Pluralist Partially Comprehensive Doctrines, Moral Motivation, and the Problem of Stability

Res Publica 23 (4):409-429 (2017)
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Recent scholarship has drawn attention to John Rawls’s concern with stability—a concern that, as Rawls himself notes, motivated Part III of A Theory of Justice and some of the more important changes of his political turn. For Rawls, the possibility of achieving ‘stability for the right reasons’ depends on citizens possessing sufficient moral motivation. I argue, however, that the moral psychology Rawls develops to show how such motivation would be cultivated and sustained does not cohere with his specific descriptions of ‘pluralist ’ doctrines. Considering Rawls’s claims that ‘most’ citizens—both in contemporary liberal democracies and in the well-ordered society—possess such doctrines, this incompatibility threatens to undermine his stability arguments. Despite the enormous importance of pluralist doctrines and the potential difficulties they pose for Rawls’s project, remarkably little attention has been paid to them. By critically examining these difficulties, the article begins to address this oversight.

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