In the eyes of many, liberalism requires the aggressive secularization of social institutions, especially public media and public schools. The unfortunate result is that many Americans have become alienated from the liberal tradition because they believe it threatens their most sacred forms of life. This was not always the case: in American history, the relation between liberalism and religion has often been one of mutual respect and support. In Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation , Kevin Vallier attempts to (...) reestablish mutual respect by developing a liberal political theory that avoids the standard liberal hostility to religious voices in public life. He claims that the dominant form of academic liberalism, public reason liberalism, is far friendlier to religious influences in public life than either its proponents or detractors suppose. The best interpretation of public reason, convergence liberalism, rejects the much-derided "privatization" of religious belief, instead viewing religious contributions to politics as a resource for liberal political institutions. Many books reject privatization, Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation is unique in doing so on liberal grounds. (shrink)
Our concern in this essay are the roles of religious conviction in what we call a “publicly justified polity” — one in which the laws conform to the Principle of Public Justification, according to which (in a sense that will become clearer) each citizen must have conclusive reason to accept each law as binding. According to “justificatory liberalism,”1 this public justification requirement follows from the core liberal commitment of respect for the freedom and equality of all citizens.2 To respect each (...) as free and equal requires that no one simply be forced to submit to the judgments of others as to what she must do. Laws must be justified to those subject to them — each must accept grounds that justify the law. As Kant indicated, if such a condition is achieved, each is both subject and legislator: each is subject to the law, yet each legislates the law, and so all our free and equal under the law.3 Now it would appear that if we are to justify laws to each and every person, the reasons for these laws must be “accessible to all.”4 Religious reasons, however, are not shared by everyone, and may be inaccessible to some: they would thereby seem inappropriate in public justification. On the face of it, justificatory liberals seem committed to expunging religious-based reasoning from political justification. Not surprisingly, this apparent commitment of justificatory liberalism is adamantly rejected by many citizens of faith who consider themselves liberals. These citizens embrace the traditional liberal freedoms and rights and, moreover, reject any suggestion that a legitimate polity might seek to establish a religion, much less a theocracy. Yet they.. (shrink)
John Rawls's transition from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism was driven by his rejection of Theory's account of stability. The key to his later account of stability is the idea of public reason. We see Rawls's account of stability as an attempt to solve a mutual assurance problem. We maintain that Rawls's solution fails because his primary assurance mechanism, in the form of public reason, is fragile. His conception of public reason relies on a condition of consensus that (...) we argue is unrealistic in modern, pluralistic democracies. After rejecting Rawls's conception of public reason, we offer an ‘indirect alternative’ that we believe is much more robust. We cite experimental evidence to back up this claim. (shrink)
Justifying religious exemptions is a complicated matter. Citizens ask to not be subject to laws that everyone else must follow, raising worries about equal treatment. They ask to be exempted on a religious basis, a basis that secular citizens do not share, raising worries about the equal treatment of secular and religious citizens. And they ask governmental structures to create exceptions in the government’s own laws, raising worries about procedural fairness and stability. We nonetheless think some religious exemptions are appropriate, (...) and in some cases, that exemptions are morally required. So how are we to determine when religious exemptions are justified? This article employs a public reason framework to provide an answer. I show how to publicly justify religious exemptions. My thesis is that a citizen merits a religious exemption under four conditions: if she has sufficient intelligible reason to oppose the law, if the law imposes unique and substantial burdens on the integrity of those exempted that are not off-set by comparable benefits, if the large majority of citizens have sufficient reason to endorse the law, and if the exempted group does not impose significant costs on other parties that require redress. If these conditions are met, then legislative and/or judicial bodies should carve out an exemption for those requesting them. (shrink)
Mainstream political liberalism holds that legal coercion is permissible only if it is based on reasons that all can share, access or accept. But these requirements are subject to well-known problems. I articulate and defend an intelligible reasons requirement as an alternative. An intelligible reason is a reason that all suitably idealized members of the public can see as a reason for the person who offers it according to that person’s own evaluative standards. It thereby permits reasons into public justification (...) that all cannot share, access, or accept, and so contrasts with standard approaches to public justification. The intelligible reasons requirement has two striking implications. First, it severs the connection between public justification and principles of deliberative restraint. Second, it pushes political liberals to appeal to other political processes to publicly justify law, specifically bargaining, adjudication, and social evolution. (shrink)
