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Paul M.

Nguyen (OMV) Contemporary Philosophy, OConnor November 7, 2011 Essay Response to Chapter 3 4 Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics, Christopher J. Eberle In his response to John Rawls' political liberalism and other political philosophies that posit a moral obligation to support coercive government on exclusively secular grounds, Eberle must first define what it is that constitutes the idea he will challenge. He does this by presenting this body of thought in his own terms that, he hopes, capture the essence of what all of the individual thinkers are trying to say (in Rawlsian terms, terms that could characterize an overlapping consensus of the various theorists' positions). Yet even in his formulation of this thought, which he terms justificatory liberalism, he begins to demonstrate its weaknesses. Eberle develops the term justificatory liberalism in his introduction, building first liberalism and then qualifying it as justificatory. He states, rather simply, that justificatory liberals are committed to liberal principles and practices, and further clarifies this by presenting exemplary details including that the power of the state over citizens should be severely constrained, and that citizens are entitled to certain fundamental freedoms and a right to influence, at least indirectly, legislation that will bind them in the future (11). Eberle then adds the distinguishing note of justificatory to this idea of liberalism. His definition here is significant because his response to political liberalism (and the general justificatory liberalism he here defines) challenges most directly this aspect and the way in which it is considered within these schools of thought. Eberle states that because each citizen ought to respect her compatriots, each citizen ought to pursue public justification for her favored coercive laws (11). Rawls terms this public reason and similarly requires it for his system of political liberalism to function enduringly. However, Rawls does concede that it would be permissible for citizens to

give reasons for advocating a favored coercive law (in Eberle's terms) in public discussion that come directly from one's comprehensive doctrines (of which one may be religion) but that, in due time, a public reason (one that all citizens can reasonably be expected to endorse) should be presented to make that conviction widely acceptable. Rawls does consider this presentation of a public reason to be a sign of respect for the fellow citizen, and Eberle likewise draws this out in his essential statement. Contrasting this initial description of liberalisms of which John Rawls' political liberalism is one, with its definition, some interesting discrepancies arise. Rawls says that political liberalism is a system in which people govern themselves (at times through legitimately elected officials) based on principles of justice and fairness that promote equal opportunity for success and political influence, and where differences exist, the system provides the least advantaged the greatest opportunity, provided by the most advantaged in society, and these principles are agreeable to all regardless of their many and varied reasonable comprehensive philosophical, moral, or religious doctrines (his definition of a pluralist society). This universal agreeability, called public reason by Rawls and encompassed within the justificatory aspect of Eberle's position, is, according to Rawls, necessary for the long-term stability of such a pluralist society. Eberle contends, however, that such public reasons need not be constructed in such a way as to formally garner the support of every comprehensive doctrine (esp. religious belief) held by the society's citizens. Rather, any reason at all is acceptable in the public square, granted that others can accept it as reasonable according to their own system. It suffices for Eberle, therefore, that the citizens, in governing themselves, can come to support the same governing actions, regardless of whether an individual's most compelling reason to support them actually comes from his private (or at least non-public, according to Rawls) beliefs and values (64).