Publication Details

This article was originally published as Mohr, R, Some conditions for culturally diverse deliberation, Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 20(1), 2005, 87-102. Original journal available here.


This is an inquiry into the ways in which reasoning attaches to cultural context. It considers whether to seek grounds for decision-making in some common ground or in a recognition of diversity. The essay considers feminist criticisms of Habermas's discourse ethics and Benhabib's efforts to revise such an approach in response to cultural diversity. While the conditions for communication across cultures may be readily met with good will and good procedures, the conditions for reaching binding or consensual decisions are more challenging. The essay rejects the possibility of universal standards for reasoned decisions on three grounds. Reasons conforming to the standards of a multicultural public cannot rest on a single yardstick. Reasoning cannot be detached, in the Cartesian manner, from the corporeal being who is doing the reasoning. Reasoning is not a private and privileged mental process conforming to a unique set of rules. Drawing particularly on traditions of rhetoric from Aristotle to Perelman, the essay concludes: that reasons must be addressed to diverse audiences; that the affective and bodily specificity of deliberators is of central relevance (it matters who judges are); and that we must all continue our "moral education" in dialogue with diverse groups and ways of thinking.

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