1. Pluralist writings before Berlin
A couple of samples of anti-pluralism to begin with:
Rousseau, first Discourse, [part 2,] para. 38: quoted
from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Early
Political Writings, ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge
etc., 1997: Cambridge University Press), 16:
‘falsehood admits of an infinite number of combinations; but truth has only one way of being’
Anon., ‘On the Intellectual Influences of Christianity’, Monthly
Repository NS 6 (1832), 627–34, at 632:
Once more, Christianity aids and forwards our intellectual progress, by teaching us to take a large and liberal view of the vast entirety of our complex and wondrously made nature. It teaches us, if not by the express letter, certainly by the general spirit, to look on our several powers and affections, divers and seemingly inimical though they be, as equally given us by God, and therefore all to be cultivated and matured in their due and fit proportions. It sets us above the narrow notion (seen in its full proportions of absurdity and criminality in the sayings and doings of monkish religionists) that the mind of man is a medley of hostile powers and principles, some one or two of which must be made to war with and extirpate the rest – that, for instance, what is gained by the tender, is lost by the lofty; that the culture of the humorous must be at the expense of the pathetic; that fancy is at daggers drawn with common sense; that logic and poetry, romance and reality, cannot live together; that to be a wit, a man must also be a fool. All these petty, partial views of our inward being are frowned upon by religion, as at once insulting to the Creator and injurious to the creature. It is the glorious liberty of the sons of God to inform all, to quicken all, to cherish all, to enrich all, under the immediate eye of the great and good Giver of all.
Parris, Matthew, ‘A Verbal Virus that Kills
All Meaning’, The Times, 23 June 2001, 22 (not exactly against
pluralism, but a warning to those pluralists who make their universal
demands too thin?):
Hitler had values; Marx had core values; the Taleban have family values; lunatic asylums overflow with people with beliefs; Stalin was a stickler for standards; Robespierre did not lack ideals; Pol Pot had vision; Chairman Mao had a mission; Sir Oswald Mosley cannot be accused of lacking a sense of duty. Unless those who rely on such language can elaborate, we are left with category-headings but nothing to fill the space beneath.
Finally, a few of the adjectives from The Avenue [Restaurant in St James’s Street, London, where Michael Portillo launched his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party]. These include: passionate, dynamic, strong … to which we might add ‘modem’, ‘inclusive’, ‘responsive’, as well as William Hague’s favourite – ‘fresh’ – and Tony Blair’s beloved ‘new’. All sound splendid, but in fact denote qualities which may be possessed equally by the virtuous, the wicked, the wise, the ignorant or the plain stupid. Crack is modern; manure can be fresh; Robert Mugabe is strong; Gaddafi is passionate; the latest strain of foot-and-mouth disease is new; and your bog-standard comprehensive is a good deal more inclusive than the Oratory School of which Mr Blair and the Tories both approve.
Herodotus, Histories 3. 38:
When Darius was king of Persia, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied they would not do it for any money in the world. Later, in the presence of the Greeks, and through an interpreter, so that they could understand that was said, he asked some Indians, of the tribe called Callatiae, who do in fact eat their parents’ dead bodies, what they would take to burn them (as was the custom of the Greeks). They uttered a cry of horror and forbade him to mention such a dreadful thing. One can see by this what custom can do and Pindar, in my opinion, was right when he called it ‘king of all’.
Protagoras, Diels–Kranz 80 B1 = Plato, Theaetetus, 152:
Man is the measure of all things – of the things that are, that they are; of the things that are not, that they are not. As each thing seems to me, so it is to me and as each thing seems to you, so it is to you.
Euripides, Phoenissae 499 ff.:
If the same thing were to all men by nature fair and wise, there would no disputes or quarrels among us.
Plato, putting forward potentially pluralist views that he intends to
SOCRATES. But about what would a disagreement be, which we could not settle and which would cause us to be enemies and be angry with each other? Perhaps you cannot give an answer offhand; but let me suggest it. Is it not about right and wrong, and noble and disgraceful, and good and bad? Are not these the questions about which you and I and other people become enemies, when we do become enemies, because we differ about them and cannot reach any satisfactory agreement?
Those who believe this, and those who do not, have no common ground of discussion, but in view of their opinions they must of necessity scorn each other.
Dissoi logoi (anonymous philosophical treatise, about 400 BC), Diels–Kranz 90A:
Double arguments [dissoi logoi] are put forward by intellectuals in Greece concerning the good and the bad. Some say that good is one thing and bad another, while others say that the same thing can be both, and that something may be good for some but bad for others, or sometimes good and sometimes bad for the same person. I myself side with the latter group.
Boethius, ‘Quaenam discors’, De philosophiae consolatione
5. 3; Helen Waddell, Medieval Latin Lyrics (London, 1929), pp.
This discord in the pact of things,
This endless war twixt truth and truth,
That singly hold, yet give the lie
To him who seeks to yoke them both –
Do the gods know the reason why?
[I]f our faces were not alike we could not tell man from beast: if they were not unalike we could not tell man from man.
Michel de Montaigne, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, trans. and ed. M. A. Screech (London etc., 1991), book 3, essay 13, ‘On Experience’, 1213
[Hume, David, The Natural
History of Religion (in Four
Dissertations, London, 1757):
Good and ill are universally intermingled and confounded; happiness and misery, wisdom and folly, virtue and vice. Nothing is pure and entirely of a piece. All advantages are attended with disadvantages. An universal compensation prevails in all conditions of being and existence. And it is not possible for us, by our most chimerical wishes, to form the idea of a station or situation altogether desirable. [...] The more exquisite any good is, of which a small specimen is afforded us, the sharper is the evil, allied to it; and few exceptions are found to this uniform law of nature.
