Monism, Nominalism, and Public-Private in the Work of Margaret Radin

Christopher L. Sagers, Cleveland State University

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Though she has never made it her central concern, and though in her comments on it from time to time she has had interesting things to say, a sore spot in the work of Margaret Jane Radin is her reluctance directly to ask whether, as a jurisprudential proposition, there is any meaningful difference between the public and the private. This essay argues that the distinction is both highly problematic and (though she would probably deny it) of central importance to Radin's work. It appears in various ways throughout the different veins of her work, sometimes more visibly than others. It also seems a particularly accute matter for attention in the work of a scholar like Radin, since hers has been a uniquely humane project - an effort of some decades to urge understanding and protection of individual dignity - and the distinction itself is a threat to such values. The distinction, far from being the mere semantic peculiarity it is sometimes thought to be, plays a quietly profound legitimating function in society, effectively obscuring maldistributions of power of very great significance to the lives of human individuals. Therefore it goes to what seems to have been the core of Professor Radin's work throughout her career.