Chapter

Parents and Public Reason

Matthew Clayton

in Justice and Legitimacy in Upbringing

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199268948
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603693 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199268940.003.0004
Parents and Public Reason

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Can parents legitimately enrol their child into controversial religious practices or disputed conceptions of human well being? Many liberals assert that they can, provided that this enrolment does not jeopardize the child’s development of autonomy. This chapter defends the view that the ideal of individual autonomy supports a negative answer to the question. It draws a distinction between autonomy as an end-state to be achieved, and autonomy as a precondition for legitimate enrolment into controversial ethical practices. The argument begins with a defence of the view that parental conduct must conform to certain aspects of Rawls’s ideal of public reason, since it is relevantly like political activity. The intrinsic and instrumental merits of the precondition conception of autonomy are discussed. The chapter closes with a critique of certain arguments for enrolment, which emphasize intimacy or the child’s development of the capacity for autonomous judgement.

Keywords: autonomy; religion; intimacy; parents; public reason; Rawls

Chapter.  16750 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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