Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two papers on Public Reason

New papers on public reason:

Micah Schwartzman - "The Sincerity of Public Reason" (January, 2010) (Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia)

"An important objection to the idea of public reason is that it permits and perhaps encourages citizens and public officials to give insincere justifications for their political decisions. Against this objection, I defend a principle of sincere public justification. First, I claim that political justifications must be public in two senses. They must be based on shared or public reasons, and those reasons must be presented in public discourse. Actual publicity, or the giving of reasons in public, is valuable for a number of reasons, but I focus mainly on its ability to improve the quality of political decisions. After defining the general concept of sincerity, and guarding against a certain form epistemic or psychological skepticism about it, I offer a principle of sincere public justification. I then defend that principle against two competing alternatives, a more demanding principle that includes a stringent motivational requirement, and a less demanding principle that abandons public sincerity in favor of private sincerity. Lastly, having stated and justified an ideal of public sincerity, I show how that ideal can be used to respond to the objection that public reason permits or encourages insincere political justification."

Jonathan Quong - "The Structure of Public Reason" (January 2010) (Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of Manchester)

Some political philosophers believe that if the exercise of political power must be publicly justifiable in order to be legitimate, then this will effectively preclude religious convictions from playing any justificatory role in politics. (.....) In recent work, however, Gerald Gaus and Kevin Vallier (among others) have presented an alternative view regarding the structure of public reason, and this alternative view makes public reason far more hospitable to religious convictions. Gaus and Vallier claims that the position sketched in the preceding paragraph rests on several errors regarding the nature of public justification. (.....) If we embrace Gaus and Vallier’s view of the structure of public reason, this would have significant consequences for the moral constraints that apply to citizens and public officials. Religious arguments in politics could become a central part of public reasoning, something that would surely change the (somewhat inaccurate) perception of political or justificatory liberalism as being hostile to the introduction of religious reasons into the political domain. I am unpersuaded, however, that the alternative view regarding public reason’s structure offered by Gaus and Vallier is in fact sound, and so I doubt religious considerations can in fact play the kind of role in public justification Gaus, Vallier and others imagine they can." [See an early version of one of Gaus & Vallier's papers on public reason here.]

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