AGAINST PUBLIC REASON'S ALLEGED SELF-DEFEAT
Law and Philosophy 40 (6): 617-44
Mainstream political liberals hold that the exercise of political power is legitimate only if it is justified on the grounds of reasons that all may reasonably be expected to accept. Critics argue that this public justification principle (PJP) is self-defeating, because it depends on moral justifications that not all may reasonably be expected to accept. To rebut the self-defeat objection, I elaborate on the following disjunction: one either agrees or disagrees that it is wrong to impose one’s morality on others by the coercive power of the state. Those who disagree reject PJP, they understand politics as war. Those who agree accept PJP, they understand politics as competition. Political competitors abide by PJP to avoid politics as war, by enforcing PJP on political combatants they engage in a war that is unavoidable. In both cases their exercise of political power has a justification that is reasonably acceptable to all.
RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS, CLAIMS OF CONSCIENCE, AND IDOLA FORI
Jurisprudence 11 (2): 225-42
According to the standard liberal egalitarian approach, religious exemptions from generally applicable laws can be justified on the grounds of equal respect for each citizen’s conscience. I contend that claims of conscience cannot justify demands for exemptions, since they do not meet even the most inclusive standards of public justification. Arguments of the form “My conscience says so” do not explicate the rationale behind the practices that the claimants seek to protect. Therefore, such arguments do not constitute even pro tanto reasons for exemptions. Rather, they are what Francis Bacon called idola fori — “idols of the marketplace” — conventional justifications that are deemed rational and even self-evident, while in fact they are not.
RELIGIOUS FAITH AND THE FALLIBILITY OF PUBLIC REASONS
Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 8 (2): 223-46
Rawlsian liberals define legitimacy in terms of the public justification principle (PJP): The exercise of political power is legitimate only if it is justified on the grounds of reasons that all may reasonably be expected to accept. Does PJP exclude religious reasons from public justification of legal provisions? I argue that the requirement of ‘reasonable acceptability’ is not clear enough to answer this question. Furthermore, it fails to address the problematic fact that justification on the grounds of religious faith involves non-negotiable claims, which is incompatible with respect for fellow citizens as co-legislators. Accordingly, I reformulate PJP in fallibilistic terms: The exercise of political power is legitimate only if it is justified on the grounds of reasons that can be subject to reasonable criticism. I show that reasons based on religious faith do not meet this principle, just like any other reasons that involve claims about final values.
SHOULD ABRAHAM GET A RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION?
Res Publica 25 (2): 235-59
The standard liberal egalitarian approach to religious exemptions from generally applicable laws implies that such exemptions may be necessary in the name of equal respect for each citizen’s conscience. In each particular case this approach requires balancing the claims of devout believers against the countervailing claims of other citizens. I contend, firstly, that under the conditions of deep moral and ideological disagreement the balancing procedure proves to be extremely inconclusive. It does not provide an unequivocal solution even in the imaginary case based on the Biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice, not to speak of real-life cases that are far less suggestive. Secondly, I argue that it is possible to consider demands for religious exemptions respectfully, without even challenging the way they are justified, but still reject them for principled reasons — namely, because these demands cannot be met without arbitrarily bending popular sovereignty to the dictate of religious doctrines.
2021. Emmy Eklundh. Emotions, Protest, Democracy: Collective Identities in Contemporary Spain. Routledge, 2019, xv+248 pp. Contemporary Political Theory 20 (1): 17–20.
Articles in progress
DOES COVID-19 AFFECT PUBLIC REASON?
I contend that the two major accounts of public reason — John Rawls’s consensus- and Gerald Gaus’s convergence-oriented conceptions — face significant difficulties in providing a robust normative framework for the public justification of restrictive healthcare policies similar those that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, I show that the fallibilistic conception of public reason is well suited to expose the unreasonableness of the most subversive arguments against lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccination requirements, such as the arguments from human dignity, individual freedom, and medical scepticism.
CIVIC FRIENDSHIP VS. PUBLIC REASON
According to Rawlsian political liberals, it is sufficient for civic friendship that citizens fulfil the requirements of public reason: they should publicly support only those legal provisions that are justifiable on the grounds of liberal political conceptions of justice, such as Rawls’s justice as fairness. I contend that when Rawlsians’ own notion of civic friendship is defined clearly, it demands more political solidarity than is required by liberal conceptions of justice, including justice as fairness. Therefore, the commitment to public reason is insufficient for civic friendship, and furthermore, legal provisions aimed at maintaining civic friendship cannot be publicly justified.
THE FALLIBILISM OF PUBLIC REASON
I introduce and defend a fallibilistic formulation of the public justification principle (PJP): State coercion is legitimate only if it is justified on the grounds of reasons that can be subject to reasonable criticism, which is the kind of criticism that is compatible with cooperation on fair terms and recognition of the burdens of judgment. I argue, firstly, that compliance with this principle is necessary for maintaining civic respect under the conditions of deep political disagreement. Secondly, I contend that whether a justificatory reason can be subject to reasonable criticism depends on its structure and not only on the open-mindedness of the reason-giver. In particular, I show that the fallibilistic PJP excludes at least one type of justificatory reasons — namely, those that are based on judgments about final ends. Finally, I explain the advantages of my fallibilistic formulation of PJP over its standard Rawlsian formulation.