Public Reason Is Not Self-Defeating
by Kevin Vallier
Steven Wall has two compelling arguments for what I shall call public reason liberalism's reflexivity
requirement (RR). The political concerns to (i) reconcile persons who hold diverse moral views,
and (ii) to avoid authoritarianism in politics not only require the public justification of coercion but
the public justification of the standard used to determine when coercion is publicly justified. The
reflexivity requirement is said to entail that public reason is self-defeating.
Once RR is correctly formulated, however, cases of self-defeat will be rare, as citizens seldom
employ public justification requirements as reasons. When they do, such requirements are rarely
their sole reason for supporting political coercion. A properly formulated reflexivity requirement,
therefore, does not imply self-defeat. It also allows for a more ecumenical understanding that establish
the processes of public justification.