The epistemic unreliability of public reason liberalism and what to do about it

Henrik Friberg-Fernros and I have just published a new article in Philosophy & Social Criticism, in which we seek to address the epistemic unreliability of the public justification requirement – a standard of legitimacy proffered by many contemporary public reason liberals.

Here’s the abstract:

How should the state justify its coercive rules? Public reason liberalism endorses a public justification requirement: Justifications offered for authoritative regulations must be acceptable to all members of the relevant public. However, as a criterion of legitimacy, the public justification requirement is epistemically unreliable: It prioritizes neither the exclusion of false beliefs nor the inclusion of true beliefs in justifications of political rules. This article presents an epistemic alternative to the public justification requirement. Employing epistemological theories of argumentation, we demonstrate how this approach enables assessing the epistemic quality of justifications of political rules, even when the truth is difficult to establish.

Friberg-Fernros, Henrik, and Johan Karlsson Schaffer. ‘An Epistemic Alternative to the Public Justification Requirement’. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 10 November 2022, 01914537221137855.

This paper is the latest – if not the last – to result from the research project The consensus paradox: Does agreement impede rational public discourse? funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Thanks to the BIBSAM agreement, the paper is published open access – i.e., ‘free’ as in free beer and free speech.

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