Exploring tradeoffs in accommodating moral diversity
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This paper explores the space of possibilities for public justification in morally diverse communities. Moral diversity is far more consequential than is typically appreciated, and as a result, we need to think more carefully about how our standard tools function in such environments. I argue that because of this diversity, public justification can (and should) be divorced from any claim of determinateness. Instead, we should focus our attention on procedures—in particular, what Rawls called cases of pure procedural justice. I use a modified form of the procedure “I cut, you choose” to demonstrate how perspectival diversity can make what looks like a simple procedure quite complex in practice. I use this to reframe disputes between classical liberal and contemporary liberal approaches to questions of public morality, arguing that classically liberal procedures, such as a reliance on the harm principle, can generate rather illiberal-looking outcomes when used in a morally diverse community. A seemingly less-principled approach, which simply balances burdens, appears to generate outcomes that look closer to what we would expect from classical liberalism. However, since both approaches are based on pure procedures that we can justify without reference to outcomes, it remains indeterminate which we ought to choose.
KeywordsDiversity Proceduralism Public morality Public reason Universalism Justification
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