•  394
    Our concern in this essay are the roles of religious conviction in what we call a “publicly justified polity” — one in which the laws conform to the Principle of Public Justification, according to which (in a sense that will become clearer) each citizen must have conclusive reason to accept each law as binding. According to “justificatory liberalism,”1 this public justification requirement follows from the core liberal commitment of respect for the freedom and equality of all citizens.2 To respe…Read more
  •  239
    The Normative Significance of Conscience
    with Kyle Swan
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (3): 1-21. 2012.
    Despite the increasing amount of literature on the legal and political questions triggered by a commitment to liberty of conscience, an explanation of the normative significance of conscience remains elusive. We argue that the few attempts to address this fail to capture the reasons people have to respect the consciences of others. We offer an alternative account that utilizes the resources of the contractualist tradition in moral philosophy to explain why conscience matters.
  •  179
    Against Public Reason Liberalism's Accessibility Requirement
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (3): 366-389. 2011.
    Public reason liberals typically defend an accessibility requirement for reasons offered in public political dialog. The accessibility requirement holds that public reasons must be amenable to criticism, evaluable by reasonable persons, and the like. Public reason liberals are therefore hostile to the public use of reasons that appear inaccessible, especially religious reasons. This hostility has provoked strong reactions from public reason liberalism's religion-friendly critics. But public reas…Read more
  •  141
    Production, Distribution, and J. S. Mill: Kevin Vallier
    Utilitas 22 (2): 103-125. 2010.
    J. S. Mill's role as a transitional figure between classical and egalitarian liberalism can be partly explained by developments in his often unappreciated economic views. Specifically, I argue that Mill's separation of economic production and distribution had an important effect on his political theory. Mill made two distinctions between economic production and the distribution of wealth. I argue that these separations helped lead Mill to abandon the wages-fund doctrine and adopt a more favorabl…Read more
  •  126
    A New Theist Response to the New Atheists (edited book)
    Routledge. 2020.
    In response to the intellectual movement of New Atheism, this volume articulates a "New Theist" response that has at its core a desire to engage in productive and depolarizing dialogue. To ensure this book is of interest to atheists and theists alike, a team of experts in the field of philosophy of religion offer an assessment of the strongest New Atheist arguments. The chapters address the most pertinent questions about God, including politics and morality, and each essay shows how a reflectiv…Read more
  •  114
    The Fragility of Consensus: Public Reason, Diversity and Stability
    with John Thrasher
    European Journal of Philosophy 23 (4): 933-954. 2015.
    John Rawls's transition from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism was driven by his rejection of Theory's account of stability. The key to his later account of stability is the idea of public reason. We see Rawls's account of stability as an attempt to solve a mutual assurance problem. We maintain that Rawls's solution fails because his primary assurance mechanism, in the form of public reason, is fragile. His conception of public reason relies on a condition of consensus that we argue is…Read more
  •  105
    Toleration is perhaps the core commitment of liberalism, but this seemingly simple feature of liberal societies creates tension for liberal perfectionists, who are committed to justifying religious toleration primarily in terms of the goods and flourishing it promotes. Perfectionists, so it seems, should recommend restricting harmful religious practices when feasible. If such restrictions would promote liberal perfectionist values like autonomy, it is unclear how the perfectionist can object. A …Read more
  •  100
    The Moral Basis of Religious Exemptions
    Law and Philosophy 35 (1): 1-28. 2016.
    Justifying religious exemptions is a complicated matter. Citizens ask to not be subject to laws that everyone else must follow, raising worries about equal treatment. They ask to be exempted on a religious basis, a basis that secular citizens do not share, raising worries about the equal treatment of secular and religious citizens. And they ask governmental structures to create exceptions in the government’s own laws, raising worries about procedural fairness and stability. We nonetheless think …Read more
  •  89
    Convergence and Consensus in Public Reason
    Public Affairs Quarterly 25 (4): 261-280. 2011.
