Rescuing Public Reason Liberalism’s Accessibility Requirement

Law and Philosophy 39 (1):35-65 (2020)
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Public reason liberalism is defined by the idea that laws and policies should be justifiable to each person who is subject to them. But what does it mean for reasons to be public or, in other words, suitable for this process of justification? In response to this question, Kevin Vallier has recently developed the traditional distinction between consensus and convergence public reason into a classification distinguishing three main approaches: shareability, accessibility and intelligibility. The goal of this paper is to defend the accessibility approach by demonstrating its ability to strike an appealing middle course in terms of inclusivity between shareability and intelligibility. We first argue against Vallier that accessibility can exclude religious reasons from public justification. Second, we use scientific reasons as a case study to show that accessibility excludes considerably fewer reasons than shareability. Throughout the paper, we connect our discussion of accessibility to John Rawls’s model of public reason, so as to give substance to the accessibility approach and to further our understanding of Rawls’s influential model.

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Gabriele Badano
University of York


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