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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Just Wide Enough

Just Wide Enough

Reidy on Public Reason

(p.35) 2 Just Wide Enough
John Rawls

James Boettcher

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes to widen Rawls’s idea of public reason in order to respond to a dilemma originally developed by David Reidy in his article “Rawls’s Wide View of Public Reason: Not Wide Enough” (2000). The dilemma is that public reason is either indeterminate or inconsistent with the animating values of political liberalism, including the value of political autonomy. Reidy’s article identifies two different ways in which public reason might turn out to be indeterminate, one arising when there are too few public reasons in support of some law or policy and the other when there are too many. The latter problem is not as serious as Reidy supposes, at least with respect to several conceptions of justice that might provide the content of public reason. The problem of there being too few reasons suggests that the idea of public reason should include a more expansive set of politically relevant justifying reasons than is otherwise suggested by Rawls’s theory. The chapter proposes a principle for widening public reason and maintains that such a principle is consistent with political autonomy.

Keywords:   public reason, public justification, John Rawls, indeterminacy, sincerity, political autonomy

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