism appears to lead to abandoning "objective" standards of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, and, ultimately, to a self-defeating nihilism. The defense of diversity seems to commit one to an intolerable moral and educational tolerance and to an unacceptable theoretical relativism.

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