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Isaiah Berlin on Pluralism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 241
Pluralism/Berlin/D’Agostino: We might believe, (...) as Isaiah Berlin influentially claimed, that diversity in valuations is a reflection, empirically, of a deep and objective fact about values per se, and not about the limitations, however profound, of human reasoning about them. Cf. >Pluralism/D’Agostino, >Diversity/D’Agostino.
We might hold, as John Gray put it, that such values are many, (that) they often come into conflict with one another and are uncombinable in a single human being or a single society, and that in many of such conflicts there is no overarching standard whereby the competing claims of such ultimate values are rationally arbitratable. (1993(1): 65)
D’Agostino: Here, monism is rejected not on 'practical' grounds, as in Rawls's weak version of pluralism, but rather on the basis, precisely, of 'disputed philosophical theses' (...).
BerlinVsMonism: In particular, monism is rejected on ontological grounds - values are plural - and on ethical grounds - the elimination of apparent diversity can slight values that ought to
be honoured (and not merely, as in Rawls's 'weak pluralism', because the elimination of diversity
would itself require impermissible forms of behaviour).
Diversity/Berlin: As Berlin said, it is better to face (the) intellectually uncomfortable fact
tof 'objective' diversity) than to ignore it, or automatically attribute it to some deficiency on our part which could be eliminated by an increase in skill or knowledge; or, what is worse still, suppress one of the competing values altogether by pretending it is identical with its rival - and so end by distorting both. (1969(2): l)
D’Agostino: Such a strong pluralism is no longer merely 'practical' , though Rawls's own analysis alludes to some the argumentation supportmg such a stance. >Pluralism/Rawls, >Pluralism/Political Philosophy, >Pluralism’D’Agostino.


1. Gray, John (1993) Post-Liberalism. New York: Routledge.
2. Berlin, Isaiah (1969) Four Essays on Liberty. London: Oxford University Press.

D’Agostino, Fred 2004. „Pluralism and Liberalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Berl I
Isaiah Berlin
Four Essays on Liberty Oxford 1990

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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