ed. H. E. Root (London, 1956: Adam and Charles Black), 74]
Liberty, not being a fruit of all climates, is not within the reach of all peoples. The more this principle, laid down by Montesquieu, is considered, the more its truth is felt; the more it is combated, the more chance is given to confirm it by new proofs. Social Contract (1762), book 3, chapter 8, 68 (64 in some later reprints) in Rousseau, The Social Contract; Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole (London, 1913)
Subjects prize public tranquillity; citizens the freedom of the individual – the former prefer security of possessions, the latter security of person; subjects think the best government is the most severe, citizens that it is the mildest; the former want crimes to be punished, the latter want them prevented; subjects think it is a good thing to be feared by their neighbours, citizens prefer to be ignored by them; the former are satisfied so long as money circulates, the latter demand that the people shall have bread. But even if there were agreement on these and suchlike points, should we be any more advanced? Moral dimensions have no precise standard of measurement; even if we could agree about signs [of good government], how should we agree on their value?
ibid., chapter 9: 129–30 in the translation by Maurice Cranston (Harmondsworth, 1968: Penguin)
Brothers, if you care for true piety, let us not feign agreement where diversity is evidently the plan and purpose of Providence. None of us thinks and feels exactly like his fellow man; why then do we wish to deceive each other with delusive words?
Jerusalem (1783), near the end: 138 both in Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem, oder Über religiöse Macht und Judentum (Berlin, 1783: Friedrich Maurer), and in Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem, or, On Religious Power and Judaism, trans. Allan Arkush, introduction and commentary by Alexander Altmann (Hanover, 1983: University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press)
Benjamin Constant, ‘Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns Contrasted’, ‘On Uniformity’ and ‘On Innovations, Reforms, and the Stability and Uniformity of Institutions,’ in The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation (1814)
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: see Henry Hardy, ‘Not Known’
(letter), London Review of Books, 19 July 2001, 4: the letter
was cut, and is given here in its original form, complete with
reference for the Hegel passage:
Agamemnon the pluralist
In his review of John Gray’s Two Faces of Liberalism (LRB, 7 June) Glen Newey expresses the belief that Bernard Williams was the first to talk about Agamemnon’s dilemma at Aulis in value pluralist terms. This brought me up short, because Hegel, in his lectures on aesthetics (translated by T. M. Knox as Aesthetics, Oxford, 1975), speaks of ‘the collision of equally justified powers and individuals’ and gives the following as an example: ‘Agamemnon, as King and commander of the army, sacrifices his daughter in the interest of the Greeks and the Trojan expedition; thereby he snaps the bond of love for his daughter and his wife’ (1213). In all but name, this sounds very much like an explicitly pluralist conflict of values to me.
Wolfson College, Oxford
Stephen, James Fitzjames, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873): see the edition by Stuart D. Warner (Indianapolis, 1993), 93 ff., 118, 169, 172, 174, 180, 206, 225 and passim
Franz Brentano, The Origin of Our Knowledge of Right and Wrong (1889), para. 32: 29–30 in the edition by Oskar Kraus and Roderick M. Chisholm, translation by Roderick M. Chisholm and Elizabeth H. Schneewind (London, 1969: Routledge; New York, 1969: Humanities Press)
‘The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life’, International Journal of Ethics 1
No 3 (April 1891), 330–54, especially section III:
The last fundamental question in
Ethics was, it will be remembered, the casuistic question. Here we are, in
a world where the existence of a divine Thinker has been and perhaps
always will be doubted by some of the lookers on, and where, in spite
of the presence of a large number of ideals, in which human beings
agree, there are a mass of others about which no general consensus
obtains. It is hardly necessary to present a literary picture of this,
for the facts are too well known. (341)
Various essences of good have thus been found and proposed as bases of the ethical system. [...] No one of the measures that have been actually proposed has, however, given general satisfaction. (342–3).
There is really no more ground for supposing that all our demands can be accounted for by one universal underlying kind of motive than there is ground for supposing that all physical phenomena are cases of a single law. The elementary forces in ethics are probably as plural as those of physics are. The various ideals have no common character apart from the fact that they are ideals. No single abstract principle can be so used as to yield to the philosopher anything like a scientifically accurate and genuinely useful casuistic scale. (343)
But this world of ours is made on an entirely different pattern and the casuistic question there is most tragically practical. The actually possible in this world is vastly narrower than all that is demanded; and there is always a pinch between the ideal and the actual which can only be got through by leaving part of the ideal behind. There is hardly a good which we can imagine except as competing for the possession of the same bit of space and time with some other imagined good. Every end of desire that presents itself appears exclusive of some other end of desire. Shall a man drink and smoke, or keep his nerves in condition? – he cannot do both. Shall he follow his fancy for Amelia, or for Henrietta? – both cannot be the choice of his heart. Shall he have the dear old Republican party, or a spirit of unsophistication in public affairs? – he cannot have both, etc. So that the ethical philosopher’s demand for the right scale of subordination in ideals is the fruit of an altogether practical need. Some part of the ideal must be butchered, and he needs to know which part. It is a tragic situation, and no mere speculative conundrum, with which he has to deal. (344)
Talks to Teachers on Psychology; and to Students on Some of
Life’s Ideals (New York, 1901), esp. 264:
[...] neither the whole of truth nor the whole of good is revealed to any single observer, although each observer gains a partial superiority of insight from the particular position in which he stands [...] It is enough to ask each of us that he should be faithful to his own opportunities and make the most of his own blessings, without presuming to regulate the rest of the vast field.
Letter to Maxwell J. Savage, 4 January 1910, quoted in William James, Selected
1885–1910, ed. Frederick J. Down Scott (Columbus, 1986: Ohio State
University Press), 534:
All that my pluralism contends for is that there is nowhere extant a complete gathering up of the universe in one focus, either of knowledge, power or purpose.
Berth, Edouard, ‘Anarchisme individualiste, marxisme orthodoxe,
Syndicalisme révolutionnaire’, Le Mouvement Socialiste
[NS 3] (May–August 1905) No 154 (May), 5–35, at 14:
[...] s’il y a une Vérité, une et universelle, qui nous est révélée par la religion ou par la science, et en dehors de laquelle il n’y a ni bonheur individuel ni ordre social, la liberté n’a pas sa raison d’être, elle n’existe que négativement [...]
