Reference : The real problem with Rawlsian reasonableness
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Philosophy & ethics
The real problem with Rawlsian reasonableness
Burks, Deven mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
XVII Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy
from 17/09/2019 to 18/09/2019
University of Pavia
[en] Rawls ; reasonableness ; justification
[en] In The Law of Peoples, Rawls states that, if “political liberalism offers no way of proving that this specification [of reasonableness] is itself reasonable”, this is no great loss, for “it is simply politically reasonable to offer fair terms of cooperation to other free and equal citizens, and it is simply politically unreasonable to refuse to do so” (Rawls 1999: 87-8). While Rawls is undoubtedly right that public reason liberalism analytically requires some standard of reasonableness, it is less obvious this standard must take Rawls’s preferred form. Yet criticisms of Rawlsian “reasonableness” as “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184), “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) or “entirely circular” (Mulhall and Swift 2003: 483) often equivocate on the meaning of reasonableness and so fall afoul of the “equivocation defense” (Freeman 2004: 2063-5). In this paper, I improve on those earlier criticisms by means of a narrow, immanent criticism whereon the two basic aspects of reasonableness – (A1) proposing and abiding by fair terms of cooperation and (A2) recognizing the “burdens of judgment” (Rawls 1996: 54-8) – may plausibly conflict: in some instances, accepting (A2) may give persons reason to disagree over the need to accept (A1). To show this, I first restate two aspects of reasonableness as a biconditional: a person is reasonable iff (A1) and (A2) obtain. I then examine whether Rawls’s burdens give reason to doubt the requirement in (A1). Insofar as the third, fourth and fifth burdens give reason to doubt just this requirement, I conclude that Rawlsian reasonableness should be reformulated. This reformulation preserves what Rawls gets right about reasonableness – namely, the burdens – but replaces the old standard with “reasonableness pluralism”, from which it follows that public reason cannot represent all the necessary conditions of political justification under circumstances of reasonable pluralism.

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