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Title: Thin universalism : derivation and defence
Author: Beard, James Richard Laurence
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis outlines a constructivist account of what has come to be known as 'thin universalism'. It makes the case for a substantively minimal account of universalism as a response to the facts of pluralism understood in a particular normative way. Following G.A. Cohen, it challenges conventional constructivist arguments about the privileged role of facts in the construction of normative principles and suggests that construction must be aimed not at 'first principles', which cannot be responsive to factual considerations, but at 'principles of regulation', which can. These principles are not fixed transcendental algorithms, but rather contingent and reflexive responses to a rapidly changing world, designed to have an impact upon it. This enables them to repel many of the traditional critiques of universalism and provides grounds for thinking that there is still a space and a need for universalism in the modern world. The thesis proposes a bicameral construction and considers firstly how such 'thin universal regulatory principles' might be constructed, and secondly how a basis of consent to them might also be constructed. Far from being distinct, there is significant overlap between the two constructions. Finally, the thesis suggests that a thin universalism can be expressed in two key political debates, which highlight its significance and assist in the construction process. First, as a more sensitive and yet more powerful human rights doctrine; one which recognises and celebrates pluralism, but which sets clear limits on the kind of society in which humans can exist. And, second, as a conception of toleration with limitations which prevent it from descending into a hollow relativism. Ultimately, the thesis seeks to establish and justify the plausibility of retaining universal principles which, while substantively thin, still resonate strongly and widely in and, as such, continue to be relevant to a modem plural world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available