True Colors: Public and Deliberative Reasoning

  • Fred M. Frohock


In part because of the distinct standing of sacred texts religious communities are probably the acid test for the regulatory powers of the liberal state. One might even argue that it is in addressing religious doctrines that the deficiencies of the liberal model are most pronounced. Liberal theorists are often so troubled by religion that they require revisions in religious beliefs as a condition for their access to the conceptual domains of public reason. The unease clouds both interpretive sides of religion. On one side there is a tendency in the harsher liberal views to underestimate the possibilities of styles of reasoning (not values) common to both religion and the secular democratic state. Ronald Thiemann has presented a list of ingredients in the critical reasoning of public discourse that can be shared with religion, including publicity, the intersection of the religious norms of fairness and concern for the vulnerable with secular norms of equality and mutual respect, and the accommodation strategies that can house secular values of tolerance and mutual respect, a conceptual package that conflicts with more sectarian approaches in religion but still count as religious indicators.1 Religion has always had (though not universally) its own critical discourses, represented, for example, in the argumentative styles of Jesuit traditions (which include Aquinas’s proofs of God from observation and argument), and the recent public efforts of religious figures to influence political policies with arguments and evidence, as, for example, in opposition to war, support of social programs for the poor, and so on.


Religious Belief Religious Community Liberal Democracy Capability Approach Public Reason 
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© Fred M. Frohock 2006

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  • Fred M. Frohock

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