Weithman and public reason: Lucas Swaine (Dartmouth) reviews Paul Weithman's (Notre Dame) recently published Religion and the Obligations of Citizenship in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. I haven't yet had the opportunity to read Weithman's book, but I'm very much looking forward to it. His other contributions to debates about public reason are careful and precise (two special virtues in an area with so much mushiness), as well as uncommonly charitable to those with whom he disagrees. In the book's Introduction, Weithman says that he will defend the following two principles:
(5.1) Citizens of a liberal democracy may base their votes on reasons drawn from their comprehensive moral views, including their religious views, without having other reasons that are sufficient for their vote – provided they sincerely believe that their government would be justified in adopting the measures they vote for.
(5.2) Citizens of a liberal democracy may offer arguments in public political debate which depend upon reasons drawn from their comprehensive moral views, including their religious views, without making them good by appeal to other arguments – provided they believe that their government would be justified in adopting the measures they favor and are prepared to indicate what they think would justify the adoption of the measures.
In his review, Swaine worries that Weithman's "principles would permit voting or advocacy for unreasonable measures, in unreasonable ways, and on unreasonable grounds." I have similar concerns about the permissiveness of Weithman's principles, but I'm also interested in the sincerity constraint expressed in (5.1) and perhaps also in (5.2). I say "perhaps" because it's not clear that (5.2) imposes a sincerity constraint on public advocacy. Citizens may offer non-public reasons provided (i) they believe that government is justified in adopting whatever policy they advocate, and (ii) they are "prepared to indicate what they think would justify the adoption of the measures." They don't actually have to indicate what they think--they just have to be prepared to do so. Does this mean that citizens may offer any reasons they think will be persuasive in public advocacy--so long as they, personally, believe what they advocate is justified according to some adequate reason? Can they offer reasons they don't believe at all just to get other people to agree with them? I think any adequate account of the ethics of public advocacy will have to deal with this question. It'll be interesting to see what Weithman says in the book about the signficance of reasonableness and sincerity in public debate.