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Title: Just public reason
Author: Ng, L. S.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This dissertation looks at the linked issues of justification and public reason – under what conditions do political authorities count as legitimate, and what is the appropriate mode of reasoning together in the public sphere? The main contender in the field currently is Rawls’s political liberalism. His conception of justification gives a key role to the justifiability of political power to each citizen, based on shared (because mutually acceptable) reasons. This approach to justification affects how we reason in the public sphere – in discussing certain fundamental issues, Rawlsian public reason requires limiting our reasons to public ones (viz., those which others could reasonably endorse), and bracketing those based on disputed conceptions of the good. How we think about justification thus has concrete implications for how we live together in political society. Rawls’s political liberalism is commonly pitted against comprehensive liberalism. The disagreement tends to be cast as being about comprehensive liberals rejecting the need for justifiability. I argue that this is mistaken, and that Rawls shares more than we might think with the comprehensive liberal. Taking Raz as the modern champion of comprehensive liberalism, I show that both Rawls and Raz are deeply committed to justifiability, and trace the disagreement between the two to a metaphysical dispute about how to conceive of the project of justifying the implementation of political principles. In light of their shared commitment to justifiability, the question becomes whether justifiability requires shared reasons. I propose a heuristic reading of Rawls’s requirement of mutually acceptable reasons, which explains how Rawls’s and Raz’s views on justification can be brought together without needing to bracket the truth of the principles of justice. This proposed reconciliation leads to a mode of reasoning in the public sphere that does not require setting aside non-public reasons in order to proceed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available