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The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays

The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays

Joshua Cohen

ISBN 9780674055605

Publication date: 01/30/2011

In this collection of essays, Joshua Cohen locates ideas about democracy in three far-ranging contexts. First, he explores the relationship between democratic values and history. He then discusses democracy in connection with the views of defining political theorists in the democratic tradition: John Locke, John Rawls, Noam Chomsky, Juergen Habermas, and Susan Moller Okin. Finally, he examines the place of democratic ideals in a global setting, suggesting an idea of “global public reason”—a terrain of political justification in global politics in which shared reason still plays an essential role.
All the essays are linked by his overarching claim that political philosophy is a practical subject intended to orient and guide conduct in the social world. Cohen integrates moral, social-scientific, and historical argument in order to develop this stance, and he further confronts the question of whether a society conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality can endure. At Gettysburg, President Lincoln forcefully stated the question and expressed both hope and concern over this same struggle about an affirmative answer. By enabling us to trace the arc of the moral universe, the essays in this volume—along with the companion collection, Philosophy, Politics, Democracy—give us some reasons for sharing that hope.


  • In this marvelous collection, Josh Cohen displays his characteristic mixture of sharp philosophical analysis and serious political engagement. Beginning (and ending) with reflections on the role of moral truth in explaining moral advances, he addresses some of the largest questions about democracy within nations and global justice beyond them. And, on the way, he engages with recent thinkers as important and diverse as Chomsky, Habermas, Okin and Rawls. An exhilarating read.

    —K. Anthony Appiah, Princeton University


  • Joshua Cohen is Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society at Stanford University and coeditor of Boston Review.

Book Details

  • 426 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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