Category Archives: Politics

Idealization, Judicial Reasoning and Reasonableness: Replies on Chapter 5

Thanks very much to Lori to an extensive summary of Chapter 5 and probing comments. I hope that my replies continue to advance the discussion. I think there are some things I could clear up about the role of idealization in Rawls and my own work, some interesting issues surrounding judicial reasoning (that I talk about in much more detail in Chapter 6) and the role of reasonableness in my account of public justification.

I. Idealization – Rawls and Me

Lori’s first worry is that I shouldn’t construe Rawls as a radical idealization theorist, at least not in his later work. I grant that by Political Liberalism, Rawls is open to multiple ways of formulating a theory of justice, or a conception of justice, but I wasn’t aware he was open to multiple models of idealization. I thought the idea was that all reasonable political conceptions have an original position, but select different principles, but I didn’t think varying the degree of idealization was part of that. But then again, Rawls doesn’t say.


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Integrity, Law and Congruence: Comments on Chapter 3

Thanks to Andrew Lister for an admirably concise and rich review of the third chapter of my book. The main aim of Chapter 3 is to lay down the strategy for vindicating the convergence view. I argue that respect for integrity and reasonable pluralism are both foundational values in public reason liberalism, so foundational that they can be used to choose between conceptions or interpretation of the idea of public reason. I will argue that the convergence view is superior on both grounds to the mainstream consensus view in Chapter 4.

But Lister raises some important concerns about how that vindication is going to go.


Posted in Discussion, Politics, Reading Group | 5 Comments

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.)


Posted in Books, Discussion, Politics, Reading Group | 9 Comments

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.


Posted in Books, Notices, Politics, Reading Group | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Ethics for the down-and-out?

A couple of weeks ago, I (perhaps unwisely) posted a sarcastic and hastily written note in response to a news story about the crime-fighting adventures of ethicist Jonathan Glover [original post now removed].  It turns out that I didn’t make my intent clear enough, and that at least some people read it as an attack on Professor Glover’s conduct or personal character.  Fortunately, Glover himself seems to be an unusually forgiving and generous-spirited soul, and despite his initial displeasure at the note (which might have had others threatening legal action), an email exchange between us quickly turned into a friendly correspondence between philosophers interested in similar themes.  For the record, I really did not mean to imply anything about this philosopher’s personal qualities, about his handling of an attempt to defraud him, or about how he came by whatever wealth he may possess (by buying a house a very long time ago, as he tells me). Sure, there is a sense in which I do think that people like Jonathan Glover – and, for that matter, people like me – shouldn’t exist (and are fair game for a certain amount of satire or vitriol).  In any even minimally acceptable society, there just would not be neighbourhoods where the average house costs in the region of £3 million, sat alongside areas of crushing poverty, with tens of thousands of people who cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads at all.  Which is also to say, of course, that the homeless and destitute wouldn’t exist either (as George Bernard Shaw put it: “I hate the poor and look forward to their extermination.”) – but I’ll leave it to the right-wing press and the Bullingdon Club boys who populate our Government (speaking of categories of people that shouldn’t exist) to poke fun and sneer at the poor and the working class.  There also wouldn’t be people like me swanning around Oxbridge colleges eating pheasant and wearing gowns, while the higher education system (along with all the other major public services) crumbles around us.


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Workshop on “The Idea of Social Equality”, York, 17-18 September 2014

Workshop on “The Idea of Social Equality”, King’s Manor, University of York, 17-18 September 2014

The first of four workshops on Social Equality, sponsored by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, in association with the Department of Politics at the University of York
Convened by Martin O’Neill (York), Emily McTernan (UCL), Christian Schemmel (Manchester) and Fabian Schuppert (QUB)

Sara Amighetti (University College London)
Christopher Brooke (University of Cambridge)
Carina Fourie (University of Zürich)
Cillian McBride (Queen’s University Belfast)
Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard College, Columbia University)
Fabian Schuppert (Queen’s University Belfast)


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