Sincerity and Reconciliation in Public Reason

Social Philosophy Today 17:21-35 (2001)
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Abstract

In Political Liberalism and the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited" John Rawls argues that citizens must refrain from introducing sectarian values intopolitical debate over fundamental political questions unless the positions they are endorsing can be supported by public reasons. I will argue that this duty allows for a more limited use of non-public ideas and values than is suggested in Rawls's discussion. ln addition, I will argue that reconciliation between citizens and the reinvigoration of free exchange and debate both call for an extension of this duty to debate over issues that are of immediate concern to citizens. I argue that public reason requires citizens to support only those public policies which can be defended by appeal to liberal political values (values such as comity, social stability, equality, happiness), and to sincerely affirm liberal political values as the ultimate justification of the use of state power to implement the public policies they support.

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Richard Buck
Mount St. Mary's University

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