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Spring 2017, 47.1, pages 81-98

A Good Distance: Rawls and the New Rhetoric Project

Abstract: In light of the genuine disagreement between the seemingly non-rhetorical political philosophy of John Rawls and the philosophical rhetoric of the new rhetoric project I propose a re-reading of Rawls that will help move that project in a needed direction. This re-reading will make the case that (1) Rawls’s conception of justice implies a commitment to the reasonable that is very like the new rhetoric projects, that (2) their differences regarding distance—in particular the distancing strategies of impartiality and objectivity—can be reconciled, that (3) the major difference between them—that is, the role of the rational—comes down to Rawls’s willingness to try universalizing the good, and that (4) such universalizing is a resource of rhetorical particularity that adds value to the construction of the universal audience.

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