How Global can Global Public Reason Be?

Philosophy Study 3 (3) (2013)
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Joshua Cohen has recently remodelled Rawls’ account of public reason into an explicitly global enterprise designed to both engage and regulate human rights discourses. Cohen’s model is interesting because of the manners in which Cohen attempts to answer the questions the model begs: how can individuals with fundamentally incommensurable world views actually engage in common acts of practical reason with each other about issues like human rights? What common convictions or a common social imaginary must these individuals share? I argue that articulating potential common grounds on which acts of global public reasoning can transpire involves engaging with rather than seeking to reason autonomously from the material, social, and cultural forces—most importantly the tradition of liberal secularism which Cohen’s model takes its normative bearings from—that make such discourses what they are. Doing so enhances the ability of a liberal secular human rights proponent to elucidate meaningful sites of common ground with others. Such common ground emerges not simply through toleration but also through critically engaging the worldviews of other globally public reasoners.



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