von Rautenfeld 2004 - charitable interpretations

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http://ptx.sagepub.com/ Political Theory http://ptx.sagepub.com/content/32/1/61 The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0090591703252160 2004 32: 61 Political Theory Hans von Rautenfeld Charitable Interpretations : Emerson, Rawls, and Cavell on the Use of Public Reason Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com can be found at: Political Theory Additional services and information for http://ptx.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts: http://ptx.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: at NEW YORK UNIV LAW LIBRARY on January 26, 2011 ptx.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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10.1177/0090591703252160 ARTICLE POLITICAL THEORY / February 2004 von Rautenfeld / CHARITABLE INTERPRETATIONS EMERSON'S LEGACY FOR LIBERAL THOUGHT CHARITABLE INTERPRETATIONS Emerson, Rawls, and Cavell on the Use of Public Reason HANS VON RAUTENFELD University of South Carolina John Rawls offers an account of public reason that argues that comprehensive doctrines are admissible into public deliberations of fundamental political matters only when they are used to say things that can also be said on the basis of the noncomprehensive liberal political values of freedom and equality. This essay argues that elements of comprehensive doctrines ought to be allowed into public reason even when those elements cannot be translated into the terms of lib- eral political values. It draws on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s conception of communication among citizens andStanley Cavell’s interpretationofEmersonianmoralperfectionismtodevelopacon- ception of public reason that allows a greater range of views held by citizens to play a legitimate role in democratic deliberations. An Emersonian conception of liberal democracy differs from Rawls’s inthatit more explicitlyviews thedemocraticcommunityas activelyengagedincontinu- ally revising and perfecting the liberal political values of freedom and equality. Keywords: John Rawls; Stanley Cavell; R. W. Emerson; public sphere; public reason; civil society T o what extent can a liberal democracy accommodate political arguments based on religious, philosophical, or moral comprehensive doctrines? To what extent can those who affirm such comprehensive doctrines “hold a rea- sonable political conception of justice that supports a constitutional demo- cratic society?” 1 In Political Liberalism , and again in “The Idea of Public 61 AUTHOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this essay was presented at the 2002annualmeeting of the Western Political Science Association. I am grateful to Laurie E. Naranch, Gary Shiffman, Tracy B. Strong, Stephen K. White, and two anonymous readers for this journal for their helpful comments and questions. POLITICAL THEORY, Vol. 32 No. 1, February 2004 61-84 DOI: 10.1177/0090591703252160 © 2004 Sage Publications at NEW YORK UNIV LAW LIBRARY on January 26, 2011 ptx.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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Reason Revisited,” Rawls offers an account of public reason that seeks to answer these questions. He argues that comprehensive doctrines are admissi-
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