Reasonable pluralism and the domain of the political: How the weaknesses of John Rawls's political liberalism can be overcome by a justificatory liberalism

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):259 – 284 (1999)
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Under free institutions the exercise of human reason leads to a plurality of reasonable, yet irreconcilable doctrines. Rawls's political liberalism is intended as a response to this fundamental feature of modern democratic life. Justifying coercive political power by appeal to any one (or sample) of these doctrines is, Rawls believes, oppressive and illiberal. If we are to achieve unity without oppression, he tells us, we must all affirm a public political conception that is supported by these diverse reasonable doctrines. The first part of this essay argues that the free use of human reason leads to reasonable pluralism over most of what we call the political. Rawls's notion of the political does not avoid the problem of state oppression under conditions of reasonable pluralism. The second part tries to show how justificatory liberalism provides (1) a conception of the political that takes seriously the fact that the free use of human reason leads us to sharply disagree in the domain of the political while (2) articulating a conception of the political according to which the coercive intervention of the state must be justified by public reasons.



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Gerald Gaus
Last affiliation: University of Arizona

Citations of this work

Justice, Legitimacy, and (Normative) Authority for Political Realists.Enzo Rossi - 2012 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (2):149-164.
The Fact of Unreasonable Pluralism.Aaron Ancell - 2019 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (4):410-428.

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