The Politics of Incommensurability: A Value Pluralist Approach to Liberalism and Democracy


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Political Science


This dissertation explores the meaning and political implications of Isaiah Berlin’s theory of value pluralism. Value pluralism is the idea that goods or values are often conflicting and incommensurable to one another; that is, they cannot be measured by a common rubric or systematically ranked against one another. The argument has four main parts: 1) an analysis of what Berlin and others have meant by “value pluralism;” 2) a critique of current attempts to link value pluralism to one or another political view; 3) a new interpretation of the core claim of incommensurability and an analysis of how it affects practical reasoning; and 4) a constructive argument about the liberal-democratic institutions and practices that value pluralism supports.