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Fr. 960

December 9, 2019

It remains to be seen what follows from the above. To the question of which reasons are admissible in which spheres of discourse, Rawls and Stout are likely to give much the same answer, with some variance in function of empirical circumstances. Both agree that discursive instances in the nonpublic political culture and the background culture are to be unconstrained. Likewise, they agree on the need for some constraints in the public political sphere as regards the actions of persons qua government official: Rawls on principled grounds, Stout on principled and pragmatic grounds. Finally, though there remains some tension surrounding the question of the justificatory weight of different reasons, one can only assert that there is some such tension on a case-by-case basis with reference to particular reasons in a given context.

The above comparative framework show that the external critique is little more decisive than the internal critique. For it is difficult to state decisively which of the two approaches is more adequate overall. Political liberalism and pragmatist expressivism pursue relatively similar aims with the same socio-cultural materials within the same democratic context. Each view represents a viable version of the view from anywhere, the most desirable orientation to public justification. As regards their shared aim of integrating socio-political complexity, Rawls and Stout make different choices with the resources available to them. If the strategy of front-loaded justification is more likely to achieve relative impartiality between different persons’ contributions to various discursive instances, the back-loaded justificatory strategy may better secure epistemic feasibility in the way of a lower barrier to entry. When it comes to regulating spheres of discourse differentially, political liberalism works through additional steps when setting its targets for discursive restraint better to achieve respect for persons whereas pragmatist expressivism eliminates the intermediate steps in the thought that parsimony may help foster respect.

In the end, one’s choice between Rawls and Stout may largely come down to one’s broader philosophical and methodological commitments as well as empirical expectations. If one is concerned above all to pursue a relatively entrenched institutional framework, to minimize bias in the formation of political judgments and to project human beings as capable of radical political transformation under favourable circumstances, then political liberalism may prove more appealing. If, on the other hand, one is concerned above all to leave political society more room for maneuver, to counteract bias in political judgments ex post and to key one’s political vision of political to moderately idealized human motivation and institutional possibilities, then pragmatist expressivism may carry the day. Even supposing that one privileges a specific approach to public justification over rival approaches – say a consensus approach over the convergence approach – it may be that consensus justifications only become possible through a shared history of convergence justifications, such that both approaches are necessary as complements to one another. Regardless, the external critique leaves us with the result that such questions cannot be decided independently of one’s broader commitments.

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