Category Archives: Reading Group

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?

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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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On Vallier’s Ch. 6 “Reconciliation in Law”

I have known Kevin and his work for five years, and I am glad that so many great people have joined in this reading group. Special thanks go to Simon May for supporting our discussion. I will here keep my summary remarks to just the most central issues of the chapter for, despite the many things Kevin and I agree about, I have a number of issues to raise.

SUMMARY:

Chapter 6 draws out the implications of convergence liberalism in two areas. First, Kevin is concerned to bring out the implications for the political production of law, including issues of public advocacy for policies and judicial interpretation of laws. Second, Kevin considers the issue of legal accommodation, illustrating the convergence analysis of accommodation with illustrations drawn from case law regarding the free exercise of religion.

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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.

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Sincerity, Individuation and Classical Liberal Public Reason: Comments on Chapter 4

Let me begin by thanking Blain for an excellent recap of Chapter 4 of the book, which is arguably the centerpiece chapter. He raises five important concerns, but I’m going to set two aside. First, Blain raises the question of my Rawls exegesis. I suspect that is something better dealt with in a journal format or conference proceeding. It is interesting and important, but my main arguments do not depend on it. I will say, briefly, that yes, the process of generating convergence justifications can encourage revision of pieces of certain comprehensive doctrines. The second issue I set aside concerns my indirect model of public justification and the idea that restraint (of a certain sort) applies to legislators but not to citizens. That is one of the two main questions at issue in Chapter 6, so I’d like to push discussion to that post. But briefly, a lot of the case for the indirect model is based on the fact that citizens complying with restraint is neither necessary nor sufficient to promote publicly justified outcomes given all the other stages between a popular vote and the passage of legislation. 

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Vallier Reading Group: Chapter 4

Summary of chapter 4

The goal of chapters 3 and 4 is to explain that the “Public Justification Principle” (PJP) does not entail the ‘principle of restraint.’ This involves showing that there is no necessary relation between the PJP and an ‘accessibility’ or ‘shareability’ requirement on justificatory reasons. Chapter 3 identifies two desiderata for evaluating different conceptions of justificatory reasons: (1) respect for personal integrity, and (2) respect for the fact of reasonable pluralism. Chapter 4 argues that the convergence account of public reason, which does not include the principle of restraint, fulfills these desiderata more successfully than rival consensus accounts.

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