Reasons for Reasons

Approaches to Legal Rationality, Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science Series, Vol. 20, Dov M. Gabbay et al., eds, Springer, 2010, pp.119-143

39 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009 Last revised: 19 Feb 2017

Mathilde Cohen

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Date Written: September 8, 2007

Abstract

This article examines some popular justifications for public reason-giving common in liberal political thought. An obvious way of arguing in favor of the duty to give reasons is to point out that publicly substantiating decisions is an intrinsically valuable practice. Giving reasons simply makes for better decision-making. Yet in liberal democracies reasons are increasingly defended on “instrumental” grounds.

Giving reasons is valuable because some other value will thereby be realized. Reasons are used for (other) reasons. Reasons become proxies for democratic values. The giving reasons requirement results in getting credit, not so much for increasing the quality of the underlying decisions, but rather for fostering essential democratic values such as respect, trust in the institutions, social consensus, and public accountability.

The paper discusses why liberalism cannot implement these ideals fully and why the attempt can have undesirable consequences. There is a risk that reasons become self-defeating in the process. Requiring reasons may result in lowering rather than increasing the quality of the decisions themselves. Democratic societies should therefore engage in a critical reflection on their reasons for reasons.

Keywords: Public Reason, Justification, Agreement, Trust, Accountability, Legal Reasoning, Argumentation

JEL Classification: K1, K4, Z00

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Mathilde, Reasons for Reasons (September 8, 2007). Approaches to Legal Rationality, Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science Series, Vol. 20, Dov M. Gabbay et al., eds, Springer, 2010, pp.119-143. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1401707

Mathilde Cohen (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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