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Anno LIII, n. 222, maggio-agosto 2018
Is modus vivendi the best realistic alternative to public justification liberalism?Is modus vivendi the best realistic alternative to public justification liberalism?In this paper I challenge the claim that modus vivendi (MV) is the most realisticalternative to public justification liberalism (PJL). I focus on those theo103Abstractsries that ground social order on the idea of MV, in particular those proposedby Horton and McCabe. After presenting the penchant for political realismevident in these theories, I test whether MV-based approaches can meet theirown standards, and in particular whether they are not liable to the samecritiques that MV approaches address to PJL, namely of being descriptivelyinadequate with respect to the reality of politics, and, consequently, beingnormatively inert. To this end, I reconstruct the disagreement concerning themoral status of animals as a case in point to demonstrate that MV can onlypartially account for such disagreement in a realist manner, because somefeatures of this case cannot be explained without appealing to a more normativelydemanding notion. More generally, I argue that MV falls prey to apartial descriptive inadequacy, which has some implications for its practicalcapacity. The result is that MV-based approaches seem incapable of indicatinghow a certain MV arrangement can be improved without appealing toother (moralistic) criteria. Although MV-based approaches are right to pointout some realistic concerns against PJL, similar worries may also be addressedto MV approaches. Finally, this analysis casts some doubt on MV’s ability toground an autonomous political theory.