Reasons for Reasons
University of Connecticut - School of Law
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
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: Public Reason, Justification, Agreement, Trust, Accountability, Legal Reasoning, Argumentation
JEL Classification: K1, K4, Z00
Date posted: May 14, 2009 ; Last revised: August 13, 2010