Vallier Reading Group: Chapter 3

Chapter 2 set out the argument linking public justifiability with restraint, advanced the integrity and fairness objections to restraint, and criticized the stability argument for restraint. Later chapters will attempt to uncouple public justifiability from restraint by arguing for what I think of as an indirect convergence view. Continue reading

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Publicity, Divisiveness and Restraint: Comments on Chapter 2

Let me begin by thanking Danny for commenting on my work. Danny and I overlapped in graduate school for three years, and he’s offered perceptive comments on my work ever since. So I’m especially grateful to him for his lengthy engagement with my work.

Danny has two big concerns about the second chapter of my book: (i) that we might ground restraint in the value of publicity and (ii) that my objection to divisiveness-based arguments for restraint is unsuccessful. Together, (i) and (ii) may vindicate restraint despite the objections in the chapter.

A quick note before I begin my replies. Even if Danny’s objections are successful and restraining divisiveness and promoting publicity both support restraint, restraint is not thereby vindicated (and Danny does not say as much). Just to be clear: to vindicate restraint, we must show that both objections override the integrity and fairness objections. We do not yet have an argument for that position.


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CFP: The Scope of Religious Exemptions (Abstract Submission by November 15th)

This post serves as a reminder that Bowling Green State University is hosting a conference on the proper scope of religious exemptions. We’re accepting abstracts until November 15th, 2014.


The Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy

The Scope of Religious Exemptions

April 17th-18th, 2015 

The Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy will take place in Bowling Green, Ohio, April 17th-18th, 2015. The keynote speakers are Robert Audi (University of Notre Dame) and Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern University).

Those interested in presenting a paper are invited to submit a 2-3 page abstract (double-spaced) by November 15th, 2014. We welcome submissions in all areas in applied ethics and philosophical issues relevant to this year’s conference theme: the scope of religious exemptions. We are especially focused on papers that address normative questions about religious exemptions, including the moral-philosophical justifications for religious exemptions and how often and to whom religious exemptions should be granted. We will consider multiple approaches to the topic, not merely in political philosophy and political theory, but normative ethics, metaethics and applied ethics.


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Vallier Reading Group: Chapter 2

Last week, Micah Schwartzman kicked off our reading group with an excellent discussion of the first chapter of Kevin Vallier’s Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation. I am grateful to Chad Van Schoelandt for the opportunity to add to that discussion in this post. Chapter 2 of Vallier’s book is entitled “The Religious Objections: The Faithful Revolt.” Here Vallier digs deeper into the Principle of Restraint introduced in the first chapter and assesses a trio of religiously motivated objections that have been raised against it. I begin with a brief summary of the main elements of the chapter and then dive into some more critical discussion.


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Public Justification, Authority and Coercion: Comments on Chapter 1

I want to begin by again thanking Chad for putting this group together and to all the participants, especially Micah for his excellent summary and questions of Chapter 1 of my book. I didn’t see a way to answer his discussion questions in a unified fashion, so I’m largely going to respond point by point. Since question 5 generated discussion, I’m going to lead with it. Here’s Micah’s:

Why is PJP limited to coercive laws? Are there any laws that are not coercive? I ask that question because Vallier mentions Rawls’s view that “political power is always coercive power.” If that is the case, one might argue that all laws are the product of exercises of political power, and so they are, at some level, always coercive. But I am not sure whether Vallier wants to extend the scope of the principle that far. For example, what about a law that calls on public officials to exhort their fellow citizens in support of Christianity? Suppose the law explicitly disclaims any sanction. No one who violates it can be punished by the state in any way. Would this law require public justification? (For other examples, see Colin Bird’s recent paper, Coercion and Public Justification.)


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Vallier Reading Group: Chapter 1

I am happy to begin our reading group on Kevin Vallier’s new book, Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation. My thanks to Chad Van Schoelandt for organizing. In earlier reading groups, we have followed a standard format of summarizing a chapter and then raising some questions about it. In this post, I focus on Chapter 1, Public Reason Liberalism: Religion’s Child and King.


The liberal tradition is often accused of hostility toward religion. Because liberalism places constraints on the role of religious commitments in politics, it may seem to have a “secularist bias.” In this chapter, Vallier seeks to defend liberalism against this charge, or at least against the claim that liberalism is motivated by such bias or hostility. Vallier claims that liberalism has a “schizophrenic attitude” toward religion: on one hand, promoting religious liberty and diversity, but on the other, constraining the influence of religion in the political domain. But this attitude does not reflect hostility so much as a good faith effort to balance religious freedom with the demand for a legitimate and stable public authority. To develop this claim, this chapter describes the “source, ground, and structure of public reason liberalism” (10) and, by extension, the liberal tradition more generally.


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