Debate: Unequal Consenters and Political Illegitimacy

Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (3):347-360 (2013)
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Debates about how to incorporate the severely cognitively disabled into liberal theory typically focus on John Rawls’s assumption that citizens choosing the principles of justice should be understood as full social cooperators. In this paper, we argue that social cooperation is not the fundamental barrier to the inclusion of the severely cognitively disabled. We argue that these persons are excluded from the entire project of liberal legitimacy in virtue of the apparent inability of a severely cognitively disabled person to understand and evaluate the legitimacy of political principles for herself. Severely cognitively disabled persons lack a kind of access to political principles that is crucial, according to liberal theory, for political principles to be legitimate to someone, and not simply for someone



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Author Profiles

Marilyn Friedman
Washington University in St. Louis
Elizabeth Edenberg
Baruch College (CUNY)

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