Talk:Political Liberalism

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Comments[edit]

The utilitarian element remains, does it not, in overlapping consensus? The definition of "reasonable" must be set at somewhere less than 100% of the population; there are fringe Others with radical beliefs that are in opposition to any liberal, democratic government. Thus, the minority must still be ignored for the interests of the majority. I suppose that is unavoidable, but original position and overlapping consensus, while probably the most fair in practice, do not eliminate the inherent societal oppression of an Other.


I don't think so (but I could be wrong). Overlapping consensus is designed to garner agreement from 100% of the people in the original position (OP)- the consensus generated out of the OP is based in Rawls' view of the fact of shared rationality (cf. Habermas' concept of communicative rationality). This shared rationality will produce some form of minimal liberal standards akin to Rawls' two principles. I suppose that Rawls would say that those "fringe Others with radical beliefs" are essentially wrong in their understanding of justice, and are on some level being unfair.

In a sense, utilitarian considerations could be seen as applying to ideas, rather than people; it could be argued that somewhere less than 100% of the ideas are covered by the criterion of 'reasonableness' and therefore that there is an element of majority rule in the realm of ideas, but I don't think this captures Rawls correctly because it ignores the fact that he is essentially an absolutist, at least on the level of societal justice. The OP tells us what type of justice is objectively correct for the public sphere- this is non-tyrannical (and non-utilitarian) because everyone's shared rationality comes to the same conclusion. The only people who are excluded are those who do not have this basic human reason- examples might include the mentally handicapped or children who do not yet have the ability to reason. Everyone else in the OP reaches unanimous consensus.

Of course, in one sense, you are undeniably right. Any system of morality that says anything meaningful will exclude some things, otherwise it would be pointless. Rawls is trying to be as inclusive as possible by grounding his system in a fundamental facet of humanity. {Frekja 22:00, 9 May 2005 (UTC)}

I have no idea what you mean by the 'utilitarian element' given that Rawls was anti-utilitarian. But yes by definition there will be those that are exlcuded from an overlapping consensus because of the way in which he employs the term reasonable. Remember that an overlapping consensus is an overlapping consensus of reasonable conceptions of the good where reasonable is a moral term which implies the commitment to reciprocity. The fact of 'reasonable' pluralism tells us that not all conceptions of the good will be reasonable in this sense and thus will, by definition, be excluded from the overlapping consensus. All political liberals (Larmore, Macedo, Cohen, Ackerman) accept that this exclusion is a consequence of the fact of reasonable pluralism.

The first response to your question is misguided: Rawls does not try to justify justice as fairness with reference to rationality - indeed he is explicit in saying that this is specifically what he is not trying to do. The fact that reason leads to pluralism with regards to the good is the fundamental premise that undermines his, and many others, understanding of pluralism. It is the fact that rationality does not lead everyone to the same answer that creates the problem Political Liberalism seeks to respond to.


This article makes a few grave errors, the most glaring of which is its conflation of Rawl's presentation justice as fairness as a political conception of justice with Rawls's views of how a political conception of justice would actually gain the support of adherents to different but reasonable comprehensive doctrines as a part of an overlapping consensus (and his arguments for those views).

Someone above asked whether 'the utilitarian' element 'remained', most likely because he made the mistake that this article makes, which is to confuse Rawls's views about justification (i.e. it would be something that reasonable persons as free and equal could reasonably expect others, given our views about what arguments could 'reasonably' be mad and given the burdens of judgment, to accept) with his views that a political conception of justice (and only it) could function as a basis for a stable well-ordered democratic society.