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Fr. 902

June 12, 2019

Estlund’s endeavor to formulate a general acceptability requirement for public reason or justificatory liberalism is as impressive in depth as it is limited in scope. It proposes to defend no one version thereof but instead the formal features of the family as a whole. One conclusion from Democratic Authority is precisely that, in order to avoid a pluralism of insular qualified publics, the standard for qualification is not subject to the same kind of verification by the entire public as is the doctrine of qualified acceptability. In this way, Estlund seemingly undercuts, in a way that Quong does not, the objection which I have formulated to Rawlsian reasonableness, namely, that one basic aspect of reasonableness – the willingness to recognize the burdens of judgment – may cast doubt on the acceptability of the other basic aspect – the willingness to propose and abide by fair terms of cooperation. What reply can there be to Estlund’s striking argument? While one might try to match that argument’s more general scope and nature, I propose instead to focus on an aspect peculiar to Rawls’s treatment, to wit, the differentiation of viewpoints between you and me and the citizen in a well-ordered society. If it is likely true that a citizen in a well-ordered society cannot both be the qualified public and reject the qualification standard captured by that society, it is less evident that you and me are similarly obligated to admit that same qualification standard if it is found that its self-applications meets with certain difficulties (as I suggest in my objection). Such difficulties give us pro tanto reason to reconsider that standard to make sure that it is doing the work which we foresee. Although we might come to the conclusion that, on balance and all things considered, it is the right standard (or near enough), we must still find some justification for it from the master viewpoint of “you and me”. In this way, Estlund’s broader argument may not capture particular features of the narrower Rawlsian position.

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