Can the idea of public reason provide a “working” construct for the Common Good?

Perhaps but only if the principle of respect for all persons is actually accepted as being legitimate in civil society instead of merely being politically correct public chatter. Therein lies the problem. Here’s the abstract for Common Good and Respect for Persons [SSRN] by Wojciech Sadurski (University of Sydney – Faculty of Law):

We need a “working” conception of the common good, i.e. a conception that does not rely on where one stands in various current political controversies about specific aims, purposes and measures of achieving them, including controversies reflected in debates about and within constitutional law. Such a “working conception” can be supplied by the idea of public reason as a characteristically liberal device of legitimacy in a pluralistic society: attempts to equate “common good” with a set of common actual first-order interests must fail. Public reason is justified by a principle of respect for persons who may or may not agree with the specific laws but who will likely feel they are “second class” citizens, thus deeply disrespected, if the law is based on grounds which are not endorsable by them. Hence, this paper explores a triangle of concepts: common good, public reason (as a working conception of common good), and respect for persons (as a justificatory argument for public reason). In the first part of this paper I discuss the concept of common good, and its relationship with public reason, and in the second part I discuss respect for persons as a justification for public reason. It is argued, in particular, that respect (as a justificatory value of public reason) should be seen as part of a constellation of values, of which freedom (understood through a presumptive evil of coercion) and political equality (understood in an outcome-based, agency-related sense), are of particular importance.

While not achieving “Download of the Week” status by Larry Solum, hat tip to Legal Theory Blog: “All the theory that fits!”. — Joe

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