The Problem of Stability in Political Liberalism

Thomas E. Hill

in Respect, Pluralism, and Justice

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198238348
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597688 | DOI:
 The Problem of Stability in Political Liberalism

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Examines the relation between two of the most influential Kantian works in political philosophy in this century, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice and his Political Liberalism. The rationale for Rawls's shift in position from the earlier book to the later, it is argued, is a recognized need to satisfy a deeply Kantian requirement on the legitimate exercise of state coercive power. In a pluralistic world where reasonable people differ about the truth of religion and morality, the requirement can be met only by showing the possibility of an overlapping consensus on shared political principles. Contrary to what Rawls at times suggests, the reason for his move from a ‘comprehensive moral theory’ to a ‘political conception’ of justice was not an (perhaps doubtful) expectation that consensus on his principles would be a stabilizing force, but instead a recognition of the need to provide a justification of these principles that is respectful of the diversity of moral and religious opinions among reasonable people.

Keywords: A Theory of Justice; diversity; Kantian; overlapping consensus; Political Liberalism; Rawls; stability

Chapter.  10180 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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