Allowing the world to resist: a postconstructivist enlarged mentality

2017-02-28T03:14:12Z (GMT) by Acreman, Stephen Ronald
Contemporary democratic theory focuses primarily on questions of intersubjective and intergroup negotiation, participation and deliberation. The politics of environmental and technoscientific issues are increasingly revealing the limitations of this intersubjective focus. Attention to the fairness of democratic procedure, or to the norms of deliberation, is necessary but insufficient when the ‘facts of the matter’ play such a central role in political judgement and debate. The limiting emphasis on intersubjectivity exists despite the marked influence of Hannah Arendt, for whom legitimate political judgements arise from the perspective of the world, not from subjective attitudes towards it. This thesis argues that Arendt fruitfully focuses on what she called the ‘enlarged mentality’ as ensuring the representativeness of political judgements, and the thesis further contends that the concept of ‘enlarged mentality’ has been incorrectly adopted by subsequent political theorists as a subject-oriented rather than an object-oriented principle. Enlarging the mind requires exposure to, and acceptance of, multiple object-oriented stories in which a thing or event in the world is revealed from a mediated and situated viewpoint. The novelty of every occurrence, as revealed in this particular type of storytelling, has the potential to break through various forms of intersubjective anaesthesia or habituation toward the world so that it can be accepted and judged as it is. Even when read as an object-oriented principle, however, Arendt’s enlarged mentality is still limited in its capacity to approximate the perspective of the world because of her anti-modern tendencies. Taking up pragmatistic, postphenomenological and postconstructivist insights, it is clear that politically-relevant stories are told by everything and about everything, inclusive of technoscientific domains. The thesis proposes that the ‘facts of the matter’ can be restored, in democratic theory and practice, through a postconstructivist reformulation of the enlarged mentality, in which democratic judgement is responsive to multiply situated and mediated stories that can detect and consider the resistance of the world to the preconceived desires of the privileged.