Dewey, John, ‘The Virtues’, chapter 19 of John Dewey and James
H[ayden] Tufts, Ethics (New York, 1908: Holt), 402–5
Henry W. Stuart writes (‘Dewey’s Ethical Theory’, in Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of John Dewey (Evanston, Illinois, 1939: Northwestern University Press), 291–334):
The ends in an ethical situation are, then, variously described in the above as incompatible, discrepant, heterogeneous, opposed. They get in each other’s way; they cannot readily be measured and chosen, one as against the others, because no common denominator can be found in terms of which to express their relative worth. In an ethical situation, that is to say, the rival ends toward which the individual finds himself attracted are found to be incommensurable. (298)
Toward an understanding of the method implicit in the conception of ethical incommensurability, Professor Dewey makes an introductory contribution in the Ethics of 1908. This is to be found in the chapter on ‘The Virtues’. It is here held to be impossible in theory and undesirable, except perhaps as an aid to exhortation, to construct a catalogued list of virtues with an exact definition of each. Virtues are numberless. Every situation, not of a routine order, brings in some special shading, some unique adaptation, of disposition … Any virtuous character exhibits, however, certain main traits, a consideration of which will serve to review and summarise our analysis of the moral life … Bearing in mind that we are not attempting to classify various acts or habits, but only to state traits essential to all morality, we have the ‘cardinal virtues’ of moral theory. As whole-hearted, as complete interest, any habit or attitude of character involves justice and love; as persistently active, it is courage, fortitude or vigor; as unmixed and single it is temperance – in its classic sense. And since no habitual interest can be integral, enduring, or sincere, save as it is reasonable, save, that is, as it is rooted in the deliberate habit of viewing the part in the light of the whole, the present in the light of the past and future, interest in the good is also wisdom or conscientiousness. (311–12)
Berdyaev, Nicolay, ‘On the
Abstract and the Absolute in Politics’ (1915):
The aversion from the concrete complexity of societal political tasks occurs with us often as the result of a monomania, when a man comes wholly under the grip of a single idea, be it moral or religious or social, but unfailingly it is in the sense of the salvation of mankind by some sort of one method, by one path. This, in the final end, leads to a denial of the multiplicity of being and the asserting of one single whatever.
Kallen, Horace, ‘Democracy versus the Melting-Pot’, Nation,
Thus ‘American civilization’ may come to mean the perfection of the cooperative harmonies of ‘European civilization’, the waste, the squalor, and the distress of Europe being eliminated – a multiplicity in a unity, an orchestration of mankind. As in an orchestra, every type of instrument has its specific timbre and tonality, founded in its substance and form; as every type has its appropriate theme and melody in the whole symphony, so in society each ethnic group is the natural instrument, its spirit and culture are its theme and melody, and the harmony and dissonances and discords of them all make the symphony of civilization, with this difference: a musical symphony is written before it is played; in the symphony of civilization the playing is the writing, so that there is nothing so fixed and inevitable about its progressions as in music, so that within the limits set by nature they may vary at will, and the range and variety of the harmonies may become wider and richer and more beautiful.
Weber, Max: see From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York, 1946), esp. ‘Politics as a Vocation’ (1918), 77–128 at 117, 126, and ‘Science as a Vocation’ (1918), 129–56 at 147–8, 151–3; and ‘The Meaning of “Ethical Neutrality” in Sociology and Economics’, in Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. and ed. Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch (Glencoe, Illinois, 1949: Free Press), esp. 17–18
Lamprecht, Sterling P., ‘The Need for a Pluralistic Emphasis in Ethics’, Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 17 (1920), 561–72; this article can be viewed on JSTOR by those with a subscription; it is a remarkably precise anticipation of Berlin’s ideas, unless of course Berlin drew on it (unawares?) himself; sample extracts follow (see also the next entry):
I find myself driven to recognize an ultimate and irresolvable pluralism – a basic pluralism of the goods which men may properly seek to achieve and from among which they must choose, and a resulting pluralism of obligation or duty, such that it is impossible to maintain, at least in some cases, that one and only one, among several possible choices, is alone morally right.
There seems to me to be neither one unified summum bonum, nor one single course of right conduct.
Often a man can achieve a great creative task of artistic merit only through neglect or ruthless disregard of others’ welfare. Many times men are faced with situations in which the potential goods are woefully incompatible, in which the choice of one good involves the abandonment of another; and sometimes men are faced with still more trying situations in which the potential goods are unknown and can not be brought to light except on the basis of a daring decision, a decision which is frankly a hazard and will not be proved true or false until the outcome has made investigation of other expedients forever impossible. The goods of life are utterly incommensurable.
We may have our own settled plans, to which we are ready to hold through thick and thin; but others may have other plans, equally cherished, and contradictory to ours.
We should not be blind to the goods which we do not select.
Religious ethics has often tended to brand as immoral and prompted of the devil all codes different from one absolute code regarded as given for all time; or if alternative standards are recognised, one is made supreme and the other is a lesser code which is grudgingly granted to those unable to lead the noblest type of life.
Lamprecht, Sterling P., ‘Some Political Implications of Ethical Pluralism’, Journal of Philosophy 18 (1921), 225–44; this article can be viewed on JSTOR by those with a subscription; sample extracts follow
In a recent article, I endeavored to show that the moral life is essentially pluralistic, that the goods available to us in this world in which we find ourselves are widely various, often incompatible, and in many cases incommensurable, and that consequently the choices which in practise we are forced to make are rather personal options than discoveries of eternal principles. It was maintained that ethical theory has usually been too pious in its deference to monistic philosophy, and that a first-hand examination of concrete human affairs, of the actual method whereby pressing problems are solved, compels a rank recognition of the arbitrary character of moral codes and programmes. However objective and ‘natural’ moral distinctions and values are, none the less any selection between alternative goods and any determination between alternative course of action are conventional to groups or peculiar to individuals. Failure to realise the pluralistic nature of the moral life is the occasion of much strife and social discord, and hence of an unnecessarily large amount of moral evil.