Reasonable individuals often share a rationale for a decision but, in other cases, they make the same decision based on disparate and often incompatible rationales. The social contract tradition has been divided between these two methods of solving the problem of social cooperation: must social cooperation occur in terms of common reasoning, or can individuals with different doctrines simply converge on shared institutions for their own reasons? For Hobbes, it is rational for all persons, regardless of their theological beliefs, to (...) consent to the sovereign's power. But for Locke, only Protestants with a shared theology could be party to the social contract. Rousseau thought that private reasons are not part of the general will, and in Kant's hypothetical contract, pure noumena reach common principles for the social order through the same reasoning process. In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls agreed with Rousseau and Kant: selecting the principles of justice requires modeling parties to the original position as having identical reasons. But in Political Liberalism, Rawls embraced the idea of an overlapping consensus, which accords distinct reasons justificatory force. (shrink)
Political liberalism’s central commitments to recognizing reasonable pluralism and institutionalizing a substantive conception of justice are inconsistent. If reasonable pluralism applies to conceptions of justice as it applies to conceptions of the good, then some reasonable people will reject even many liberal conceptions of justice as unreasonable. If so, then imposing these conceptions of justice on citizens violates the liberal principle of legitimacy and related public justification requirements. This problem of justice pluralism requires that political liberals abandon their commitment to (...) institutionalizing a substantive conception of justice. Instead, political justification should be limited to the public justification of a modest scheme of rights and a set of constitutional rules. Justice pluralism chastens the ambitions of political liberalism while pushing the political liberal research program in new and promising directions. (shrink)
Jonathan Quong’s book, Liberalism without Perfection, provides an innovative new defense of political liberalism based on an “internal conception” of the goal of public justification. Quong argues that public justification need merely be addressed to persons who affirm liberal political values, allowing people to be coerced without a public justification if they reject liberal values or their priority over comprehensive values. But, by extensively restricting members of the justificatory public to a highly idealized constituency of liberals, Quong’s political liberalism becomes (...) objectionably sectarian. Coercing citizens without a public justification if they hold non-liberal comprehensive views is no different from the sectarian perfectionist view that people can be coerced without a public justification if they hold false comprehensive views. Quong argues that some degree of sectarianism is unavoidable in formulating a conception of political liberalism. While this may be, I maintain that the internal conception is nonetheless excessively sectarian. To demonstrate this, I develop an attractive competitor conception, the convergence conception, which addresses public justification to a diverse, moderately idealized justificatory public. If convergence is a viable interpretation of political liberalism, I argue, then the internal conception is excessively sectarian. (shrink)
Public reason liberals typically defend an accessibility requirement for reasons offered in public political dialog. The accessibility requirement holds that public reasons must be amenable to criticism, evaluable by reasonable persons, and the like. Public reason liberals are therefore hostile to the public use of reasons that appear inaccessible, especially religious reasons. This hostility has provoked strong reactions from public reason liberalism's religion-friendly critics. But public reason liberals and their religion-friendly critics need not be at odds because the accessibility requirement (...) is implausible. In fact, the accessibility requirement is ambiguous between two interpretations, one of which is too stringent and the other too loose. Depending upon the interpretation, accessibility either restricts the use of too many secular reasons or permits appeal to a wide range of religious reasons. The accessibility requirement should therefore be rejected. (shrink)
I drive a wedge between public deliberation and public justification, concepts tightly associated in public reason liberalism. Properly understood, the ideal of public justification imposes no restraint on citizen deliberation but requires that those who have a substantial impact on the use of coercive power, political officials, advance proposals each person has sufficient reason to accept. I formulate this idea as the Principle of Convergent Restraint and apply it to legislators to illustrate the general reorientation I propose for the public (...) reason project. (shrink)
Contemporary public reason liberalism holds that coercion must be publicly justified to an idealized constituency. Coercion must be justified to all qualified points of view, not the points of view held by actual persons. Critics, in particular Nicholas Wolterstorff and David Enoch, have complained that idealization, by idealizing away what actual people accept, risks authoritarianism and disrespect by forcing people to comply with laws they in fact reject. I argue that idealization can withstand this criticism if it satisfies two conditions. (...) First, the standards of idealization, such as the norms of rationality and information, must be grounded in the present commitments of the large majority of members of the public. Second, the standards of idealization must be moderate; that is, they cannot be used to attribute reasons to citizens that stray too far from their actual commitments. (shrink)
