How Global Can Global Public Reason Be? Thinking Through the Secular Problematics of Global Human Rights Discourse
30 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 2 Feb 2015
Date Written: 2011
Joshua Cohen has recently re-modelled Rawls account of public reason into an explicitly global enterprise designed to both engage and regulate human rights discourses. Global public reason is a workhorse of a concept. It not only comes from all peoples and applies to all their varied polities, it also accomplishes a number of tasks including serving as a basis for global justice in an ethically pluralist world by, among other things, providing a framework for legitimating conduct within and between different polities and serving as a common form of practical reason whose content –which conceptions of human rights are an indispensible element of - is potentially common to all. However it is unclear just how global or compelling, global public reason can be and hence how many possible rights discourses it can effectively and/or critically engage. This paper asks a related question of Cohen: Does Cohen’s account of global public reason implicitly invoke a larger secular sensibility despite his wishes not to do so? I will argue that it does but that this is not necessarily a fatal flaw. Turning to the recent works of Charles Taylor, Wendy Brown Seyla Benhabib and Pheng Cheah I will sketch out a secular sensibility that can advance a justificatory minimalist account of human rights in more robust manner than what Cohen offers.
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