There are many predicaments in which men must arbitrarily select some and reject other goods, without thereby imposing upon all the necessity of a similar choice.
Though a wise man will find that reflection in a difficult situation will enable him to find the unique good which the situation is to have for him, there is not therefore a unique good absolutely and objectively and apart from the personality, temperament, purposes, and interests of the person involved.
[...] others may legitimately choose differently, and be equally justified in their choices.
Mere force is non-moral. However much pluralism points out the arbitrary element in the moral life, it stands irrevocably opposed to utter license and dogmatic petulance. Things are not made good by being desired.
objectively and obviously as other things are found to be square or heavy. Human goods fall within the limitations of the natural conditions which support human life and make its continuance possible.
No principles are eternal and immutable, universal and absolute. There is no one objective criterion, but rather there are a number of alternative criteria. Thus there will be constant need for reconciliation, for compromise, for working agreements.
Brute force will always have to be in the background of social and political problems, since there are some values which we cherish so profoundly that for them we would defy the world and would rather perish fighting than survive in peaceful compromise. And when that kind of a case arises, there is no reason which forbids the sublime courage of unyielding loyalty. But more often a way can be found to social adjustment.
Brogan, A. P. ‘Objective Pluralism in the Theory of Value’, International Journal of Ethics 41 No 3 (April 1931), 287–95; this article can be viewed on JSTOR by those with a subscription; sample extracts follow:
Prolonged arguments in favor of pluralism in the theory of value would doubtless seem unnecessary to most open-minded thinkers of the present generation. The empirical evidence has been overwhelming. Both within each individual and between different individuals the possibilities of diverse and even conflicting goods seem enormous.
Our method in philosophy must be a study of the empirical diversity of valuables, with no bias in favor of introducing more unity than the facts seem to warrant.
There is no a priori reason to suppose that values must be tested by a single formula.
Many of the chief reasons which thinkers have given for
subjectivism have been drawn from the plurality of values. The
plurality of values is an indisputable fact, but the inferences from
pluralism to subjectivism have one and all been shown to be fallacious
or unproved. So the facts of plurality and relationship among values
are entirely compatible with an objective theory of value, an objective
pluralism. Let me repeat that no attempt is being made here to prove or
interpret axiological objectivism. We have refuted the usual objective
monisms, we have seen the truth and nature of pluralism, and we have
shown the fallacies in the usual proofs from pluralism to subjectivism.
This opens the way for the development of an objective pluralism, but
goes no further.
In conclusion, please note that both the objective monist and the subjective pluralist offer you suspiciously easy and dogmatic doctrines. What you are asked to believe is just one sentence, though to be sure it is usually a different sentence for each philosopher. They say that the highest good is so and so, that goodness is pleasure or what not, that value is whatever you think or feel it is. As soon as this one sentence has been settled, all fundamental problems about value are supposed to be solved. Even if there were no fallacies back of the proofs for all of this, would it not seem too easy to be a plausible account of our complex world? At any rate it is to be confessed that an objective pluralism will be more difficult. It will call in all of the possible methods of analysis, including psychology and the modem logic of relations. It will study human valuations patiently and empirically, using not only the traditional statistical methods but also newer and more fruitful methods. It will perhaps seem more slow, but it will ultimately seem more sure, than the traditional methods.
Cohen, Morris Raphael, Reason and Nature: An Essay on the Meaning of Scientific Method (New York 1931: Macmillan), esp. 165–8, 441–4; cf. also 143–6
Dinesen, Isak, Letters from Africa 1914–1931 (Chicago, 1981: Chicago University Press), esp. 255, 264–5
Niebuhr, Reinhold, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (New York/London, 1932), 174:
[...] there is no moral value which may be regarded as absolute. It may, in a given instant, have to be sacrificed to some other value. Every action resolves a certain competition between values, in which one value must be subordinated to another. This is necessary in a specific instance even though there may be an ultimate harmony of all high and legitimate moral values.
Niebuhr goes on to say that the best resolution to conflicts between values can’t be determined a priori (ibid, 175, 179). And he discusses the clash between religious and political moralities in a way reminiscent of IB on Machiavelli, adding that an uneasy tension between the two moralities is better than an attempt to harmonise them in a single morality or ‘rational compromise’, which tends to foster a ‘premature complacency’ about moral achievement (ibid., 259–62).
Laird, John, ‘The Comparison of Goods’, chapter 16 in An Enquiry into Moral Notions (London, 1935: George Allen & Unwin)
Ross, W. D., Foundations of Ethics (Oxford, 1939:
Clarendon Press), esp. 313–14:
These two perplexities, one arising from conflict between the rules accepted in a single society, the other arising from conflict between the rules accepted in different societies – the pointing out of the conflicts, and the attempt to reconcile them – lay at the origin of ethics in western lands [...] and we may conjecture that they lie at the basis of all ethical inquiry.
Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism,
Socialism, and Democracy (London, 1943: Allen and Unwin), 251:
There is [...] no such thing as a uniquely determined common good that all people could agree on or be made to agree on by the force of rational argument. This is due not primarily to the fact that some people may want things other than the common good but to the much more fundamental fact that to different individuals and groups the common good is bound to mean different things. This fact [...] will introduce rifts on questions of principle which cannot be reconciled by rational argument because ultimate values – our conceptions of what life and what society should be – are beyond the range of mere logic. They may be bridged by compromise in some cases but not in others [...] [there are] irreducible differences of ultimate values which compromise could only maim and degrade.
