The Independence/Dependence Paradox within John Rawls’s Political Liberalism

Abstract
Rawls in his later philosophy claims that it is sufficient to accept political conception as true or right, depending on what one's worldview allows, on the basis of whatever reasons one can muster, given one's worldview (doctrine). What political liberalism is interested in is a practical agreement on the political conception and not in our reasons for accepting it. There are deep issues (regarding deep values, purpose of life, metaphysics etc.) which cannot be resolved through invoking common reasons (this is the fact of free reason itself), and trying to resolve them would involve us in interminable debates and would hamper the practical task of agreement on the political conception. Given the absolute necessity of a political society which is stable and enduring, it is thus wise to avoid these issues in founding a political society and choosing its basic principles - this is the pragmatic part of Rawls's position. In this paper I argue that this strategy leads Rawls into a paradox: (i) although the intention is to stay independent of comprehensive doctrines, the political conception is in fact totally (and precariously) dependent on comprehensive doctrines (not just on one doctrine but on each and every major doctrine in society). It is dependent on them: for its conceptualisation as an independent idea, for its justification, for the check of its reasonability in relation to the external world, for the formation of identities and value inculcation and hence for the formation of its model citizen; (ii) the very search for independence makes the political conception more dependent on comprehensive doctrines, and by extension makes it potentially more prone to intervention in and tampering with comprehensive doctrines (it is enough to show that it is a strong conceptual possibility to cast doubt on the whole strategy). Thus, for example, the political conception relies on the hope that “firmly held convictions gradually change” and that it would “in fact . . . have the capacity to shape those doctrines toward itself”. The purpose of the Rawlsian conjecture is to give these “hopes” a concrete, practical form by giving advice to proponents of the comprehensive doctrine on how they can do all this and “try to show them that, despite what they might think, they can still endorse a reasonable political conception”. I further argue that this paradox can be overcome by making the core of political liberalism more flexible.
Keywords Political Liberalism  John Rawls
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Rawls’s Notion of the Political Conception as Educator.Steinar Bøyum - 2013 - European Journal of Political Theory 12 (2):136-152.
Justice and the Fetus: Rawls, Children and Abortion.David Shaw - 2011 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 20 (1):93-101.
Conceptions of the Good and the Ubiquity of Power.Sean Johnston - 2010 - Social Philosophy Today 26:83-90.
“Political, Not Metaphysical”.James W. Boettcher - 2003 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 77:205-219.
The Coherence of Rawls's Plea for Democratic Equality.Percy B. Lehning - 1998 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 1 (4):1-41.
Rawls on Pluralism and Stability.Robert B. Talisse - 2000 - Critical Review 15 (1-2):173-194.
Political Liberalism, Basic Liberties, and Legal Paternalism.William Glod - 2010 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 48 (2):177-196.
Added to PP index
2011-05-13

Total downloads
219 ( #18,444 of 2,197,335 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #61,579 of 2,197,335 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature