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Berlin, Dewey and Rawls: Relativism and Liberalism

Author(s): Martin A. Bertman

Journal: Philosophical Frontiers : A Journal of Emerging Thought
ISSN 1758-1532

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Berlin | Dewey | Rawls | Liberalim | Relativism

The thesis of this paper is that modern liberalismreflects the position of the sophist Protagoras as Plato describes it. The perspective of historicism (often coupled with the assumption of progress) is widely accepted and drives cultural relativism; further, one remedy given to stabilize the politicalorder is education to a culturally guided moral aesthetic and technology. Among the three modern ‘sophists’ discussed Berlin, like the modern social sciences, shows the skeptical influence of Hume division of fact and value and also his ‘amiable’humanism. Dewey attaches himself to technology-science to lead ‘social intelligence’to a stable foundation to constantly transform the social order by making it flourish in a ‘precarious’ world. Rawls tries to achieve stability by a middle-ranged moral concept: fairness, intimate to ‘a’ ideal theory of justice based on national cultural values. Each of these liberal doctrines approaches the primary notion of freedom within a relative perspective that needs stability, which is aside from classical (or religious) metaphysical truth that is universal and unconditional.
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