The scope of public reason

Jonathan Quong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper presents two conceptions of the scope of public reason. The narrow view asserts that the ideal of public reason must regulate questions of constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice, but should not apply beyond this limited domain. The broad view claims that the ideal of public reason ought to be applied, whenever possible, to all political decisions where citizens exercise coercive power over one another. The paper questions whether there are any good grounds for accepting the narrow view. I survey and reject three potential reasons. The priority argument for the narrow view claims that constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice are the only proper subjects of public reason because they have a special moral priority for our reasoning about justice. The basic interests argument supports the narrow view by arguing that public reasons only exist at the level of constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice. Finally, the completeness argument defends the narrow view on the grounds that public reason can only be complete if it abstains from most legislative questions. I conclude that there are no good reasons for accepting the narrow view of the scope of public reason, whereas there are several reasons to prefer the broad view.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-250
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Studies
Volume52
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

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