Does political community require public reason? On Lister’s defence of political liberalism

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (1):20-41 (2016)
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Andrew Lister’s Public Reason and Political Community is an important new contribution to the debate over political liberalism. In this article, I critically evaluate some of the central arguments of the book in order to assess the current state of public reason liberalism. I pursue two main objections to Lister’s work. First, Lister’s justification for public reason, which appeals to the value of civic friendship, fails to show why public reason liberalism should be preferred to an alternative democratic theory that does not include public reason restrictions. Second, there are several important ambiguities and tensions within Lister’s view that he does not adequately resolve. His approach to them often takes public reason liberalism in directions that many of its advocates will reject. More work thus remains to be done by public reason liberals both to show why public reason restrictions are necessary and to resolve these tensions in a more satisfactory way

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Paul Billingham
Oxford University


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