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Adam Gjesdal

Abstract

Political liberalism views a public policy as justified when reasonable citizens subject to it have sufficient reasons to endorse it. But this endorsement condition does not specify how reasonable citizens in democracies are to exercise their equal say in deciding which policies to support prior to enactment. Citizens may regard many policy options as reasonable but only one as truly just. The dominant view among political liberals, which I call agnosticism, takes no stand on how citizens ought to rank these reasonable alternatives to determine which to support. Agnostics see all criteria for comparing reasonable policies as on a par, whether they be theories of justice or coin flips. I show how Quong’s (2011) analysis of reasonableness leads to agnosticism. I then develop the pluralist alternative, which holds that citizens should support the reasonable policy they regard as most just. What I call pluralism sees multiple conceptions of justice as correct, or “most reasonable.” I show that pluralism offers a compelling alternative to agnosticism in that it can both make sense of an individual citizen’s duty to support what they regard as just policy and respect the fact that citizens reasonably disagree about what the most just policy is.

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