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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 25, 2000

Remi Odedoyin
Pages 323-343

Overlapping Consensus
Objectivizing a Subjective Standpoint

“Justice as fairness” understood as a political conception of justice is, according to Rawls, objective. It is claimed to be objective by being autonomous from any of the conflicting reasonable comprehensive doctrines held by the citizens, and by, at the same time, being consistent with all such doctrines. There is the need to look for an object of such overlapping consensus because, according to Rawls, reasonable disagreement is inevitable in modern democratic society. And the permanence of reasonable disagreement itself is caused by what Rawls describes as the burdens of judgement. In this article, I demonstrate, against the background of Rawls’ burdens of judgement, how it could be argued that reasonable agreement is impossible. In this respect, I explore what I consider to be the resources available to Rawls to show how his point could be made. But I subsequently argue that his position in this respect can be coherent only against a background of an epistemic conception which is defective, and which goes beyond the political idea of freedom and equality which Rawls claims to be the basis of Justice as fairness. It is my contention that Rawls’ suggestion of how to handle so-called reasonable disagreement is itself no more than a contentious viewpoint which silences other contending reasonable views.

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