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Political LegitimacyNOMOS LXI$
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Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479888696

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479888696.001.0001

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Political Legitimacy Under Epistemic Constraints

Political Legitimacy Under Epistemic Constraints

Why Public Reasons Matter

(p.147) 5 Political Legitimacy Under Epistemic Constraints
Political Legitimacy

Fabienne Peter

NYU Press

The aim of this chapter is to provide an epistemological argument for why public reasons matter for political legitimacy. A key feature of the public reason conception of legitimacy is that political decisions must be justified to the citizens. They must be justified in terms of reasons that are either shared qua reasons or that, while not shared qua reasons, support the same political decision. Call the relevant reasons public reasons. Critics of the public reason conception, by contrast, argue that political legitimacy requires justification simpliciter—political decisions must be justified in terms of the reasons that apply. Call the relevant reasons objective reasons. The debate between defenders and critics of a public reason conception of political legitimacy thus focuses on whether objective reasons or public reasons are the right basis for the justification of political decisions. I will grant to critics of a public reason conception that there are objective reasons and allow that such reasons can affect the legitimacy of political decisions. But I will show, focusing on the epistemic circumstances of political decision-making, that it does not follow that the justification of those decisions is necessarily in terms of those reasons.

Keywords:   political legitimacy, public reason, political epistemology

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