Date of Submission
Yalcin, O. (2015). A defence of public reason: A Kantian reading of Rawls’s Ideal Theory (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a9cc2acb0bb3
The thesis defends Rawls’s idea of public reason as a purely normative basis of critical political judgment against its various criticisms by democratic theories of justice from normative deliberative democracy to radical democracy. The thesis focuses on the basic criticism of Rawls’s idea of public reason as a legitimating basis of a conservative political doctrine that serves to perpetuate injustice and relations of domination. Criticisms of Rawls’s idea of public reason are developed on the basis of an interpretation of Rawls’s idea of stability in terms of a notion of political stability as concerned with the preservation of existing constitutionally guaranteed rights. Such criticisms argue that such a notion of political stability is the basic motivation of Rawls’s development of a freestanding political conception that can be the basis of an overlapping consensus, and for those critiques, his idea of public reason functions as a regulative principle to secure political actors’ claims of justice to be articulated within the limits of overlapping consensus over the existing political values. The thesis argues against such criticisms of Rawls’s idea of public reason on the basis of reconstructing Rawls’s political conception of justice in terms of Kantian political philosophy. The thesis argues that the basic contrast between critics of Rawls’s political conception of justice and Rawls relies on their fundamental disagreement over the question of the subject of political justice. The thesis contends that critics of Rawls have a conception of political justice as collective self-determination of common ends of a political community. In contrast to such conceptions of democratic justice, the thesis argues that Kantian political philosophy conceives political justice as securing the conditions of co-existence of freedom of choice of individuals, and therefore, the ideal of equal freedom of external action regardless of the worth or ends of these actions is the regulative idea of political justice. In this context, the thesis reformulates Rawls’s idea of stability in terms of Kantian political philosophy. The thesis argues that the question of stability that interests Rawls is not a question of how actual constituents of a political order can maintain their allegiance to the existing social and political institutional structures of a polity. Rather, Rawls’s idea of stability is a question of normative stability, as it emerges within the ideal theory of justice. In this respect, the thesis argues that Rawls’s idea of overlapping consensus does not concern the justification of the content of political justice. Rather, the idea of overlapping consensus shows only the possibility of each citizen’s acceptance of the priority of demands of justice as in accord with their reasonable comprehensive doctrines. In this context, the thesis argues that the normative content of Rawls’s idea of public reason is not given by the existing political values over which there is an actual consensus, however widely shared it may be. Rather, the thesis claims that the normative content of idea of public reason is specified on the basis of those principles of justice justifiable in the ideal theory of a fictional well-ordered society. Rawls’s idea of public reason provides a critical standpoint of political judgment for both public officials and private citizens on the basis of which those existing political structures and their organizing principles can be judged and transformed. When conceived in terms of a coercive system of laws as guaranteeing reciprocal freedom of actions within ideal theory, the thesis argues that Rawls’s idea of public reason cannot be criticized for being normatively deficient, indeterminate or politically impotent regarding the questions of political justice. The thesis also argues that Rawls’s political conception of justice with its idea of public reason is necessary for identifying actual instances of injustice. On this basis, the thesis shows that Rawls’s idea of public reason is the normative ground on the basis of which political actors can judge whether both their own claims and public laws are justifiable by the ideal of equal freedom.
Institute for Social Justice
Doctor of Philosophy in Social and Political Thought (PhDSPT)
Faculty of Education and Arts