American Corner Innsbruck

    Lecture by Prof. Cornelius Delaney


    May 28, 2008, 6 p.m.

    On May 28, the American Corner Innsbruck invited students, faculty, and the interested public to yet another talk in the ACI public lecture series. The evening's guest was Professor Cornelius Delaney, professor of Philosophy and director of the Honor's Program at Notre Dame University, Indiana, USA.

    The fifty members of the audience were in for a fantastic rollercoaster-ride through the philosophy of John Rawls, when Prof. Delaney gave his talk on political liberalism as a critical ideal, drawing on the philosopher’s major works A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism. Having highlighted Rawls’s distinctively American approach and most salient philosophical features such as his interdisciplinary appeal and paradigmatic pragmatism, Prof. Delaney continued with the sober assessment that the United States have failed to live up to the ideals canonized in founding documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers. These principles, characterized by strong concern for social welfare, are vastly more demanding than what is the case now in American society. In order to arrive at a fair solution for all members of the community, it is indispensable for political liberalism to span the entire number of comprehensive views existing in an increasingly pluralistic society by creating a catalogue of core values which all views can relate to despite their otherwise fundamental differences. Whereas stability is provided by the congruence of these values, the fairness of rules is guaranteed by a thought experiment which echoes a Kantian notion: shrouded in what Rawls labels the “veil of ignorance,” the individual is unaware of his/her position in society and simultaneously becomes a potential lawmaker whose ignorance forces him/her to create laws which are fair to all social strata and especially to the benefit of the least advantaged in society.
    Prof. Delaney’s instructive presentation on Rawls’s concept of political liberalism provided the audience with an interesting approach to the problem of social fairness, uncovering the discrepancy between the ideal of social welfare and its deplorable implementation in American reality.
    (text: Andreas Leisner)



    After highlighting the important differences between the Rawls of 'A Theory of Justice' and the Rawls of 'Political Liberalism', I want to explore his robust justification of welfare including health care through the agency of law. I will explore the practical question of how he expects his strong internal critique of at least the American version of liberal democracy to achieve stability over time.


    Corneluis Delaney is full Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, Indiana, USA. With a Ph.D. from St. Louis University, he joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1967 and chaired the philosophy department for more than 10 years. Since 1990, Professor Delaney has directed the university’s Honors Program for particularly gifted students. His research is informed by pragmatism and concentrates on political philosophy and legal philosophy as well as the history of modern philosophy. Professor Delaney is currently working on a monograph on C.S. Peirce and another one on American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century.


    American Corner Innsbruck
    Department of American Studies
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    6020 Innsbruck

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