The basic dilemma of a democracy facing intractable value conflicts and deep political disagreements is that people who hold different views may eventually give up reasoning with one another, and engage in manipulative strategies of winning elections or getting political power. As citizens of a constitutional democracy, we owe each other justifying reasons for political actions. A democratic process that defies the honest practice of giving and asking for reasons will degenerate into power struggles. However, in the case of deep political disagreement, it is the very practice of giving and asking for reasons that is in danger. I argue for an idea of civic philosophy, which acknowledges that the dilemma is here to stay, but proposes a dialogical way of fine-tuning and living with it. The dialogical confrontation is set for initiating a philosophical exploration into the horizon of the pluralistic age.
We are living in an age of value-conflict pluralism, and are beginning to see that our capacity for mutual understanding and being reasonable to each other seems to be reaching its limit. Philosophical studies are particularly challenging in this age of pluralism, in that no matter how deep your philosophical insights are, and no matter how rigorous your arguments come to be, it is to be anticipated that somewhere someone will hold a philosophical position diametrically opposed to yours, and his/her position, too, is motivated by, and based on, deep philosophical insights with rigorous supportive arguments. One may still aspire to come up with a robust, comprehensive, and true theory to edge out other philosophical positions. Indeed, that has been a human hope for more than two millennia. The idea of civic philosophy I wish to develop suggests that, given today’s epistemic and political situation, we may as well initiate a different approach, avail ourselves of the findings from cognitive science and moral psychology, and engage dialogically on the pluralistic horizon.
More specifically, I have developed a version of civic philosophy that (1) addresses the joint demands of democracy and science, (2) prioritizes humanitarian governance and public discourse, (3) incorporates fundamental ideas of political liberalism and Confucian philosophy, (4) pays careful attention to the asymmetrical power relation between a strong authoritarian regime and a small democracy, and (5) makes use of findings from cognitive science and metaphor research to develop a discourse methodology suitable for this project.