Res Publica

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 119–125 | Cite as

Conjecture and the Division of Justificatory Labour: A Comment on Clayton and Stevens

  • Baldwin WongEmail author


Clayton and Stevens (Res Publica 20: 65–84, 2014) argue that political liberals should engage with the religiously unreasonable by offering religious responses and showing that their religious views are mistaken, instead of refusing to engage with them. Yet they recognize that political liberals will face a dilemma due to such religious responses: either their responses will alienate certain reasonable citizens, or their engagements will appear disingenuous. Thus, there should be a division of justificatory labour. The duty of engagement should be delegated to religious citizens. In this comment, I will argue that the division of justificatory labour is indefensible. This dilemma can be avoided if politicians and political philosophers correctly use conjecture, a form of discourse that involves non-public reason. As a conditional response, conjecture avoids alienating any reasonable citizens. Also, if conjecture is given in a sincere and open-minded manner, then the problem of disingenuousness can be overcome. My comment concludes that while the engagement of politicians and political philosophers does not necessarily jeopardize overlapping consensus, they should be permitted, or perhaps even required, to engage with the religiously unreasonable due to the natural duty of justice.


Rawls Political liberalism Religion Disobedience Conjecture Division of justificatory labour 



I would like to thank Joseph Chan, Chandran Kukathas, Albert Weale and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.General Education Foundation ProgramThe Chinese University, Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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