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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 18, 2002

Truth and Objectivity in Social Ethics

John R. Wright
Pages 167-181

Conflicts of Value and the Political Ideal of Citizenship
A Defense of Political Constructivism

In this paper, I take up Habermas’s recent writing on Rawls in Inclusion of the Other and focus on an example that Habermas discusses there, the Catholic stance on abortion. He brings in this example to question how such views could be rationally negotiated, under Rawls’s views of political liberalism, prior to arriving at an overlapping consensus. Habermas argues that Rawls must affirm the truth of moral constructivism in order to resolve the question of which conceptions of the good make a valid claim on us. Though I have criticisms of how both Rawls and Habermas cast the issue of abortion, I argue that through properly understanding the role of the political ideal of citizenship in Rawls’s conception of political liberalism, we can find resources to contend with the problem Habermas finds here. I defend the capacity of political constructivism to resolve this issue without affirming the truth of moral constructivism.

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