The Sociality of Conscience and Rawls’s Liberalism

Part of the Boston Studies in Philosophy, Religion and Public Life book series (BSPR, volume 6)


To what extent is individual conscience social in character? Anti-individualist critics have taken issue with the individualistic account of conscience that they find prominent in liberalism. I consider Rawls’s accounts of conscience and the liberty of conscience with a view to understanding the role that sociality might play in the formation and significance of conscience. I defend Rawls against these anti-individualist critics. However, I demonstrate that Rawls’s account of conscience remains bound to a specific metaphysics of the person that is at odds with the anti-foundationalist aims of political liberalism. I argue that, in place of this metaphysics, liberals should adopt a social ontology of the self.


  1. Brandom RB (1994) Making it explicit: reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Howard J (2014) Conscience in moral life: rethinking how our convictions structure self and society. Rowman & Littlefield, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Ikäheimo H, Laitinen A (2011) Recognition and social ontology. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  4. Israel JI (2000) Spinoza, Locke, and the enlightenment battle for toleration. In: Grell OP, Porter R (eds) Toleration in enlightenment Europe. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Kukla R, Lance M (2009) ‘Yo!’ and ‘Lo!’: the pragmatic topography of the space of reasons. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Leiter B (2013) Why tolerate religion? Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  7. Locke J (1990) A letter concerning toleration. Prometheus Books, AmherstGoogle Scholar
  8. Nussbaum M (2008) Liberty of conscience. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Pippin RB (1999) Modernism as a philosophical problem. Blackwell, MaldenGoogle Scholar
  10. Rawls J (1971) A theory of justice. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Rawls J (2000) Lectures on the history of moral philosophy. Herman B (ed). Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Rawls J (2005) Political liberalism. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Searle JR (1995) The construction of social reality. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Sorabji R (2014) Conscience through the ages. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Spinoza B (1951) Theologico-political treatise. In: R. H. M. Elwes (trans) The chief works of Spinoza, vol 1. Dover, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Taylor C (1979) Hegel and modern society. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Vischer RK (2010) Conscience and the common good. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Xavier UniversityCincinnatiUSA

Personalised recommendations