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A critique of pure public reason

Senchaudhuri, Esha (2011) A critique of pure public reason. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Contemporary political liberalism defends the view that any legitimate law ought to be justified to those reasonable citizens subject to it. A standard way in which to accomplish this task is to construct a set of public reasons, comprised of constitutional essentials and public democratic values, which are then used to justify all political mandates. The dissertation begins with a criticism of this process of justification for outcomes of legitimate procedures of public decision-making. It argues that given how reasons contribute to judgment formation, it is highly optimistic to assume that reasonable consent on procedures of collective decision-making correspond to the justifiability of procedural outcomes. Instead, I argue for an ideal of legitimate decision-making which enables each citizen to assume a threshold level of personal responsibility for all political decisions made by the political collective. Integrating responsibility into a theory of liberal legitimacy requires a reformulation of the rules of public justification. I argue that citizens concerned with making responsible political decisions must be allowed to justify their political positions through both reasonable judgments as well as sympathetic judgments such as compassion for those who live with disability and mercy towards the criminally motivated. The notion of sympathy, as formulated by David Hume and expanded by Adam Smith, provides an account of how individuals’ ethical evaluations are affected by their ability to be in fellow-feeling with other people. A substantial portion of my doctoral thesis considers the situations in which a private judgment couched in sympathetic terms can meet political liberalism’s demands of publicity and reciprocity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Esha Senchaudhuri
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Voorhoeve, Alex and Kukathas, Chandran

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