A Dialogue on Republicanism: A Response

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The first thing to say in response to this dialogue is that Chrysostomos Mantzavinos has done a great service in the account he gives of republicanism and in his representation of the challenges that it faces. It is difficult to know how to respond without intruding in the dialogue, which I wouldn’t want to do. What I offer instead is a comment on five big issues that come up in the dialogue and to say a little in each case about the line that I prefer. The five issues I have chosen are: philosophy and conceptual clarification; freedom and justice; contestatory democracy; the role of institutions in serving freedom; and the market and the state.
My namesake in the dialogue doesn’t say much about conceptual clarification in response to the challenge raised. This is that the “What is X?” question of philosophers – “What is freedom”, “What is justice?” – cannot get us to the essence of X; that it can only provide “information about the meaning of ‘X’”; and that this is “quite a trivial result really”. I beg, unsurprisingly, to differ, and would like to say more than my counterpart in the dialogue.
In pursuing the “What is X?” type of question, so I believe, philosophers face two challenges. The first involves an analysis of the common assumptions surrounding the use of the corresponding term “X” and its cognates. The second involves an attempt to identify the property in the world – in a world assumed to fit certain background constraints – that answers to that term (Pettit 2019)…


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