Cécile Laborde's important book, Liberalism's Religion, attempts to develop an ethic governing political officials that requires that they only use, and be responsive to, accessible reasons. Laborde's accessibility requirement articulates her unique approach to the role of religion in liberal politics. This article challenges Laborde's accessibility ethic on three grounds: (1) the ethic suffers from a lack of idealisation, (2) there is little reason to prevent inaccessible reasons from defeating coercion, and her ecumenical approach to exemptions recognises this in effect, (...) and (3), the question of whether the accessibility ethic is true is partly empirical, but Laborde does not supply us with an adequate empirical argument. (shrink)
Steven Wall has two compelling arguments for what I shall call public reason liberalism's reflexivity requirement. The political concerns to reconcile persons who hold diverse moral views, and to avoid authoritarianism in politics not only require the public justification of coercion but the public justification of the standard used to determine when coercion is publicly justified. The reflexivity requirement is said to entail that public reason is self-defeating. Once RR is correctly formulated, however, cases of self-defeat will be rare, as (...) citizens seldom employ public justification requirements as reasons. When they do, such requirements are rarely their sole reason for supporting political coercion. A properly formulated reflexivity requirement, therefore, does not imply self-defeat. It also allows for a more ecumenical understanding that establish the processes of public justification. (shrink)
Property-owning democracies combine the regulative and redistributive functions of the welfare state with the governmental aim of ensuring that wealth and capital are widely dispersed. John Rawls, political philosophy’s most famous property-owning democrat, argued that property-owning democracy was one of two regime types that best realized his two principles of justice, though he was notoriously vague about how a property-owning democracy’s institutions are meant to realize his principles. To compensate for this deficiency, a number of Rawlsian political philosophers have tried (...) to add institutional and policy content to the idea. While their efforts have advanced the discussion, few have criticized the soundness of these attempts. This article attempts to fill the void. I claim that, in comparison to welfare-state capitalism, property-owning democracy is both prohibitively impractical and unjust on Rawlsian grounds. I first argue that property-owning democracy is economically ineffective. Even granting the assumptions of Rawlsian ideal theory, property-owning democracies generate bad incentives and face severe information problems in comparison to more market-friendly welfare states. Further, in nonideal theory the motivations of political officials and citizens will likely be corrupted by the temptation to abuse the awesome state power at their disposal. Second, I argue that property-owning democracy is unjust relative to welfare-state capitalism. The three principles used to defend property-owning democracy—the difference principle, the principle of fair equality of opportunity and the “political liberty” proviso—do not vindicate property-owning democracy and may even prohibit it. Welfare-state capitalism does much better. (shrink)
It is a commonplace that liberalism and religious belief conflict. Liberalism, its proponents and critics maintain, requires the privatization of religious belief, since liberals often argue that citizens of faith must repress their fundamental commitments when participating in public life. Critics of liberalism complain that privatization is objectionable because it requires citizens of faith to violate their integrity. The liberal political tradition has always sought to carve out social space for individuals to live by their own lights. If liberalism requires (...) citizens to violate their integrity, liberals have cause for concern. I seek to rebut this integrity objection to liberalism. I focus on the dominant form of philosophical liberalism: public reason liberalism. I argue that the integrity objection undermines the mainstream conception of public reason liberalism, but not public reason liberalism itself. The paper opens by outlining the structure of public reason liberalism and the integrity objection (??2 and 3). It then analyses two versions of the objection and argues that the second version is successful against the mainstream conception of public reason (?4). I argue in response that public reason liberalism need not endorse principles of restraint?the civic restrictions on religious expression typically associated with it. I then sketch a conception of public reason liberalism that eschews principles of restraint (?5). This alternative promises to reconcile public reason liberals and their faith-friendly critics by putting the integrity objection to rest. (shrink)
Americans today are far less likely to trust their institutions, and each other, than in decades past. This collapse in social and political trust arguably fuels our increasingly ferocious ideological conflicts and hardened partisanship. Many believe that our previously high levels of trust and bipartisanship were a pleasant anomaly and that we now live under the historic norm. Seen this way, politics itself is nothing more than a power struggle between groups with irreconcilable aims: contemporary American politics is war because (...) political life as such is war. -/- Must Politics Be War? argues that our shared liberal democratic institutions have the unique capacity to sustain social and political trust between diverse persons. In succinct, convincing prose, Kevin Vallier argues that constitutional rights and democratic governance prevent any one ideology or faith from dominating all others, thereby protecting each person's freedom to live according to her values and principles. Illiberal arrangements, where one group's ideology or faith reigns, turn those who disagree into unwilling subversives, persons with little reason to trust their regime or to be trustworthy in obeying it. Liberal arrangements, in contrast, incentivize trust and trustworthiness because they allow people with diverse and divergent ends to act with conviction. Those with opposing viewpoints become trustworthy because they can obey the rules of their society without acting against their ideals. Therefore, as Vallier illuminates, a liberal society is one at moral peace with a politics that is not war. (shrink)
This essay develops a novel account of the distinction between a publicly justified polity and modus vivendi regimes by appealing to the ideal of congruence in public reason liberalism. A fully publicly justified polity is one whose laws are supported by congruent “first-personal” and “second-personal” moral reasons to internalize laws as personally binding on those subject to them. Regimes approach modus vivendi status to the extent that their laws fail to be justified by either type of reason, or where firstpersonal (...) and second-personal reasons fail to justify internalization. (shrink)
Public reason liberalism includes an ideal of political stability where justified institutions reach a kind of self-enforcing equilibrium. Such an order must be stable for the right reasons — where persons comply with the rules of the order for moral reasons, rather than out of fear or self-interest. John Rawls called a society stable in this way well-ordered. In this essay, I contend that a more sophisticated model of a well-ordered society, specifically an agent-based model, yields a richer and more (...) attractive understanding of political stability. An agent-based model helps us to distinguish between three concepts of political stability — durability, balance, and immunity. A well-ordered society is one that possesses a high degree of social trust and cooperative behavior among its citizens (durability) with low short-run variability (balance). A well-ordered society also resists destabilization caused by noncompliant agents in or entering the system (immunity). Distinguishing between these three concepts complicates the necessary reformulation of the idea of a well-ordered society. Going forward, public reason theorists must now distinguish between types of assurance, specify heretofore unknown aspects of reasonable behavior, and reconceive of the nonideal preconditions for forming a stable, ideal social order. (shrink)
Toleration is perhaps the core commitment of liberalism, but this seemingly simple feature of liberal societies creates tension for liberal perfectionists, who are committed to justifying religious toleration primarily in terms of the goods and flourishing it promotes. Perfectionists, so it seems, should recommend restricting harmful religious practices when feasible. If such restrictions would promote liberal perfectionist values like autonomy, it is unclear how the perfectionist can object. A contemporary liberal perfectionist, Steven Wall, has advanced defense of religious toleration that (...) grounds perfectionist toleration in an innovative account of reasons of respect. He thus defends perfectionist toleration on two grounds: (i) the appropriate manner of responding to perfectionist goods like autonomy and membership is to respect the religious choices of others; (ii) citizens can acquire reasons to respect the religious choices of others through internalizing a value-promoting moral and political code. I argue that both defenses fail. The cornerstone of both arguments is the connection Wall draws between reasons to promote value and reasons to respect it. I claim that Wall’s conception of the relationship between promoting and respecting value is inadequate. I conclude that the failure of Wall’s defense of perfectionist toleration should motivate liberal perfectionists to develop more sophisticated accounts of normative reasons. The viability of a truly liberal perfectionism depends upon such developments. (shrink)
Despite the increasing amount of literature on the legal and political questions triggered by a commitment to liberty of conscience, an explanation of the normative significance of conscience remains elusive. We argue that the few attempts to address this fail to capture the reasons people have to respect the consciences of others. We offer an alternative account that utilizes the resources of the contractualist tradition in moral philosophy to explain why conscience matters.
In response to the intellectual movement of New Atheism, this volume articulates a "New Theist" response that has at its core a desire to engage in productive and depolarizing dialogue. To ensure this book is of interest to atheists and theists alike, a team of experts in the field of philosophy of religion offer an assessment of the strongest New Atheist arguments. The chapters address the most pertinent questions about God, including politics and morality, and each essay shows how a (...) reflective theist might deal with points raised by the New Atheists. This volume is a serious academic engagement with the questions asked by New Atheism. As such, it will be of significant interest to scholars working in the philosophy of religion and theology, as well as those engaged in religious studies generally. (shrink)
I argue against Lori Watson and Christie Hartley's recent criticisms of convergence approaches to public justification. In particular, I argue that convergence approaches can capture what is distinctive about democratic decision‐making and provide an attractive account of stability for the right reasons.
