Broadening the definition of conflict defines more comprehensively the condition of peace, focusing on how unresolved shared disagreements can lead to, or avoid, polarization and violence. The line between general disagreement and violent conflict lies in the adjustment of shared preferences. Matters like reproductive rights, medically assisted death, race and gender discrimination, while subject to political polarization, are open to peaceful redress through what John Dewey called the transformative continuum of inquiry, in which the crucial social response to shared problems includes dispute and conflict. Resolution of controversial social problems requires preference adjustment and habit change, often, if not always, obtained incrementally. Dewey viewed controlled preference conflict as a discovery process and an adjustment process. Extended conflict drives the acquisition of information and, through transformed reasoning, the adjustment of habits and beliefs. Where resolution is adequately representative of all relevant interests, pragmatic conflict serves as a democratic motivator, and a precarious but unavoidable avenue toward justified order.

Author Bio(s)

Frederic R. Kellogg graduated Harvard College in 1964 and Harvard Law School in 1968 and studied sociological theory under the sociologist Talcott Parsons at Harvard in 1967-8. At The George Washington University he earned the LL.M in 1978 and J.S.D. in 1983 in philosophy of law. Kellogg served in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in 1968-71 and the U.S. Department of Justice, as Assistant U.S. Attorney 1971-73, and later as advisor to Elliot L. Richardson, resigning with Richardson in the Saturday Night Massacre. He was Legal Counsel at the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986-9.

Kellogg published The Formative Essays of Justice Holmes: The Making of an American Legal Philosophy (1984), Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Legal Theory, and Judicial Restraint (2007), Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr and Legal Logic (2018), and Pragmatism, Logic, and Law (2021). These works and numerous articles, as well as extensive involvement in contemporary legal and policy disputes and conflicts, form the basis of a Dewey-inspired agonistic social inductivism in law and ethics, which is exemplified in law and the emergence of legal rules through the contingent, lengthy, and often militantly disputatious paths of resolution.


preference conflict, John Dewey, pragmatism, Kenneth Arrow, general possibility theorem, democracy







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