Political liberalism without scepticism

Ratio 20 (3):320–340 (2007)
Political liberalism famously requires that fundamental political matters should not be decided by reference to any controversial moral, religious or philosophical doctrines over which reasonable people disagree. This means we, as citizens, must abstain from relying on what we believe to be the whole truth when debating or voting on fundamental political matters. Many critics of political liberalism contend that this requirement to abstain from relying on our views about the good life commits political liberalism to a kind of scepticism: we should abstain from relying on our views about the good life because we should be uncertain about the truth of those views. But this kind of scepticism is itself a controversial epistemic position which many reasonable people reject, thus apparently making political liberalism internally incoherent. This is the sceptical critique of political liberalism. This paper shows the sceptical critique to be false. The paper argues that the epistemic restraint required of citizens in political liberalism does not assume or imply any version of scepticism about our ability to know the good life. Liberal neutrality is motivated not by scepticism about our own views, but rather by a desire to justify fundamental political principles to others
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2007.00368.x
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