Coercion and Public Justification
22 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 30 Mar 2011
Date Written: March 28, 2011
Proponents of ideals of 'public reason' often claim that the special restrictions they place on the justification of political principles are motivated by the need to avoid illegitimate coercion. On this view, the requirement that political action be 'publicly justified' is a condition for justified coercion. This paper challenges this orthodoxy as confused. It also suggests an alternative rationale for the public justification requirement. Instead of focusing on the possible victims of coercion, my alternative stresses the status of citizens as co-authors of decisions taken in their joint name. Among other advantages, I argue that this approach allows ideals of public reason to respond better to the charge that it is problematically exclusionary in its bracketing of certain sorts of reasons (religious, perfectionist, etc.) in political argument.
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