Hayek, F. A., The Road to Serfdom (London, 1944: Routledge and Kegan Paul), 42–4, 48, 153; cf. 40–2
Barbara Wooton, Freedom under
Planning (London, 1945: Allen and Unwin), 5–6 (includes a
clear anticipation of some of IB’s central views on freedom)
Lillie, William, An Introduction to Ethics (London,
Methuen), esp. 248:
We know too little of these ultimate moral relations of the universe to be sure that they form a coherent system; it may be a part of our religious or metaphysical faith that they do.
Oakeshott, Michael, ‘The Tower of Babel’ (1948), in Rationalism in
Politics (London, 1962: Methuen), e.g. p. [Liberty Fund edition
Too often the excessive pursuit of one ideal leads to the exclusion of others, perhaps all others; in our eagerness to realise justice we come to forget charity, and a passion for righteousness has made many a man hard and merciless. There is, indeed, no ideal the pursuit of which will not lead to disillusion; chagrin waits at the end for all who take this path. Every admirable ideal has its opposite, no less admirable. Liberty or order, justice or charity, spontaneity or deliberateness, principle or circumstance, self or others, these are the kinds of dilemma with which this form of the moral life is always confronting us, making us see double by directing us always to abstract extremes, none of which is wholly desirable.
Joshua Cherniss writes:
The phrase ‘pursuit of the ideal’ or ones similar to it recur throughout the essay. At the same time, it should be noted that Oakeshott seems to suggest that such conflicts of values are the result of a particular, reflective, approach to morality, and can be resolved through embracing a more habitual approach – on the same page he asserts that ‘These conflicting ideals are, of course, reconciled in amiable characters (that is, when they no longer appear as ideals) [...]’.
Trilling, Lionel, ‘The Princess Casamassima’ (1948), in The Liberal
Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (London, 1951),
Hyacinth recognizes what very few people wish to admit, that civilization has a price, and a high one. Civilizations differ from one another as much in what they give up as in what they acquire; but all civilizations are alike in that they renounce something for something else. We do right to protest this in any given case that comes under our notice and we do right to get as much as possible for as little as possible; but we can never get everything for nothing. Nor, indeed, do we really imagine that we can. Thus, to stay within the present context, every known theory of popular revolution gives up the vision of the world ‘raised to the richest and noblest expression’. To achieve the ideal of widespread security, popular revolutionary theory condemns the ideal of adventurous experience. It tries to avoid doing this explicitly and it even, although seldom convincingly, denies that it does it at all. But all the instincts or necessities of radical democracy are against the superbness and arbitrariness which often mark great spirits. It is sometimes said in the interests of an ideal or abstract completeness that the choice need not be made, that security can be imagined to go with richness and nobility of expression. But we have not seen it in the past and nobody really strives to imagine it in the future.
Strauss, Leo, Natural Right and History (Chicago, 1953:
University of Chicago Press), 74–5:
For both philosophy and the Bible proclaim something as the one thing needful, as the only thing that ultimately counts, and the one thing needful proclaimed by the Bible is the opposite of that proclaimed by philosophy: a life of obedient love versus a life of free insight. In every attempt at harmonization, in every synthesis however impressive, one of the two elements is sacrificed, more or less subtly but in any event surely, to the other: philosophy, which means to be the queen, must be made the handmaid of revelation or vice versa.
But, in any event, neither the pluralism so central to naturalism, nor its cultivation of scientific reason, is compatible with any dogmatic assumption to the effect that men can be liberated from all the sorrows and evils to which they are now heirs, through the eventual advances of science and the institution of appropriate physical and social innovations.
There is also a discussion of pluralism as a distinctive feature of naturalism at 7 ff.
Kolakowski, Leszek, ‘Pochwała niekonsekwencji’ [In praise of inconsistency] (1958), repr. in id., Pochwała niekonsekwencji: pisma rozproszone z lat 1955–1968, ed. Zbigniew Mentzel (London, 1989: Puls); see also, in the same volume, ‘Kapłan i błazen’ [The chaplain and the fool]; ‘Mała etyka’ [Little ethics] (1977); elsewhere, ‘Etyka bez kodeksu’ [Ethics without a code] (1962)
§Two Concepts of Liberty, the earliest clear published statement of IB’s pluralism, was published in 1958
2. Pluralist writings after Berlin
Popper, Karl: Popper himself claims in his autobiography that pluralism is to be found in The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), but this is not the case; indeed there are passages in that work that seem to be incompatible with pluralism. However, there are also passages in later works that are more clearly pluralistic. Since the earliest of these passages dates from 1958, it is unclear whether Popper should be listed before or after Two Concepts of Liberty (1958).We ought to be proud that we do not have one idea but many ideas, good ones and bad ones; that we do not have a single belief, not one religion but many: good ones, and bad ones. It is a sign of the supreme strength of the West that we can afford that. The agreement of the West on a single idea, on a single belief, one religion, would be the end of the West, our capitulation, our unconditional surrender to the totalitarian idea.
‘What does the West believe in?’ (lecture delivered in 1958), in In Search of a Better World (London, 1992: Routledge), 210
It goes without saying that it is not the idea of Christianity that leads to terror and inhumanity. Rather it is the idea of the one unified idea, the belief in one unified and exclusive belief. And since I have called myself a rationalist I regard it as my duty to point out that the terrorism of rationalism, of Robespierre’s religion of reason, was, if possible, even worse than that of Christian or Mohammedan or Jewish fanaticism. A genuinely rationalist social order is just as impossible as a genuinely Christian one; and the attempt to realise the impossible must here lead to at least equally abominable outrages. The best one can say about the Terror of Robespierre is that it did not last long.
Those well-meaning enthusiasts who have the wish and feel the need to unify the West under the leadership of one inspiring idea know not what they are doing. They are unaware of the fact that they are playing with fire – that it is the totalitarian idea which attracts them.
No, it is not the unity of an idea, but the diversity of our many ideas, of which the West may be proud; the pluralism of its ideas. To our question ‘What does the West believe in?’ we can now find a first and preliminary answer. For we can say proudly that we in the West believe in many different things, in much that is true and in much that is false; in good things and in bad things.
