PLEASE TAKE NOTE, THE COLLOQUIUM WILL BEGIN AT 4:00 P.M. BEGINNING IN 2014-15
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2014
WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.
Blain Neufeld (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)
Title: ‘The Power of Free and Equal Citizens as a Collective Body’ –
Shared Intentions and Public Reason
I begin by formulating a distinctly ‘political liberal’ conception of mutual respect, which I call ‘civic respect.’ I then show how a ‘Rousseauian’ account of democratic self-government might be realized in a contemporary liberal society, despite its pluralistic character, on the basis of civic respect. Drawing on Michael Bratman’s theory of shared agency, I explain that citizens in a pluralist society, on the basis of civic respect, can constitute a kind of corporate moral agent, a ‘civic people,’ by committing themselves to a ‘shared policy’ to decide fundamental political questions on the basis of shared public reasons. In a civic people the exercise of coercive political power satisfies what John Rawls calls the ‘liberal principle of legitimacy,’ as the justifications for that exercise conform to this shared policy. Consequently, such political power is, as Rawls puts it, “the power of free and equal citizens as a collective body.” I then compare the civic people account of democratic self-government to two alternative accounts. The first alternative account is what I call the ‘minimalist’ account of democratic self-government. According to this account, citizens only share a policy to abide by the outcomes of a certain decision-making procedure (or set of procedures); there is no shared policy with respect to the nature of the justifications for fundamental political decisions. The second alternative account I call the ‘convergence’ account, as it draws upon Gerald Gaus’s ‘convergence’ view of public justification. Within the convergence account of democratic self-government, citizens share a policy of recognizing as legitimate only those laws that can be justified to all reasonable citizens, though such justifications need not rely upon shared public reasons, but instead can be based upon citizens’ diverse religious and philosophical views (what Rawls calls their ‘comprehensive doctrines’). I conclude by explaining why the civic people account of democratic self-government is superior to the minimalist and convergence accounts.
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