On turning away from justification
in Toleration, power and the right to justification
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In her response to Rainer Forst’s lead essay, Melissa S. Williams interrogates Forst’s account of morality through an empirical and historical analysis of the actions by which human agents establish moral and just relations between themselves. She challenges the idea that all moral practices of reciprocal respect can be reduced to practices of justification. ‘Prefigurative’ practices such as those employed by Gandhi and various Indigenous movements entail a turning away from a politics of justification and critique addressed to the dominating agent, and a turning towards those whose solidarity one seeks in constructing and enacting an alternative ethical form of life based on relationships of egalitarian reciprocity. Such approaches begin from the understanding that practices of reason, and especially social practices of reason-giving and reason-demanding, and of recognising others as rational subjects, are never innocent of power relations. Forst may respond that his theory acknowledges the role of power in constituting the subjects who are capable of recognising one another as equal agents of justification, but this leaves unanswered the question of what agents are doing when they interrupt discursive practices of justification by substituting non-discursive performances of egalitarian respect within cooperative relationship.

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