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Liberalism without Perfection$
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Jonathan Quong

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594870.001.0001

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The Role of an Overlapping Consensus

The Role of an Overlapping Consensus

(p.161) 6 The Role of an Overlapping Consensus
Liberalism without Perfection

Jonathan Quong

Oxford University Press

Critics of political liberalism argue that the appeal to what reasonable people could accept must either confuse mere agreement with justification, or else the appeal to what reasonable people could accept is altogether unnecessary. This chapter responds to these objections. The author argues that there is an important role for the idea of an overlapping consensus amongst reasonable persons within the justificatory structure of political liberalism. The view of the overlapping consensus that the author advocates, however, differs significantly from the one offered by Rawls. Because the practice of public justification requires some common ground, the author argues that an overlapping consensus between reasonable people ought to mark the first stage, not the last stage of the justificatory structure of political liberalism. Presenting political liberalism in this way helps avoid objections that political liberalism mistakes agreement for justification, as well as objections that the reference to reasonable persons is superfluous to the project of political justification.

Keywords:   congruence, justification, overlapping consensus, political liberalism, public justification, public reason, Rawls, reasonable persons

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