The Coherence of Public Reason

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Andrew ListerAssociate Professor, Department of Political Studies Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

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Theories of public reason face a dilemma. If their standard of reasonableness is low, the view will be unacceptably anarchic and self-refuting, while if it is high, the exclusion of unreasonable views will manifest unequal treatment. This paper shows how to avoid this dilemma by distinguishing two models of public reason. The coercion model is vulnerable to the worry about anarchy but not self-defeat, while the reasons model is vulnerable to self-defeat but not anarchy. The coercion model can avoid anarchy without idealizing heavily via aggregation of individual policies into packages. The reasons model can avoid self-refutation by making acceptance of public reason one of the conditions for counting as fully reasonable, which is a natural constraint if the justification of the principle is relational.

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