With the publication of Political Liberalism, John Rawls inaugurated a new tradition in political philosophy often called public reason liberalism. Rawls argued that among liberal democratic cultures, our conception of ourselves as free and equal requires that we justify our attempts to coerce one another via the use of state power. Thus, a legitimate state is one whose coercion is publicly justified to all members of a well-ordered society. A publicly justified political order therefore satisfies what Rawls called the ideal (...) of public reason. The ideal of public reason has probably garnered more attention than any other aspect of Rawls's later work. (shrink)
Many economic theorists hold that social institutions can lead otherwise irrational agents to approximate the predictions of traditional rational choice theory. But there is little consensus on how institutions do so. I defend an economic internalist account of the institution-actor relationship by explaining economic rationality as a feature of individuals whose decision-making is aided by institutional structures. This approach, known as the subjective transaction costs theory, represents apparently irrational behavior as a rational response to high subjective transaction costs of thinking (...) and deciding. The theory has two attractive features. First, it reconciles rational choice theory with the increasing body of evidence cataloguing putative errors in economic decision-making. Second, it vindicates the explanatory power of individual choice against externalist challenges; the subjective transaction costs theory keeps economic rationality in the head. (shrink)
Democratic theorists have proposed a number of competing justifications for democratic order, but no theory has achieved a consensus. While expecting consensus may be unrealistic, I nonetheless contend that we can make progress in justifying democratic order by applying competing democratic theories to different stages of the democratic process. In particular, I argue that the selection of political officials should be governed in accord with aggregative democracy. This process should prize widespread participation, political equality, and proper preference aggregation. I then (...) argue that the selection of public policies by political officials should be governed in accord with deliberative democracy. This process should prize high quality deliberation and political equality. A process democracy is a democracy that joins an aggregative process for selecting officials with a deliberative process for selecting policies. Democracy is justified and legitimate when it is structured in this way. (shrink)
J. S. Mill's role as a transitional figure between classical and egalitarian liberalism can be partly explained by developments in his often unappreciated economic views. Specifically, I argue that Mill's separation of economic production and distribution had an important effect on his political theory. Mill made two distinctions between economic production and the distribution of wealth. I argue that these separations helped lead Mill to abandon the wages-fund doctrine and adopt a more favorable view of organized labor. I also show (...) how Mill's developments impacted later philosophers, economists, and historians. Understanding the relationship between Mill's political theory and economic theory does not only matter for Mill scholarship, however. Contemporary philosophers often ignore the economic views of their predecessors. I argue that paying insufficient attention to historical political philosophers' economic ideas obscures significant motivations for their political views. (shrink)
This essay explores and criticizes Matteo Bonotti’s argument that parties and partisans in a publicly justified polity should appeal primarily, if not exclusively, to accessible justificatory reasons to fulfill their political duties. I argue that political parties should only support coercive policies if they rationally believe that the coercive law or policy in question can be publicly justified to those subject to the law or policy in terms of their own private—specifically intelligible—reasons. I then explore four practical differences between our (...) two approaches. In contrast to Bonotti’s accessible reasons approach, the intelligibility approach facilitates the provision of assurance between citizens and political officials, requires that parties and partisans support fewer coercive policies, allows more exemptions from generally applicable laws, and facilitates logrolling and alliance formation. (shrink)
Religious exemptions have a long history in American law, but have become especially controversial over the last several years. The essays in this volume address the moral and philosophical issues that the legal practice of religious exemptions often raises.
Stephen Darwall’s moral theory explains moral obligation by appealing to a “second-person” standpoint where persons use second-person reasons to hold one another accountable for their moral behavior. However, Darwall claims obligations obtain if and only if hypothetical persons endorse them, despite tying the second-person standpoint to our real-world moral practices. Focus on hypothetical persons renders critical elements of his account obscure. I solve this problem by distinguishing two ideas quietly working in tandem, the hypothetical endorsement of moral norms and the (...) hypothetical recognition of these norms. Hypothetical endorsement is a plausible source of normativity; hypothetical recognition is not. A more plausible account of second-person normativity must combine hypothetical endorsement with actual recognition. I term these alternative conceptions justification and easy publication. To combine justification and easy publication in an account of moral obligation, second-person normativity should be applied first to rules. Following other moral philosophers, I introduce the concept of a “social-moral” rule into an account of moral obligation. Social-moral rules acquire normative force when they are justified for and easily published by the relevant moral community. I conclude that a rule-centric account of second-personality is superior to Darwall’s reason-centric account. (shrink)
Americans today don't trust each other and their institutions as much as they once did, fueling destructive ideological conflicts and hardened partisanship. In Trust in a Polarized Age, political philosopher Kevin Vallier argues that to build social trust and reduce polarization, we must strengthen liberal democratic institutions--high-quality governance, procedural fairness, markets, social welfare programs, freedom of association, and democracy. These institutions not only create trust, they do so justly, by recognizing and respecting our basic rights.