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Beyond reason: The philosophy and politics of immigration

Cole, Phillip


Phil Cole
Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations


In this paper, I critically address the role of arbitrary and contingent
features in philosophical debates about migration. These features play a
central role, and display the importance of ‘unreason’ in the debate and
the limits of rational criticism. Certain elements of political thought have
to be taken as given, as essential starting points or indispensable building
blocks. As such, they cannot be exposed to rational criticism. Political
arrangements such as national borders, nation-states and national identities
constitute these building blocks, and justify coercive borders in order to
sustain them. If we are to subject these arrangements to critical examina-
tion, then we move beyond the limits of liberal political philosophy. I
examine theorists who take this kind of approach to the ethics of immigra-
tion: Michael Blake, Samuel Scheffler and David Miller. I argue that such
approaches ask us to balance arbitrary and contingent features of the politi-
cal world against the non-contingent moral equality of the migrant. If we
are to recognize the migrant as an equal reason-giver in the moral contesta-
tion of borders, then we are compelled to theorize beyond these limits, and
to theorize instead about a global community of equals, a post-national
world made up of transnational belonging.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Journal Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Print ISSN 1369-8230
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 5
Pages 503-520
APA6 Citation Cole, P. (2014). Beyond reason: The philosophy and politics of immigration. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 17(5), 503-520.
Keywords immigration, nation-state, unreason, borders
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