Religious Arguments in Political Discussion: A Theory of Public Justification

Aurelia Bardon

Religious Arguments in Political Discussion: A Theory of Public Justification
Bardon, Aurelia
Thesis Advisor(s):
Cohen, Jean L.
Donegani, Jean-Marie
Ph.D., Columbia University
Political Science
Persistent URL:
This dissertation focuses on the role of faith-based reasoning in political discussion, and more specifically on the compatibility of public religious arguments with liberal and democratic premises regarding the justification of political decisions, i.e. decisions made in the name of the state. Public justification is a requirement of legitimacy in liberal democracy: but under which conditions is a decision publicly justified? Are all arguments valid? Religious arguments are often considered with suspicion: they are particular, therefore convincing for only some citizens and rejected by others. It seems unfair, for those who do not share religious beliefs, to use these arguments to justify political decisions. The same objection, however, is also true for many other non-religious arguments, like utilitarian arguments or liberal arguments themselves. The purpose of the dissertation is to examine different strategies aiming to justify the exclusion of certain arguments, and then to offer a new model of political discussion. The claim defended is that absolutist arguments, meaning arguments that are based on the recognition of the existence of an extra-social source of normative validity, do not respect the requirements of public justification and consequently should be excluded from political discussion. The distinction between absolutist and non-absolutist arguments does not overlap with the distinction between religious and secular arguments: it thus cannot be argued that all religious arguments should always be excluded, or that they could always be included.
Political science
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Suggested Citation:
Aurelia Bardon, , Religious Arguments in Political Discussion: A Theory of Public Justification, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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