Public Reason and Religion: The Theo-Ethical Equilibrium Argument for Restraint

Law and Philosophy 36 (6):675-705 (2017)
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Abstract

Most public reason theorists believe that citizens are under a ‘duty of restraint’. Citizens must refrain from supporting laws for which they have only non-public reasons, such as religious reasons. The theo-ethical equilibrium argument purports to show that theists should accept this duty, on the basis of their religious convictions. Theists’ beliefs about God’s nature should lead them to doubt moral claims for which they cannot find secular grounds, and to refrain from imposing such claims upon others. If successful, this argument would defuse prominent objections to public reason liberalism. This paper assesses the theo-ethical equilibrium argument, with a specific focus on Christian citizens. I argue that Christians should seek theo-ethical equilibrium, but need not endorse the duty of restraint. I establish this in part through examining the important theological concept of natural law. That discussion also points to more general and persistent problems with defining ‘public reasons’.

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Author's Profile

Paul Billingham
Oxford University

References found in this work

Religion in the Public Sphere.Jurgen Habermas - 2006 - European Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):1–25.
Religion in the Public Sphere.Jürgen Habermas - 2005 - Philosophia Africana 8 (2):99-109.
Epistemic Foundations of Political Liberalism.Fabienne Peter - 2013 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (5):598-620.
Religion in the Public Square: The Place of Religious Convictions in Political Debate.Philip L. Quinn - 1997 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (2):486-489.

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