Debating Public Reason
Date : November 2011, 4th & 5th
Location : University of Poitiers
Call for papers
500 words (maximum) abstracts should be submitted via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), in French or English, by June 15, 2011. Please insert "Public Reason symposium proposal" as subject line. Along with your submission, please attach a short biography, including your contact information, selected publications, and affiliation.
The philosophical tradition has questioned the epistemological and pragmatic superiority of the public use of reason compared to its private use since Hobbes and Kant. The idea of public reason is experiencing a broad revival of interest in the practical field, including that of political praxis. Due to John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, it has become a central idea of contemporary political theory. The growing attention to the concept of public reason is connected to an attempt to refound political legitimacy and is thereby often the basis for a renewal of democratic theories. This is especially the case for deliberative democracy which can be considered to constitute a real "turning point". The impossibility for social order to refer to a transcendent foundation has led to an emphasis on public justification, bringing the legitimacy issue to the heart of the public sphere and opening a broad reflection on the elaboration of norms of justification. In this context, public reason would participate in a process of improvement of public institutions. However, can and shall it define, even as a regulative ideal, the exercise of democratic citizenship ? Debating public reason has been rendered necessary by the very characteristics of modern societies. In democracies that are essentially open and multicultural societies, public reason would allow for the coexistence of a plurality of values. The recognition of the 'fact of pluralism' is actually a key element of reflection about public reason. Would it not be eliminated however by the very modalities of its exercise ? What validity can we attribute to its underlying anthropological assumptions ? This issue is widely debated and some critics consider that public reason gives rise to a logic of exclusion. The importance given to rational argumentation would expel a large number of participants from discussion, in particular minority groups (based on gender, ethnicity, culture). Isn't it possible that, by restricting upstream public expression, the demand of consistent consensus (and not of a mere a modus vivendi) corresponds to an avoidance of conflicts under the pretext of social stability ? Similarly, the specific rationality inherent in public reason could unduly exclude other forms of rationality. What is the relevance of the criterion of distinction between public and non-public reasons ? Should we, among other things, accommodate a place for emotions in the process of justification ? The question of appealing to alternative discursive models then challenges the understanding of public reason, especially in its procedural dimension. To what extent the ideal of public reason could be transformed and can it actually incorporate the criticisms raised ?
The objective of the symposium is to better grasp the various stakes involved in the idea of public reason and determine to what extent it can constitute an operational tool. Some points of reflection emerge which are not restrictive :
Public Reason and the conceptions of the good
Procedural rationality and public reason modalities
Public Reason and social conflict
This international symposium addresses primarily to Phd students and post-doctoral researchers. The program consists of two days, with an introduction and a conclusion made by a senior researcher during a one hour intervention. Each senior researcher will have the task of supervising one panel in which the young researchers will speak, and to initiate discussion. Three panels of one and a half hour each will take place in each day. Each panel will permit to two or three young researchers to make a presentation of twenty minutes.
We are planning to organize a publication of these interventions.
Organizing Committee :
Pauline Colonna d'Istria, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
Naël Desaldeleer, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
Jean Nestor, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
Thierry Ngosso, Phd Student, Université Catholique de Louvain, chaire Hoover
Cédric Rio, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
Scientific Committee :
Catherine Audard, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Alain Caillé, Professor, Université Paris X Nanterre, France
Sophie Guérard de Latour, Lecturer, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
Roberto Merrill, Research Fellow, Université de Braga, Portugal
Hervé Pourtois, Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgique
Patrick Savidan, Professor, Université de Poitiers, France
Etienne Tassin, Professor, Université Paris VII – Denis Diderot
How to get there
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This symposium is organized in the frame of the CRHIA of the Poitiers University, with the help of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société of Poitiers. In partnership with the Hoover chair of Université Catholique de Louvain.
Researcher in political philosophy at CEHUM, Portugal
Homepage : http://sites.google.com/site/nrbmerrill/