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World Disclosure and Normativity: The Social Imaginary as the Space of Argument

Meili Steele’s “World Disclosure and Normativity: The Social Imaginary as the Space of Argument” appears in Telos 174 (Spring 2016). Read the full article at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our online store.

There has been an ongoing dispute between defenders of world disclosure (understood here in a loosely Heideggerian sense) and advocates of normative debate. I will take up a recent confrontation between Charles Taylor and Robert Brandom over this question as my point of departure for showing how world disclosure can expand the range of normative argument. I begin by distinguishing pre-reflective disclosure—the already interpreted, structured world in which we find ourselves—from reflective disclosure—the discrete intervention of a particular utterance or text. I discuss Taylor’s notion of social imaginaries as a way of thematizing our pre-reflective background and Talal Asad’s critique of Taylor to show how this background can be one space of argument. I then develop my own understanding of reflective disclosure, of which Taylor gives an inadequate account, developing my argument with help of literature, including a close analysis of Susan Glaspell short story “A Jury of Her Peers.” This story illustrates how world disclosure can make normative arguments without confining itself to Brandom’s or Habermas’s idea of the exchange of reasons.

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