The Separateness of Persons: A Moral Basis for a Public Justification Requirement

Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (3):491-505 (2017)
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Abstract

In morally grounding a public justification requirement, public reason liberals frequently invoke the idea that persons should be construed as “free and equal.” But this tells us little with regard to what it is about us that makes us free or how a claim about our status as persons can ultimately ground a requirement of public justification. In light of this worry, I argue that a public justification requirement can be grounded in a Nozick-inspired argument from the separateness of persons (one that is consistent with the idea that individuals are free and equal). As I claim, one particular feature of the fact of our separateness – the possession of a basic psychology consisting of beliefs, intentions, sentiments, and a variety of desire-like psychological states – does the most work in grounding both a principle of liberty (PL) and a requirement of public justification (RPJ). Together, PL and RPJ provide the basic framework for a theory of public reason liberalism.

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Jason Tyndal
College of Southern Nevada

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