Taking reasonable pluralism seriously: an internal critique of political liberalism

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 10 (3):323-342 (2011)
Abstract
The later Rawls attempts to offer a non-comprehensive, but nonetheless moral justification in political philosophy. Many critics of political liberalism doubt that this is successful, but Rawlsians often complain that such criticisms rely on the unwarranted assumption that one cannot offer a moral justification other than by taking a philosophically comprehensive route. In this article, I internally criticize the justification strategy employed by the later Rawls. I show that he cannot offer us good grounds for the rational hope that citizens will assign political values priority over non-political values in cases of conflict about political matters. I also suggest an alternative approach to justification in political philosophy (that is, a weak realist, Williams-inspired account) that better respects the later Rawls’s concern with non-comprehensiveness and pluralism than either his own view or more comprehensive approaches. Thus, if we take reasonable pluralism seriously, then we should adopt what Shklar aptly called ‘liberalism of fear’
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James Boettcher (2004). What is Reasonableness? Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (5-6):597-621.
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