Can Civic Friendship Ground Public Reason?

Philosophical Quarterly 74 (1):24-45 (2023)
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Public reason views hold that the exercise of political power must be acceptable to all reasonable citizens. A growing number of philosophers argue that this reasonable acceptability principle (RAP) can be justified by appealing to the value of civic friendship. They claim that a valuable form of political community can only be achieved among the citizens of pluralistic societies if they refrain from appealing to controversial ideals and values when justifying the exercise of political power to one another. This paper argues against such accounts. In order to justify RAP, one must explain and defend a conception of reasonableness. Civic friendship is unfit to perform this task, rendering it unable to ground public reason alone. Meanwhile, pluralist views that combine civic friendship with other considerations in order to specify RAP either fail or make civic friendship a spare wheel in the argument for public reason.

Author Profiles

Paul Billingham
Oxford University
Anthony Taylor
Université de Fribourg


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