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Rawls and subject 39

May 24, 2017

The fact remains that the ideal case typifies a particular standpoint or mindset which the person is to adopt vis-à-vis the political conception and her comprehensive doctrine. For full justification to proceed as envisioned, certain constraints must be respected as with an instance pro tanto justification. In much the same way, a particular form of reason sets limits on the kinds of acceptable reasons available in discourse and deliberation. That said, two relevant differences present themselves immediately: first, the person does not proceed from a view of public reason but from a personal or associational nonpublic reason; secondly, the person is not to conceive of herself as citizen but as individual in such a case. Naturally, these differences are interconnected in that the person operates as citizen within the public political culture, under the aegis of public reason, but as individual within the background culture, under the aegis of nonpublic reasons on the basis of group membership. Still, the complementarity between these situations allows us to define the individual standpoint as the complement to the citizen standpoint.

Recall that the latter enfolded and extended the original position and the representative party standpoint: rather than a depersonalized person in symmetrical relations with others autonomously proposing reasonable principles in publicly available modes, the person considers herself as a political person in free and equal relations with others autonomously proposing, in accordance with public reason, reasonable principles in publicly available modes for principles of political justice. For the author, these differences proved more than cosmetic: 1.) the person excludes appeal to rather than lacks knowledge of contingency and happenstance; 2.) the person stands as free and equal with regards to other, instead of merely symmetrical due to the original position’s uncertainty conditions; 3.) the person operates under conditions of full autonomy as opposed to rational autonomy.

These characteristics laid out, how then is the person engaging in full justification to consider herself? In a word, she considers herself to be an individual, i.e. a nonpolitical person in free and equal relations with others proposing, in accordance with nonpublic reason and within a given association, nonpublicly available reasons for principles of political justice. Though the object remains the same between the two phases of justification, the liberal principle of legitimacy gives way to concern for obtaining the widest consensus possible on the political conception of justice. This shift moves justification from the public political culture, wherein reasons are strictly limited in light of the principle of legitimacy, to the background culture, wherein reasons are limited rather by what a person or an association may justify to itself. In this way, the contingent information which the party standpoint lacks and the citizen standpoint does not heed is hitched to the political conception which these two formulate and is made to work for that conception. This thereby permit the political conception of justice to obtain greater reach in society and better grounded commitment on the part of persons therein.

This point concludes our exposition of full justification, overlapping consensus and the individual standpoint. If we push no further on the individual standpoint for the moment, this owes to its subordinate role in the pro tanto and full justification pairing. For, as suggested above, full justification may only complement pro tanto; it cannot supplant it. The person aiming to justify the political conception through full justification will have already had to just that conception through pro tanto justification and may conceivably do without full justification. That said, such a scenario fails to secure stability throughout society in the way envisaged by Rawls. In order to secure stability, it will instead be necessary to show publicly the articulation between pro tanto justification and full justification. This articulation will take shape in what Rawls terms public justification.

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