Rawls' Idea of Public Reason and Democratic Legitimacy

Critics and defenders of Rawls' idea of public reason have tended to neglect the relationship between this idea and his conception of democratic legitimacy. I shall argue that Rawls' idea of public reason can be interpreted in two different ways, and that the two interpretations support two different conceptions of legitimacy. What I call the substantive interpretation of Rawls' idea of public reason demands that it applies not just to the process of democratic decision-making, but that it extends to the substantive justification of democratic decisions. I shall argue against this interpretation and suggest a procedural interpretation instead. On this view, public reason is invoked when it comes to the political justification of the principles that should govern the process of democratic decision-making, but not – at least not directly – in relation to the content of public deliberation.
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    References found in this work BETA
    Samuel Freeman (2000). Deliberative Democracy: A Sympathetic Comment. Philosophy and Public Affairs 29 (4):371–418.
    John Rawls (1985). Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical. Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 (3):223-251.
    Citations of this work BETA
    P. E. Digeser (2009). Public Reason and International Friendship. Journal of International Political Theory 5 (1):22-40.
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    James Boettcher (2004). What is Reasonableness? Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (5-6):597-621.

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