Workshop on Public Reason and Liberal Legitimacy

November 18, 2022 - November 19, 2022
Department of Philosophy, McGill University

3534 Rue University




Uppsala University

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One of the most significant contributions of John Rawls’s later writings is his idea of public reason. According to this idea, fundamental political questions ought not to be settled by reasons drawn from the various comprehensive doctrines that citizens in a free society endorse. Instead, they should be settled by public reasons; reasons that all citizens, as free and equal, can reasonably be expected to accept. Relatedly, the liberal principle of legitimacy states that only such exercises of political power that are justifiable to all citizens in terms of public reasons qualifies as legitimate. But while these ideas have had an enormous influence on contemporary liberal philosophy, how to best understand them is still a matter of ongoing philosophical controversy. There is disagreement, not only on the content of these ideas – what public reasons are, to whom justification is owed, what is in fact justifiable on the basis of public reasons, and so on – but also on fundamental matters such as why we should be concerned with justification in terms of public reasons in the first place, and what kind of pluralism we should seek to accommodate.

The research team in Value Theory and the Philosophy of Public Policy at McGill University will host a one and a half-day workshop on the ideas of public reason and liberal legitimacy, broadly construed. We aim to bring together researchers working on these issues, and to provide an opportunity to share and discuss work in progress.

Christie Hartley (Georgia State University), "On Political Legitimacy and Public Reason: Of Subjects and Sovereigns"
R.J. Leland (University of Manitoba), "Political Liberalism and Reasoning from Shared Values"
Andrew Lister (Queen’s University), "Is there a Communitarian Case for Public Reason, and if so is it Perfectionist?"
Blain Neufeld (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), "Political Activism, Egalitarian Justice, and Public Reason"
Lori Watson (Washington University in St. Louis), "Public Reason and Constitutional Interpretation"
Emil Andersson (McGill University), "Liberal Legitimacy and Future Citizens"


This workshop is open for everyone. But registration is required as the space is limited. To register, please contact Emil Andersson: [email protected]

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November 15, 2022, 10:00am EST

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