Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Democracy and Value Pluralism

William A. Galstona1

a1 Political Science, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland at College Park

My intention in this essay is to open up a question I cannot fully resolve: the relationship between democracy and value pluralism. By “value pluralism” I mean the view propounded so memorably by the late Isaiah Berlin and developed in various ways by thinkers including Stuart Hampshire, Steven Lukes, Thomas Nagel, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Stocker, Bernard Williams, Charles Taylor, John Kekes, and John Gray, among others. I shall define and discuss this view in some detail in Section III. For now, suffice it to say that value pluralism is the view that what we (rightly) value in our lives turns out to be multiple, heterogeneous, not reducible to a common measure, and not hierarchically ordered with a single dominant value or set of values binding on all persons in all circumstances. I use the phrase “value pluralism” rather than “moral pluralism” to indicate that this view encompasses nonmoral as well as moral goods.

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