Menachem Fisch and Yitzhak Benbaji
The View from Within examines the character of reason and the ability of an individual to effectively distance himself from the normative framework in which he functions in order to be self-critical and innovative. To accomplish this task, Menachem Fisch and Yitzhak Benbaji critically employ or reject the recent writings of Brandom, Friedman, Frankfurt, Walzer, Davidson, Williams, Habermas, Rorty, and McDowell to offer a fundamental analysis of the character of reason and the problem of relativism.
This ambitious book forcefully raises the problem of rational normative change and makes the unique and insightful claim that although we cannot be convinced by normative criticism to modify or replace our norms, we can be rationally motivated to do so by the effect of exposure to trusted critics. Its unprecedented analysis, with its solution to the problem of normative self-criticism that has baffled philosophers for the past sixty years, will be welcomed by both students and scholars of philosophy.
“The View from Within is a thorough evaluation of the arguments made by contemporary philosophers about the normative character of reason and the derivative problem of relativism. Fisch and Benbaji have admirably compared and contrasted competing positions, and with a balanced critique, they have made a sustained effort to ‘save’ rationality and provide new guideposts for its philosophical evaluation. A timely and important contribution.” — Alfred I. Tauber, Boston University
“How can one change one’s mind about the very standards one applies as a critical thinker without losing a grip on one’s reasons? Fisch and Benbaji assess the state of the question in a remarkably wide range of fields: Kuhnian philosophy of science, interpretive social theory, pragmatism from Rorty to Brandom, and Frankfurt’s philosophy of personal identity. Then they offer an answer of their own, which integrates a social account of rationality as a trait agents exhibit when exchanging reasons with one another and a subject-centered account of rationality as a trait agents exhibit when criticizing their own commitments from within. The result is a fresh and illuminating approach to the nature of rationality and normativity.”
— Jeffrey Stout, Princeton University
“This is a bold and wide-ranging book that offers a novel solution to a central problem of philosophy: if there is no normatively neutral language in which to compare normatively distinct vocabularies, how can transitions from one vocabulary to another ever be rational? Combining great analytic subtlety with deep knowledge of the history of science, Fisch and Benbaji argue that a central role is played by the ambivalence induced in insiders when they engage external critics within the ‘trading zones’ of discourse. A tour de force, this book sheds new light on many areas of philosophy. Indeed, by examining the role of familiar phenomena that philosophers often neglect, such as ambivalence and indecision, The View from Within illuminates the destabilizing as well as the creative potential of reason throughout human life.” — Paul Franks, University of Toronto and Yale University
“. . . This thought-provoking study is important for anyone interested in rationality and the normativity of rational standards.” — Choice
“Fisch and Benbaji frame their critique in dialogue with the recent writings of leading contemporary philosophers in a detailed analysis of the character of reason, the problem of relativism, and how to comprehend scientific change more generally. Firmly placed within the context of current debate, the authors provide a thorough evaluation of recent arguments as well as offering an important critique of normative reason in scientific discourse.” — Philosophy in Review