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No proviso: Habermas on Rawls, religion and public reason

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 15:31 authored by Gordon FinlaysonGordon Finlayson
In this article, I argue that a common view of Habermas’s theory of public reason, which takes it to be similar to Rawls’s ‘proviso’, is mistaken. I explain why that mistake arises, and show that those who have made it have thus overlooked the distinctiveness of Habermas’s theory and approach. Consequently, I argue, they tend to wrongly infer that objections directed at Rawls’s ‘proviso’ apply also to Habermas’s ‘institutional translation proviso’. Ironically, Habermas’s attempt to rebut those objections leads him to advance a peculiar, and ultimately indefensible, thesis about the cognitive requirements of democratic citizenship for secular citizens. I argue that the underlying problem that Habermas takes the peculiar thesis to solve is not that the public reason requirements of the secular state are unfair towards religious citizens, or biased towards secular views of the world, but that the nature of religious arguments, and of scientism, as Habermas understands these, prevents citizens who adhere to them from participating in discourse. I end by suggesting a simpler, less controversial solution to that problem.


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European Journal of Political Theory




SAGE Publications

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  • Philosophy Publications

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  • Centre for Social and Political Thought Publications

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