“Who shall judge?” Hobbes, Locke and Kant on the construction on public reason

Abstract
This paper investigates early modern and enlightenment roots of contemporary ideas of public reason. I argue that concepts of public reason arose in answer to the question ‘who shall judge?’ The religious and moral pluralism unleashed by the reformation lead first to the weakening of authoritative common forms of reasoning, this in turn and more importantly lead to the question who is the final arbiter when a political community is faced with deep disagreement about political/ moral questions. The rise of pluralism meant that to the question ‘what are the standards of public right?’ is added the corollary and equally important question ‘who judges when those standards are violated?’ The answer is that the public judges. Public reason thus refers to the role of the public as judge of public right and not simply to a set of reasons that an actual public happens to share. On this reading of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant, the initial contract recedes in importance while the seat of authoritative political judgment comes to the fore. Keywords: public reason; pluralism; Hobbes; Locke; Kant (Published: 4 December 2009) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 2, No. 4, 2009, pp. 349368. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v2i4.2135
Keywords Kant  pluralism  public reason  Locke  Hobbes
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