The reasons of the unreasonable: Is political liberalism still an option?

Sage Publications Ltd: Philosophy and Social Criticism 48 (9):1226-1246 (2021)
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Abstract

Philosophy & Social Criticism, Volume 48, Issue 9, Page 1226-1246, November 2022. In this study, we claim that political liberalism, despite harsh criticism, is still the best option available for providing a just and stable society. However, we maintain that political liberalism needs to be revised so as to be justifiable from the perspective of not only the “reasonable” in a Rawlsian sense but also the ones whom Rawls labels as “unreasonable.” To support our claim, going beyond Rawls’s original account, we unpack the concept of unreasonableness and identify three different subsets that we label as the “partially reasonable,” the “non-reasonable,” and the “unreasonable.” We argue that both the “fully” reasonable and the “partially reasonable” would be included into the constituency of public justification; more specifically, we claim that the latter would support liberal institutions out of their reasons: we define these reasons as mutually intelligible reasons and claim that they allow to acknowledge the importance of a convergence approach to public justification. As for the “non-reasonable” and “unreasonable,” we claim that they cannot be included in the constituency of public justification, but they nonetheless could be compliant with liberal institutions if political liberalism offers them some reasons to comply: here, we claim that political liberalism should include them through engagement and propose reasoning from conjecture as an effecting way of offering reasons for compliance. In particular, we claim that through reasoning from conjecture, the “non-reasonable” could find conciliatory reasons to comply with liberal institutions on a stable base. With regard to the “unreasonable” in the strict sense, we claim that through reasoning from conjecture, their unreasonableness could be contained and they could find reasons—even if just self-interested—for complying with liberal institutions rather than defying them. In our discussion, we consider the different subsets not as “frozen” but as dynamic and open to change, and we aim to propose a more complex and multilayered approach to inclusion that would be able to include a wider set of people. To strengthen our argument, we show that the need for a wider public justification and for broader inclusion in liberal societies is grounded in respect for persons both as equal persons and as particular individuals. In particular, we claim that individuals’ values, ends, commitments, and affiliations activate demands of respect and can strengthen the commitment to the liberal–democratic order. Through a reformulation of the role of respect in liberal societies, we also show a kind of social and communitarian dimension that, we claim, is fully compatible with political liberalism and opens it up to “civic friendship” and “social solidarity,” which are constitutive elements for the development of a sense of justice and for the realization of a just and stable society.

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