Noumenal Power, Reasons, and Justification: A Critique of Forst

In Ester Herlin-Karnell & Matthias Klatt (eds.), Constitutionalism Justified. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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In this essay we criticise Rainer Forst's attempt to draw a connection between power and justification, and thus ground his normative theory of a right to justification. Forst draws this connection primarily conceptually, though we will also consider whether a normative connection may be drawn within his framework. Forst's key insight is that if we understand power as operating by furnishing those subjected to it with reasons, then we create a space for the normative contestation of any exercise of power. He calls this the noumenal understanding of power. Against the conceptual connection between power and justification, we argue that (i) on most plausible accounts of political freedom, some freedom-restrictions commonly attributed to the successful exercise of power would perplexingly count as failures of power on Forst's view, and that (ii) on the most plausible account of reason-recognition, namely an appropriateness of response account, a justification relation is only a sufficient but not necessary condition for recognition. Against the normative connection, we argue that (iii) Forst can establish the existence of a right to justification only if he reconsiders the transcendental aspirations of his theory.
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