19 March 2013

Update on Concerning Conscience in the Liberal State

A few days ago I posted some comments  here on the abstract of Michael Helfand's Conscience and the Liberal State. At the time I lamented that the full text couldn't be downloaded. Thanks to a word from the author himself, the full text can be seen by going to his bepress page here and clicking on the "Link to Full Text" button.

Helfand carefully works through John Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration and his Second Treatise of Government and the leading secondary literature on the place of "religion" in the contemporary liberal polity. Helfand concludes that Locke would reject John Rawls' thesis of "overlapping consensuses" for bounding public reason, which has the effect of excluding religiously-motivated discourse from the public sphere. Indeed, Helfand concludes that "Lockean toleration does not see comprehensive doctrines as a problem." (For my thoughts about Rawls take a look at my Principled Pluralism and Contract Remedies (download here.)

I'm pleased that my initial observations have been borne out and I warmly recommend Helfand's piece.

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