Legitimacy of Law in a Liberal State: The Contours of Public Reason
26 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 28, 2014
In contemporary liberal philosophy, the idea of Public Reason is intimately tied up with the liberal principle of legitimacy which postulates that only those laws that are based upon arguments and reasons to which no members of the society have a rational reason to object can boast political legitimacy, and as such can be applied coercively even to those who actually disagree with them. In this working paper I suggest the ways of fine-tuning the idea of Public Reason in such a way as to make it more immune to its critics. In particular, I explain what specifically it means for Public Reason to be an exclusionary, second-order rule about the exclusion of reasons which can figure in justifications for law (Part 1), how we can plausibly claim that Public Reason may be thought to be a feasible political imperative in pluralistic societies (Part 2), what should be its scope of application, both in terms of the types of laws to which it applies and the actors who should be bound by it (Part 3), and what specifically is at stake if we see the status of Public Reason as a legitimacy-conferring device (Part 4).
Keywords: Liberalism, public reason, legitimacy, John Rawls, Joseph Raz
JEL Classification: K10, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation