Toward a Democratic Theory of Judgment

What would it mean to foreground the capacity to judge critically and reflectively as a central feature of modern democratic citizenship? This question, initially raised in the work of Hannah Arendt, is of crucial importance for political theory today. For Arendt, the problem of judgment arises in the wake of totalitarianism and the collapse of inherited criteria for judgment. For contemporary theorists, the problem of how to judge in the absence of inherited concepts remains an important one. But our focus must be different. The problem is not only the collapse of traditional standards but also how to take account of the plurality of standards that characterize multiethnic and multiracial societies such as the United States and, increasingly, Western Europe. This paper rereads Arendt’s turn to Kant’s third Critique in light of this challenge for judgment today.

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