This idea of self-liberation or self-emancipation through knowledge remained for Kant a task as well as a guide throughout his life; and although he was convinced that this idea might serve as an inspiration for every man possessed of the necessary intelligence, Kant did not make the mistake of proposing that we adopt self-emancipation through knowledge, or any other mainly intellectual exercise, as the whole meaning or purpose of human life. Indeed, Kant did not need the assistance of the Romantics for criticising pure reason, nor did he need their reminders to realise that man is not purely rational; and he knew that mere intellectual knowledge is neither the best thing in human life, nor the most sublime. He was a pluralist who believed in the variety of human experience and in the diversity of human aims; and being a pluralist, he believed in an open society – a pluralist society that would live up to his own maxim: ‘Dare to be free, and respect the freedom and the autonomy of others; for the dignity of man lies in his freedom, and in his respect for other people’s autonomous and responsible beliefs, especially if these differ widely from his own.’ Yet in spite of his pluralism he saw in intellectual self-education, or self-emancipation through knowledge, a task which is indispensable from a philosophical point of view; a task demanding of every man immediate action here and now and always. For only through the growth of knowledge can the mind be liberated from its spiritual enslavement: enslavement by prejudices, idols and avoidable errors. Thus the task of self-education, though certainly not exhausting the meaning of life, could, he thought, make a decisive contribution towards it.
ibid., 138, from ‘Emancipation through Knowledge’ (1961)
Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr, ‘The One and the Many’, in Arthur M. Schlesinger and Morton White (eds), Paths of American Thought (Boston, 1963)
Bell, Daniel, The End of Ideology (New York, 1964): the Epilogue ends with a quotation from Herzen
Hook, Sidney, Pragmatism and the Tragic Sense of Life (New York, 1964: Basic Books)
Richard Robinson, An
Atheist’s Values (Oxford, 1964: Clarendon Press), 18:
Robinson belongs (with Ross, Prichard and Joseph) to the ‘Cook Wilsonian’ group of Oxford philosophers, who all seem to have been pluralists of a kind. Cf. J. O. Urmson, ‘A Defence of Intuitionism’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75 (1975), 111–19.
Judith N. Shklar, Legalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1964:
Harvard University Press); page references in [ ]:
Justice is a personal attribute [...] As such it is one virtue among many. 
In personal relations it [justice] has not always been rated very highly, even by people of a legalistic bent of mind. Charity has usually been conceded to be not only superior to justice but incompatible with it. In any case, even within a generally legalistic society, justice must constantly compromise with other moral values and policies. 
In practice, however, the policies of justice must constantly compromise with other social demands. 
There is no reason to doubt that the realisation of personal justice is infinitely more likely in a society which thus honors freedom and equality. However, the three are not, for all that, identical. Justice presupposes an identifiable rule and the disposition to follow it. It is a state of mind no less than a policy, and as such it is the thread that ties legalistic morals, legal institutions, and legal politics into a single knot. As this is not the only possible virtue or policy, it should not be identified with other moral ends. 
[...] equality and freedom remain independent values [...] no purpose is served by speaking of economic, social, or political justice, beyond attaching the sacred name of justice to social ends which, however worthy, do not form a part of justice and may, in fact, come into conflict with it. 
[...] a policy of justice in this, as in many other areas, may lead to far worse social consequences than a policy of semi-justice, in which several incompatible goals are allowed to live in compromise, even though logically they are mutually exclusive. It is not wickedness that creates a multiplicity of needs and values, but the inevitable diversity among people and the complexity of the demands that a highly developed culture makes upon them. Shklar also criticises attempts to offer ‘a more elaborate definition of justice’ in order to resolve conflicts between different interpretations of what justice entails, and to ‘extend the meaning of justice in such a way as to make it a compatible part of any type of morality’ ; uses the phrase ‘a morally pluralistic world’ ; and refers sardonically to ‘determined categorisers’ who believe that ‘social experience must be neatly divided into distinct parcels’ [ibid.].
Kedourie, Elie, Nationalism, 3rd ed. (London, 1966: Hutchinson), includes a discussion of the connection between pluralism (here called ‘diversity’) and nationalism: see chapter 4
Simon, Paul, ‘Mrs Robinson’, from the Simon and Garfunkle album Bookends,
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it, you lose
Strauss, Leo, Liberalism Ancient and Modern (New York, 1968:
Basic Books), 230:
Finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free from contradictions.
Kiš, Danilo (1935–89), Yugoslav novelist (half Hungarian Jewish, half Montenegrin Orthodox), ‘For Pluralism’ (an atack on the standards of Yugoslav literary criticism – ‘traditionalist, positivist, sociological’, bolstered by Soviet ‘critical realism’ etc. – written in 1972, as Tito was about to topple Yugoslavia into the anti-liberal reaction that would pave the way for what happened in the 1990s), closing paragraph, translated by Mark Thompson (who also wrote the preceding comments):
The richness, freedom and maturity of a culture emerge precisely in its pluralism, just as the richness of a fictional tradition emerges in the pluralism of its fictional realities and procedures. Until this pluralism has been achieved in criticism and literature, and as long as a single view of the world and of art continues to be proclaimed (whether by critics or the administration [i.e. political authorities] makes no difference) as canonical, and hence exclusively important and meaningful, a culture cannot grasp its own elementary freedom. In this sense, hic et nunc, to write differently – which is to say, outside and despite the canons and orders of the day as these are dictated by ruling groups (both critics and the so-called political subculture, which are usually one and the same) – means to struggle for the moral and political freedom of a culture.
Kolakowski, Leszek, ‘In Praise of Inconsistency’, in id., Marxism and Beyond (London 1971: Paladin), 228–37: see esp. 231, where he says that ‘the world of value is not logically bivalent’
Michael Walzer, ‘Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 No (Winter 1973), 160–80
Oakeshott, Michael, On Human Conduct (Oxford, 1975:
Oxford University Press), 66:
Nor may all its (moral association’s) various calls be equally responded to; each man hears and understands the promptings of some allegiances more clearly than others. As the ancient Greek well knew, to honour Artemis might entail the neglect of Aphrodite.
