Dilemmas of Political Judgment

Sonia Kruks

in Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195381443
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979165 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

Dilemmas of Political Judgment

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This chapter extends Beauvoir's critique of rationalism to the question of political judgment. It argues that not only neo-Kantian conceptions of determinate judgment but also Hannah Arendt's account of judgment as “representative thinking” are insufficiently attentive to less “rational” aspects of the self—to personal history and character, affect, emotion, and so forth. However, recent accounts of judgment informed by neuroscience that, by contrast, conceive it as no more than an effect of brain activity are also inadequate. Using examples of how individuals make political judgments drawn from Beauvoir's novel The Mandarins, the chapter argues that a political judgment is best described as an “existential” choice that is made by a self who is both idiosyncratic and constrained within a particular situation. In addition, since in politics “truths” are often uncertain and values frequently incommensurate, even the most “rational” political judgment will be ambiguous and subject to failure.

Keywords: affect; Arendt; Beauvoir; choice; determinate judgment; The Mandarins; neuroscience; political judgment; representative thinking; truth

Chapter.  12935 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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