Public Reason and Political Critique: Toward a Kantian Reading of Rawls' Political Liberalism
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This thesis presents and defends a newly Kantian understanding of John Rawls’ political thought. Focusing on his doctrine of public reason and his view of political justification more generally, I offer a reading of Rawls’ work that emphasizes some crucial, yet unappreciated connections to Kant’s critical project. After providing an overview of Kant’s account of reason, an exposition of Rawls’ work, and considering some epistemic objections against Rawls’ view of political justification, I argue that embedded within Rawls’ doctrine of public reason is a political adaptation of Kant’s notion of critique. I define and develop the idea of ‘political critique’ as a vital component to Rawls’ view of public reasoning, his definition of reasonable persons, and the capacity of citizens to abide by public norms of justification. In short, I advance an interpretation of Rawlsian public reason as both deeply indebted to and emboldened by its Kantian lineage.