    Reasonable individuals often share a rationale for a decision but, in other cases, they make the same decision based on disparate and often incompatible rationales. The social contract tradition has been divided between these two methods of solving the problem of social cooperation: must social cooperation occur in terms of common reasoning, or can individuals with different doctrines simply converge on shared institutions for their own reasons? For Hobbes, it is rational for all persons, regard…Read more
  •  88
    Liberalism, Religion And Integrity
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1). 2012.
    It is a commonplace that liberalism and religious belief conflict. Liberalism, its proponents and critics maintain, requires the privatization of religious belief, since liberals often argue that citizens of faith must repress their fundamental commitments when participating in public life. Critics of liberalism complain that privatization is objectionable because it requires citizens of faith to violate their integrity. The liberal political tradition has always sought to carve out social space…Read more
  •  84
    In Defence of Intelligible Reasons in Public Justification
    Philosophical Quarterly 66 (264): 596-616. 2016.
    Mainstream political liberalism holds that legal coercion is permissible only if it is based on reasons that all can share, access or accept. But these requirements are subject to well-known problems. I articulate and defend an intelligible reasons requirement as an alternative. An intelligible reason is a reason that all suitably idealized members of the public can see as a reason for the person who offers it according to that person’s own evaluative standards. It thereby permits reasons into p…Read more
  •  78
    On Jonathan Quong’s Sectarian Political Liberalism
    Criminal Law and Philosophy 11 (1): 175-194. 2017.
    Jonathan Quong’s book, Liberalism without Perfection, provides an innovative new defense of political liberalism based on an “internal conception” of the goal of public justification. Quong argues that public justification need merely be addressed to persons who affirm liberal political values, allowing people to be coerced without a public justification if they reject liberal values or their priority over comprehensive values. But, by extensively restricting members of the justificatory public …Read more
  •  77
    Public justification versus public deliberation: the case for divorce
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (2): 139-158. 2015.
    I drive a wedge between public deliberation and public justification, concepts tightly associated in public reason liberalism. Properly understood, the ideal of public justification imposes no restraint on citizen deliberation but requires that those who have a substantial impact on the use of coercive power, political officials, advance proposals each person has sufficient reason to accept. I formulate this idea as the Principle of Convergent Restraint and apply it to legislators to illustrate …Read more
  •  71
    Property-owning democracies combine the regulative and redistributive functions of the welfare state with the governmental aim of ensuring that wealth and capital are widely dispersed. John Rawls, political philosophy’s most famous property-owning democrat, argued that property-owning democracy was one of two regime types that best realized his two principles of justice, though he was notoriously vague about how a property-owning democracy’s institutions are meant to realize his principles. To c…Read more
  •  68
    Political Liberalism and the Radical Consequences of Justice Pluralism
    Journal of Social Philosophy 50 (2): 212-231. 2019.
    Political liberalism’s central commitments to recognizing reasonable pluralism and institutionalizing a substantive conception of justice are inconsistent. If reasonable pluralism applies to conceptions of justice as it applies to conceptions of the good, then some reasonable people will reject even many liberal conceptions of justice as unreasonable. If so, then imposing these conceptions of justice on citizens violates the liberal principle of legitimacy and related public justification requir…Read more
  •  56
    Stephen Darwall’s moral theory explains moral obligation by appealing to a “second-person” standpoint where persons use second-person reasons to hold one another accountable for their moral behavior. However, Darwall claims obligations obtain if and only if hypothetical persons endorse them, despite tying the second-person standpoint to our real-world moral practices. Focus on hypothetical persons renders critical elements of his account obscure. I solve this problem by distinguishing two ideas …Read more
  •  55
    In Public Reason, Diversity Trumps Coherence
    with Ryan Muldoon
    Journal of Political Philosophy 29 (2): 211-230. 2021.
    Journal of Political Philosophy, EarlyView.
  •  50
    Public Reason Is Not Self-Defeating
    American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (4): 349-364. 2016.
