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Robert Talisse - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Robert Talisse

W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy; Chair of the Philosophy Department | Vanderbilt University


Expert in contemporary political philosophy, with a focus in democratic theory and political epistemology.



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Putting Politics In Its Place | Dr. Robert Talisse | TEDxNashville Top 3 Tips to Argue Fairly Why can we be good debaters when it comes to sports, but not politics? (Talisse)



Robert Talisse specializes in contemporary political philosophy, with particular interest in democratic theory and political epistemology. In addition, he pursues topics in pragmatism, analytic philosophy, argumentation theory, and ancient philosophy.

Current research is focused on democracy, polarization, public ignorance, and egalitarianism.

Areas of Expertise (10)

Political Philosophy


Political Allegiances in Society


Contemporary Political Philosophy


Tolerance for Disagreement Among Political Allies

Political Polarization


Philosophy and Politics

Education (3)

City University of New York: Ph.D., Philosophy 2001

New York University: M.A., Philosophy 1995

William Paterson University: B.A., Philosophy 1993

Affiliations (4)

  • New Books in Philosophy : Co-host
  • Science, Religion, Culture : Editorial Board
  • The Public Discourse Project : Advisory Board
  • APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy : Editorial Board

Selected Media Appearances (5)

What today’s GOP demonstrates about the dangers of partisan conformity

The Conversation  


Directly following the 2020 election, Republicans seemed to be through with Donald Trump. Party leaders stopped speaking to him and voters began abandoning the GOP, apparently in reaction to Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

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Political polarization is about feelings, not facts

The Conversation  online


Politicians and pundits from all quarters often lament democracy’s polarized condition. Similarly, citizens frustrated with polarized politics also demand greater flexibility from the other side. Decrying polarization has become a way of impugning adversaries. Meanwhile, the political deadlock and resentment that polarization produces goes unaddressed. Ironic, right?

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Twelve Philosophers and Thinkers on Brexit

IAI News  online


It’s not because we believe in philosopher-kings that we’ve asked thinkers – from philosophers to law professors – what is the democratic solution to the Brexit impasse. Rather, it’s because Brexit has challenged representative democracy as we’ve known it, antagonising the government and the electorate, and dividing parties to an unprecedented level. This is not an article arguing for Remaining or Leaving – although the majority (but not all) of the thinkers below argue for a second referendum. Still, this is a piece about the constructive and democratic way out of a paralysing crisis. To get the answers to this question, we went to those who have studied political ideas, their power, their limitations and the history of their abuses. The responses vary, and they are deeply entrenched in the current political climate, refuting the myth that philosophy and academia are far removed from the 'real' life. In times of crisis, we are all part of the political turmoil, and at its mercy.

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The Atheist Worldview: Is Life Without God Bleak?

Patheos  online


This is a popular Christian attack: life without God is bleak. For example, Christian apologist Ken Ham said about the atheist worldview, None of our accomplishments, advancements, breakthroughs, triumphs, or heartbreaks will ultimately matter as we face extinction along with our universe. This is certainly a bleak and hopeless perspective.

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Philosophers On the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race

Daily Nous  online


How is it that, at the same time, possibly the most principled and possibly the least principled politicians the U.S. has seen in recent times are both serious contenders for the presidency? How are voters weighing the progressiveness of supporting a woman candidate for president versus the regressiveness of creating another political dynasty? What does the failure, to date, of any serious conservative or libertarian candidate tell us about what people in the U.S. really value? These are just a few of the questions that the 2016 U.S. presidential election raises.

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

Misak’s Cambridge and Pragmatist Metaphilosophy

author meets critics session organized by the Charles S. Peirce Society on Cheryl Misak’s Cambridge Pragmatism  Pacific APA


Remarks on Brennan

author meets critics session on Jason Brennan’s Against Democracy  Eastern APA


Pluralism in Toleration in James

Group Program  Eastern APA


Comment on Van Schoelandt

Main Program  Pacific APA


Sacrificial Nation?

Group Program  Pacific APA


Selected Articles (5)

Pluralism and Toleration in James’s Social Philosophy

The Oxford Handbook of William James

Robert B. Talisse

2019 William James wrote almost nothing that would count today as political philosophy. However, it is clear that much of his work is animated by rather profound concerns with our social lives. In this sense, it may be said that James is a social philosopher. The core of Jamesian social philosophy is the doctrine of value pluralism, which animates all of his moral writings. In these essays, James repeatedly attempts to establish that this pluralism underwrites a policy of social toleration.

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Political Philosophy and Political Illiberalism: A Critical Response to Peter Simpson

The American Journal of Jurisprudence

Robert B. Talisse

2017 Peter Simpson’s Political Illiberalism endeavors to provide a robust articulation and defense of a truly illiberal alternative to liberal political philosophy. I argue that Simpson’s project founders on two grounds. First, his polemical arguments against liberalism are insufficiently engaged with contemporary liberal theories.

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Deweyan Democracy and the Rawlsian Problematic: A Reply to Joshua Forstenzer

Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society

Robert B. Talisse

2017 In “Deweyan Democracy, Robert Talisse, and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism,” Joshua Forstenzer defends Deweyan democracy against my argument that it fails an intuitive test for political legitimacy proposed by John Rawls. In this brief reply, I argue that although Forstenzer offers an attractive interpretation of Deweyan democracy, his defense nonetheless does not succeed, but arguably exacerbates the original difficulty.

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Pragmatism and Pluralism Revisited

Political Studies Review

Scott F Aikin, Robert B Talisse

2016 In 2005, we published a jointly authored article arguing that pragmatists must reject pluralism. As certain pragmatists describe themselves as pluralists, the essay received its share of criticism; however, no response has succeeded in defeating the essay’s argument. Nonetheless, contemporary classical pragmatists persist in embracing the term.

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Moral authority and the deliberative model

Philosophical Studies

Robert B. Talisse

2013 Gerald Gaus’s The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World is refreshingly ambitious. It seems to me that our field today is a little too eager to “[stay] on the surface, philosophically speaking” (Rawls 1999, p. 395; cf. 2005, p. 10). However, the scope of Gaus’s ambition complicates the critic’s task.

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