I take as my starting point Eberle’s observation that ‘Respect for others requires public justification of coercion: that is the clarion call of justificatory liberalism’ (Eberle 2002: 54). Public reason liberalism ties respecting persons to justifying coercion to those being coerced: in some way, to respect others requires that one refrains from coercing them unless one can provide reasons that, in some way, are accessible to them. Of course, public reason liberals differ among themselves as to how we should understand this general requirement. They disagree, for example, about whether the set of persons to whom justification is owed is restricted (say, to the ‘reasonable’ or to those who possess moral personality), and whether the requirement that reasons be ‘accessible’ means that justification must restrict itself to those reasons which actual people can appreciate, or whether the reasons must be accessible only to idealized persons of some sort (say, those who are fully rational). Public reason liberals also have to specify the conditions under which a reason is accessible - when one thinks about it very hard? After a conversion experience? These debates are fundamental to the details of a public reason liberal theory, but at present our concern is to identify a widely shared generic version, so let us abstract as far as possible from these disagreements. I propose the following general principle as a point of departure for our discussion.
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