Political liberalism contains a commitment to public justification. The exercise of coercion on the basis of political principles is only thought to be proper if these principles are acceptable to each and every reasonable person. The fact that political liberalism restricts the constituency of public justification, i.e., the constituency of those who are owed justifications, to reasonable people is significant. I argue that, as it stands, this restriction is problematic. Specifically, political liberalism's core commitment to respect for persons as ends in themselves is in conflict with its refusal to justify their exclusion to some individuals who will be coerced. Furthermore, attempts to dispense with the need to provide justifications to the unreasonable seem to resolve that tension, but only at the cost of introducing a second defect: an impoverished and ultimately illiberal conception of the person which refuses to regard individual persons as morally autonomous.
My work resolves that tension, arguing that justifications can indeed be offered to those who are not seen as reasonable by the standards of political liberalism. Two different kinds of unreasonableness warrant different kinds of justifications: those who are fundamentally unreasonable because they reject the core liberal commitment to persons as free and equal, are unable to escape that very moral commitment, as it can be shown to be implicit in their attitude and conduct towards their fellow citizens. Others who, when they encounter deep moral disagreement in political debates, fall short of the requirement to engage with others in public reason on the basis of shared values, can be offered justifications for restraint which are rooted in the character of the very moral convictions they are tempted to draw on in public reason.
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