The Possibility of Pluralism Series
Professor Ronald Dworkin on the Possibility of Pluralism
The eminent jurist and philosopher Professor Dworkin spoke at AKU-ISMC on the Possibility of Pluralism.
On the 30th of May, the Institute held a discussion led by the eminent jurist and philosopher, Professor Ronald Dworkin as part of the Possibility of Pluralism series held since 2003.
Professor Dworkin is a leading legal and moral philosopher in the field of common law who is well known for his law as integrity theory and as an advocate for a bill of rights in Britain.
Professor Dworkin spoke of the three separate forms of pluralism that he believes exist - philosophical pluralism, political pluralism (the Millian idea) and multiculturalism. Professor Dworkin defined philosophical pluralism as the idea that there is a unity of value - that true values are compatible and are all aspects of each other. Political pluralism suggests that society should make space for separate sets of values, an idea that Professor Dworkin himself endorses. Multiculturalism is the idea that for society to be politically plural it should be pluralist in the division of political power within the community. Thus within the overall community, there are sub communities that have a level of autonomy within society.
Professor Dworkin explained his belief that the third form of pluralism, multiculturalism, is most fraught with potential conflict and difficulty. Professor Dworkin went on to describe his belief that multiculturalism must exist within a constitutional framework, in order to protect the rights of the individual within society.
A number of issues were raised in the interactive discussion that followed, touching both on the ideas of values of truth in a pluralistic society as well as on the role and potential of pluralism in different societies.
Participants in the seminar included guests, students and faculty of the institute.
Professor Dworkin's talk was followed by discussions on a variety of issues including the role of judges and the organisation of the judiciary, and the challenges posed by sub-groups within multicultural societies.
Professor Dworkin expressed the difficulty posed by multiculturalism within a state, noting that there is no standard for dividing the community into political divisions. He went on to note the paradox of multiculturalism - that the individual within a minority community who thinks themselves part of the larger community can be denied the rights that other members within the same state take for granted.
"One of the great problems of multiculturalism is the minority within the minority, for example, if you say that a local community can regulate the incidence of divorce because it has a different view of marriage or divorce from the larger community. This raises the paradox of multiculturalism."
The discussion then shifted to the possibility of pluralism and the idea of minorities within minorities in Muslim contexts. Professor Dworkin suggested that interpretation is a matter of value and that people who interpret religious texts differently should be tolerant of each other - as would be required in the framework of political pluralism.
Professor Dworkin's talk was part of the Institute's Possibility of Pluralism series. A constructive and intellectually stimulating discussion, it yielded ideas for further deliberation about pluralism and its relevance to Muslim contexts.
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