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Kent Greenawalt

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199756162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756162.001.0001

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On Religion and Politics in Liberal Democracies*

On Religion and Politics in Liberal Democracies*

(p.27) Chapter 2 On Religion and Politics in Liberal Democracies*
From the Bottom Up

Kent Greenawalt

Oxford University Press

The second essay, “On Religion and Politics in Liberal Democracies,” addresses whether citizens, legislators, and judges may sometimes rely on religious grounds they find convincing. It urges that this is most appropriate when public reason provides no definite answer, for example regarding the status of highly capable nonhuman animals. The constraints of public reason are greatest on judges, less on legislators, and least on private citizens. For legislators, the constraints on appropriate discourse may exceed those regarding all their actual bases of decision. Basic constraints of public reason are not generally imposed by the law itself: individuals must determine both what constitute those reasons and how far they should be constrained by them. Given various common misconceptions, this makes any claim of complete restraint depend far too heavily on how people see things. The essay challenges various distinctions articulated by John Rawls in his influential development of the basic concepts.

Keywords:   Public Reasons, Legislators, Judges, and Citizens, Political Philosophy, Individual Perception, Unanswerable Questions, John Rawls

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