That there should be many such languages in the world, some perhaps with familial likenesses in terms of which there may be profitable exchange of expressions, is intrinsic to their character. This plurality cannot be resolved by being understood as so many contingent and regrettable divergencies from a fancied perfect and universal language of moral intercourse (a law of God, a utilitarian ‘critical’ morality, or a so-called ‘rational morality’). But it is hardly surprising that such a resolution should have been attempted: human beings are apt to be disconcerted unless they feel themselves to be upheld by something more substantial than the emanations of their own contingent imaginations. This unresolved plurality teases the monistic yearnings of the muddled theorist, it vexes a moralist with ecumenical leanings, and it may disconcert an unfortunate who, having ‘lost’ his morality (as others have been known to ‘lose’ their faith), must set about constructing one for himself and is looking for uncontaminated ‘rational’ principles out of which to make it.
And again, 323:
It may be true that, hidden in human character, there are two powerful and contrary dispositions, neither strong enough to defeat or put to flight the other.
Nagel, Thomas, ‘The Fragmentation of Value’, in Mortal Questions
(Cambridge, 1979: Cambridge University Press), 131–2, 134:
I do not believe that the source of value is unitary – displaying apparent multiplicity only in its application to the world. I believe that value has fundamentally different kinds of sources, and they are reflected in the classification of values into types. Not all values represent the pursuit of some single good in a variety of settings.
Conflicts between personal and impersonal claims are ubiquitous. They cannot, in my view, be resolved by subsuming either of the points of view under the other, or both under a third. Nor can we simply abandon any of them.
Ehrlich, S., ‘Pluralism and Marxism’, in S. Ehrlich and G. Wootton (eds), Three Faces of Pluralism: Political, Ethical and Religious (Farnborough, 1980: Gower), 34–45
MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue (London, 1981: Duckworth), p. 143:
Our situation is tragic in that we have to recognize the authority of both claims. There is an objective moral order, but our perception of it is such that we cannot bring rival moral truths into complete harmony with each other To choose does not exempt me from the authority of the claim which I choose to go against.
Though one might note (writes Joshua Cherniss) that, as with Oakeshott, the situation of tragic choice arising from a pluralist relationship of values is ascribed to our perception of things, rather than to an unalterable reality.
§Hampshire, Stuart, Morality and Conflict (Oxford, 1983: Blackwell)
Strauss, Leo, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy
(Chicago, 1983: University of Chicago Press), 149:
We are thus compelled from the very beginning to make a choice, to take a stand. Where then do we stand? We are confronted with the incompatible claims of Jerusalem and Athens to our allegiance.
Taylor, Charles, ‘The Diversity of Social Goods’, in his Philosophy and the Human Sciences (Cambridge, 1985: Cambridge University Press)
Nussbaum, Martha, The Fragility of Goodness (Cambridge,
1986: Cambridge University Press), 5:
I begin this book from a position that I believe to be common [...] that I must constantly choose among competing and apparently incommensurable goods and that circumstances may force me to a position in which I cannot help being false to something or doing some wrong.
Raz, Joseph, ‘Value Incommensurability: Some Preliminaries’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (1985–6), 117–134Bernstein, R. J., ‘The Varieties of Pluralism’, American Journal of Education 95 No 4 (1987), 509–25
§Hampshire, Stuart, Innocence and Experience (London, 1989: Allen Lane; Cambridge, Mass., 1989: Harvard University Press)
Nozick, Robert, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations (New York, 1989: Simon & Schuster): at 162–216 there is a discussion of reality and value and their connections; Nozick’s position is clearly pluralist – see esp. 211, where value pluralism is explicitly connected with free will; there is a reference to IB on pluralism at 292
Casey, John, ‘Homer, Shakespeare, and the Conflict of Values’, in John Casey, Pagan Virtues (Oxford, 1990: Clarendon Press), 211–26
Putnam, Hilary and Ruth, ‘William James’s Ideas’, Raritan 8 (1989), 27–44; repr. as chapter 16 of Hilary Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, ed. James Conant (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1990: Harvard University Press)
Reck, A. J., ‘An Historical Sketch of Pluralism’, Monist 73 No 3 (1990), 367–87
Rorty, Amelie O., ‘Varieties of Pluralism in a Polyphonic Society’, in Review of Metaphysics 44 No 1 (September 1990), 3–21: Rorty enumerates a variety of different kinds of pluralism; her discussions of ‘intellectual pluralism’ and ‘moral pluralism’ are closest to IB's ideas; IB is not cited or discussed, though Steven Lukes is
Stocker, Michael, Plural and Conflicting Values (Oxford, 1990: Clarendon Press).
Watson, W., ‘Types of Pluralism’, Monist 73 No 3 (1990), 350–66
Sacks, Jonathan, ‘The Judaic Case for Pluralism: A Reply to Ross Kessel’, Jewish Quarterly 38 No 3 (Autumn 1991), 44–9
Seung, T. K. and Bonevac, Daniel: ‘Plural Values and Indeterminate Rankings’, Ethics 102 (1992), 799–813
Singer, Beth J., ‘Pragmatism and Pluralism’, Monist 75 No 4 (October 1992), 477–91: on Peirce, James, Dewey, John Herman Randall, Jr, and Horace Kallen
Wolf, Susan, ‘Two Levels of Pluralism’, Ethics 102 No 4 (July 1992), 785–98
Nicholas Rescher, Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus (Oxford, 1993: Clarendon Press)
Marr, Andrew, ‘Thanks for the hint, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’, Independent, 14 December 1993, ?
O’Brien, Conor Cruise, ‘A French lesson for Muslims’, Independent, 10 December 1993, 18
Taylor, Charles, Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism, ed. Guy Laforest (Montreal, 1993: McGill-Queens University Press), esp. ‘Shared and Divergent Values’
O’Brien, Conor Cruise, review of Stanley Fish, There’s no such thing as free speech, Independent, 9 April 1994, 29
§Parekh, Bhikhu, ‘Superior people: the narrowness of liberalism from Mill to Rawls’, The Times Literary Supplement, 25 February 1994, 11–13
Raz, Joseph, Ethics in the Public Domain (Oxford, 1994: Oxford University Press)
Raz, Joseph, ‘Moral Change and Social Relativism’, in Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred D. Miller, Jr, and Jeffrey Paul (eds), Cultural Pluralism and Moral Knowledge (Cambridge, 1994: Cambridge University Press)
Schlosberg, D., ‘Resurrecting the Pluralist Universe’, Political Research Quarterly 51 No
3 (1998), 583–615
Rorty, Richard, ‘Afterword: Pragmatism, Pluralism and
Postmodernism’, in id., Philosophy
and Social Hope (London, 1999: Penguin)
Stanford, Peter, ‘Ahem, ahem – the rise and fall of morality’, review of Oliver Thomson, A History of Sin, Independent, 16 February 1994, 19
Piret, Jean-Marc, ‘A Hundred Flowers in the Garden of Humanity: On political, ideological and cultural pluralism’ (unpublished English translation, by Truus Bos and Henry Hardy, of ‘Honderd bloemen in de tuin der mensheid: over politiek, levensbeschouwelijk en cultureel pluralisme’, Nexus No 13 (1995), 87–96, a reply to Henry Hardy, ‘Taking Pluralism Seriously’, published in a Dutch translation, by Dorien Veldhuizen, as ‘Het ware pluralisme’, ibid., 75–86)
Taylor, Charles, ‘The Importance of Herder’ and ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge, 1995: Harvard University Press)
Evans, J. D[avid] G., ‘Cultural Realism: The Ancient Philosophical Background’, in David Archard (ed.), Philosophy and Pluralism (Cambridge, 1996: Cambridge University Press): defends a version of pluralism which, he claims, was Aristotle’s position; more a description of Aristotle’s point of view than an argument on his behalf; interesting as an example of a version of pluralism which might be the remote ancestor of the Herderian pluralism discussed by IB; see also other papers in this volume
Vallely, Paul, ‘How much intolerance can we tolerate?’, Independent, 4 March 1996, 11
Toynbee, Polly, ‘Cradle of Fanaticism’, Independent, 5 June 1996, 15; letters in response, ibid., 8 June 1996, 13
Lawson, Nigella, ‘We atheists know right from wrong’, The Times, 26 June 1996, 19
Rothschild, Emma, ‘Condorcet and the Conflict of Values’, Historical Journal 39 (1996), 677–701
Boyd, Richard, ‘Frank H. Knight and Ethical Pluralism’, Critical Review 11 No 4 (Fall 1997), 519–36
Chang, Ruth (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1997: Harvard University Press): includes James Griffin, ‘What’s the problem?’, and Charles Taylor, ‘Leading a Life’
Shils Edward, The Virtue of Civility: Selected Essays on Liberalism, Tradition, and Civil Society, ed. Steven Grosby (Indianapolis, 1997: Liberty Fund Press), 52:
Above all, civil politics requires understanding the complexity of virtue, that no virtue stands alone, that every virtuous act costs something in terms of other virtuous acts, that virtues are intertwined with evils, and that no theoretical system of a hierarchy of virtue is ever realizable in practice.
Bickford, S., ‘Reconfiguring Pluralism: Identity and
Institutions in the Inegalitarian Polity’, American Journal of Political Science
43 No 1 (1999), 86–108
Hampshire, Stuart, Justice is Conflict (London, 1999:
Duckworth: Princeton, 2000: Princeton University Press)
Richard Rorty, ‘Afterword: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Postmodernism’ (1998), in Philosophy and Social Hope (New York/London, 1999: Penguin)
Muthu, Sankar, ‘Enlightenment Anti-Imperialism’, in Mack, Arien (ed.), Liberty and Pluralism [Social Research 66 No 4 (Winter 1999)], ??
Friedman, Thomas L., ‘The Real War’, New York Times, 27 November 2001, A21
Fish, Stanley, ‘Postmodern Warfare: The Ignorance of Our Warrior Intellectuals’, Harper’s Magazine, July 2002, 33–40
Hiruta, Kei, ‘What Pluralism, Why Pluralism, and How? A Response to Charles Ess’, Ethics and Information Technology 8 (2006), 227–36
3. Candidates for addition (details to be added)Views and details welcome
Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man (London, 1952: Gollancz) [?]
James, William (other passages/titles; bibliographic info. needed):The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.
Pragmatism: a new name for some old ways of thinking – popular lectures (London etc., 1907), ??
The pluralistic world is thus more like a federal republic
than like an empire or a kingdom. However much may be collected,
however much may report itself as present at any effective centre of
consciousness or action, something else is self-governed and absent and
unreduced to unity.
A Pluralistic Universe (New York etc., 1909), ??
In this present hour I wish to illustrate the pragmatic method
by one more application. I wish to turn its light upon the ancient
problem of ‘the one and the many’. I suspect that in but few of you has
this problem occasioned sleepless nights, and I should not be
astonished if some of you told me it had never vexed you. I myself have
come, by long brooding over it, to consider it the most central of all
philosophic problems, central because so pregnant. I mean by this that
if you know whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist,
you perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions than if you give
him any other name ending in ist. To believe in the one or in the many,
that is the classification with the maximum number of consequences. So
bear with me for an hour while I try to inspire you with my own
interest in this problem.
‘The One and the Many’, [the fourth lecture] in Pragmatism
The desire to formulate truths is a virulent disease.
Michnik, Adam [and some of his fellow East European dissidents?]
Oakeshott, Michael (other passages/titles)