Private Consciences and Public Reasons


Private Consciences and Public Reasons



Within democratic societies, a deep division exists over the nature of community and the grounds for political life. Should the political order be neutral between competing conceptions of the good life or should it be based on some such conception? This book addresses one crucial set of problems raised by this division: What bases should officials and citizens employ in reaching political decisions and justifying their positions? Should they feel free to rely on whatever grounds seem otherwise persuasive to them, like religious convictions, or should they restrict themselves to "public reasons," reasons that are shared within the society or arise from the premises of liberal democracy? Kent Greenawalt argues that fundamental premises of liberal democracy alone do not provides answers to these questions, that much depends on historical and cultural contexts. After examining past and current practices and attitudes in the United States, he offers concrete suggestions for appropriate principles relevant to American society today. This incisive and timely analysis by one of our leading legal philosophers should attract a wide and diverse readership of scholars, practitioners, and concerned citizens.



Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York, NY


"Comprehensive, thought-provoking, and well worth reading."

"This fine book represents and advances the current state of the debate. It is essential reading for all who are interested in questions about religious political argument in contemporary liberal democracies."
Paul J. Weithman, University of Notre Dame

"Essential reading for all who want to struggle with the question of religion in politics."
Michael J. Perry, Howard J. Trienens Chair in Law, Northwestern University

"Its engaging narrative and far-reaching argumentation make it an indispensable resource for political and legal theorists, social critics, journalists, and many others."
Robert Audi, University of Nebraska

"This book is a masterpiece of thoughtful and penetrating analysis by the leading scholar in the field.... Clergy, public officials, and lay readers will be especially impressed by the clarity and sensitivity of his arguments."
Edward B. Foley, Ohio State University


Arts and Humanities | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy | Political Science | Political Theory | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Private Consciences and Public Reasons

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