    Steven Wall has two compelling arguments for what I shall call public reason liberalism's reflexivity requirement. The political concerns to reconcile persons who hold diverse moral views, and to avoid authoritarianism in politics not only require the public justification of coercion but the public justification of the standard used to determine when coercion is publicly justified. The reflexivity requirement is said to entail that public reason is self-defeating. Once RR is correctly formulated…Read more
  •  45
    In Defense of Idealization in Public Reason
    Erkenntnis 85 (5): 1109-1128. 2020.
    Contemporary public reason liberalism holds that coercion must be publicly justified to an idealized constituency. Coercion must be justified to all qualified points of view, not the points of view held by actual persons. Critics, in particular Nicholas Wolterstorff and David Enoch, have complained that idealization, by idealizing away what actual people accept, risks authoritarianism and disrespect by forcing people to comply with laws they in fact reject. I argue that idealization can withstan…Read more
  •  42
    Introduction: Convergence Justifications in Public Reason
    Public Affairs Quarterly 25 (4): 257-260. 2011.
    With the publication of Political Liberalism, John Rawls inaugurated a new tradition in political philosophy often called public reason liberalism. Rawls argued that among liberal democratic cultures, our conception of ourselves as free and equal requires that we justify our attempts to coerce one another via the use of state power. Thus, a legitimate state is one whose coercion is publicly justified to all members of a well-ordered society. A publicly justified political order therefore satisfi…Read more
  •  40
    Public justification
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. forthcoming.
    Explains the concept and conceptions of public justification found in the philosophy and political theory literatures.
  •  40
    Three concepts of political stability: An agent-based model
    Social Philosophy and Policy 34 (1): 232-259. 2017.
    Public reason liberalism includes an ideal of political stability where justified institutions reach a kind of self-enforcing equilibrium. Such an order must be stable for the right reasons — where persons comply with the rules of the order for moral reasons, rather than out of fear or self-interest. John Rawls called a society stable in this way well-ordered. In this essay, I contend that a more sophisticated model of a well-ordered society, specifically an agent-based model, yields a richer a…Read more
  •  39
    In the eyes of many, liberalism requires the aggressive secularization of social institutions, especially public media and public schools. The unfortunate result is that many Americans have become alienated from the liberal tradition because they believe it threatens their most sacred forms of life. This was not always the case: in American history, the relation between liberalism and religion has often been one of mutual respect and support. In Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separati…Read more
  •  37
    On Distinguishing Publicly Justified Polities from Modus Vivendi Regimes
    Social Theory and Practice 41 (2): 207-229. 2015.
    This essay develops a novel account of the distinction between a publicly justified polity and modus vivendi regimes by appealing to the ideal of congruence in public reason liberalism. A fully publicly justified polity is one whose laws are supported by congruent “first-personal” and “second-personal” moral reasons to internalize laws as personally binding on those subject to them. Regimes approach modus vivendi status to the extent that their laws fail to be justified by either type of reason,…Read more
  •  36
    Americans today are far less likely to trust their institutions, and each other, than in decades past. This collapse in social and political trust arguably fuels our increasingly ferocious ideological conflicts and hardened partisanship. Many believe that our previously high levels of trust and bipartisanship were a pleasant anomaly and that we now live under the historic norm. Seen this way, politics itself is nothing more than a power struggle between groups with irreconcilable aims: contempor…Read more
  •  34
    The Origin and Future of Political Liberalism
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (5): 639-656. 2014.
    An essay-length review of Paul Weithman's book, Why Political Liberalism?
  •  33
    The Duties of Political Officials in a Minimally Secular State
    Journal of Applied Philosophy 36 (5): 695-701. 2019.
    Cécile Laborde's important book, Liberalism's Religion, attempts to develop an ethic governing political officials that requires that they only use, and be responsive to, accessible reasons. Laborde's accessibility requirement articulates her unique approach to the role of religion in liberal politics. This article challenges Laborde's accessibility ethic on three grounds: (1) the ethic suffers from a lack of idealisation, (2) there is little reason to prevent inaccessible reasons from defeating…Read more