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Title: Prejudice reconsidered : a defense of situated understanding
Author: Sandel, Adam Emanuel Adatto
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 6404
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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My dissertation draws upon ancient political philosophy (Plato and Aristotle) and 20th century hermeneutic thought (Heidegger and Gadamer) to argue that our judgment and understanding is always “situated” within a world, or horizon, shaped by the projects, practices, and traditions in which we are engaged. This means that judgment never starts from scratch. The exercise of judgment, in evaluating competing arguments in politics or law, in trying to understand a philosophical text, in deliberating about how to act in this or that circumstance, is always informed by preconceptions and commitments that we have not justified in advance. In this sense, our judgment is always “prejudiced.” But contrary to a familiar way of thinking, the prejudicial aspect of judgment is not some regrettable limitation. Certain prejudices, I argue, can actually enable good judgment rather than hinder it. The primary goal of the dissertation is to clarify the concept of prejudice and to draw out its implications for politics, ethics, and philosophy. What does it mean to reason from within the world? What room does such reasoning allow for human agency and political reform? By drawing upon Heidegger’s notion of “Being-in-the-World” and Gadamer’s notion of “horizon,” I develop the idea that our life circumstance is an intelligible perspective that informs our deliberation and judgment. Moreover, our life perspective provides the basis for a kind of situated agency. After elaborating the situated conception of understanding, I show that it is implicit in Aristotle’s notion of practical wisdom (phronesis) and in Plato’s notion of dialectic. My goal is to bring out a link that is often overlooked between their philosophy and 20th century hermeneutic thought. By reading each in light of the other, we gain a deeper understanding of what it means to reason from within the perspective of our lives.
Supervisor: Waldron, Jeremy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Modern Western philosophy ; Political science ; prejudice ; judgment ; political judgement ; rhetoric ; political rhetoric ; hermeneutics ; critique of the Enlightenment ; Heidegger ; Gadamer ; Aristotle ; Kant ; ancient philosophy ; continental philosophy ; ethics ; moral philosophy ; historicism