Rawls and Habermas on religion in the public sphere

Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (7):880-891 (2007)
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In recent essays, Jürgen Habermas endorses an account of political liberalism much like John Rawls'. Like Rawls, he argues that laws and public policies should be justified only in neutral terms, i.e. in terms of reasons that people holding conflicting world-views could accept. Habermas also, much like Rawls, distinguishes reasonable religious citizens, whose views should be included in public discourse, from unreasonable citizens in his expectation that religious citizens self-modernize. But in sharing these Rawlsian features, Habermas is vulnerable to some of the same objections posed to Rawls. In this article I assess Habermas' ability to overcome two objections frequently posed to Rawls: (1) that religious citizens are unfairly expected to split their identities in public discourse, and (2) that the burdens of citizenship are asymmetrically distributed. I conclude that while he may be able to overcome the second, the first remains a problem for him



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Melissa Yates
Minerva University

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