Political liberalism and public justification: the deep view


(Please note: the main ideas of this paper are restated in revised/developed form in: "On actualist and fundamental public justification in political liberalism" and "Patterns of justification: on political liberalism and the primacy of public justification". Both papers are available from philpapers.) The paper suggests the deep view of Rawls-type public justification as promising, non-ideal theory variant of an internal conception of political liberalism. To this end, I demonstrate how the deep view integrates a range of ideas, views and commitments at the core of political liberalism’s justification structure, including pro tanto justification, full justification, political values and their priority, justificatory neutrality, the role of reasonable comprehensive views, the nature public reasons, the wide view of public political culture, the role of overlapping consensus and political legitimacy, and not least, the status of reflective equilibrium and the Original Position. I then contrast the deep view with Quong’s ideal theory variant if the internal conception, and argue that we should prefer the deep view. Thus, the prospects of political liberalism depend not so much on whether we find ways to make ideal theory relevant for non-ideal purposes. Rather, it depends on whether political liberalism can devise a credible response to the problem of public dogma.

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Thomas M. Besch
Wuhan University


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