Category Archives: Politics

Religion, Public Reason and Thinking of the Children: Comments on Chapter 7

I am genuinely, truly honored by Harry Brighouse’s comments on the last chapter of my book. Brighouse is one of philosophy’s great theorists of education, and I learned a lot from his remarks. Brighouse’s core worry is that my chapter on religion and public education really has very little to say about the interests of children. And isn’t that an odd oversight on my part?

If I were in the business of offering a general account of the justification of educational institutions, then that would be a severe problem. But given the issues I’m focused on, I think things are more complicated. For starters, within public reason, when we speak of the public justification of laws, it is hard to know how to fit children into that scheme in any direct way. What are children’s’ reasons? And how do we publicly justify law to them? read more...

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On Legislative Restraint and Religious Accommodation: Replies on Chapter 6

Apologies for the delay in posting my reply to Chad’s really rich comments on Chapter 6 of my book. I decided to delay until after Thanksgiving, as I thought people might be more likely to read the post. But Chad’s arguments were also sufficiently challenging that it took me awhile to figure out how to respond, and I’m not entirely happy with my responses at the moment.

I’ll address Chad’s concerns about judicial restraint, legislative restraint, my general approach to religious accommodation and my take on key accommodation-related court cases in that order.

I. On Judicial Restraint

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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. read more...

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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. read more...

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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.) read more...

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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. read more...

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