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Against Public Reason Liberalism's Accessibility Requirement

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Public reason liberals typically defend an accessibility requirement for reasons offered in public political dialog. The accessibility requirement holds that public reasons must be amenable to criticism, evaluable by reasonable persons, and the like. Public reason liberals are therefore hostile to the public use of reasons that appear inaccessible, especially religious reasons. This hostility has provoked strong reactions from public reason liberalism's religion-friendly critics. But public reason liberals and their religion-friendly critics need not be at odds because the accessibility requirement is implausible. In fact, the accessibility requirement is ambiguous between two interpretations, one of which is too stringent and the other too loose. Depending upon the interpretation, accessibility either restricts the use of too many secular reasons or permits appeal to a wide range of religious reasons. The accessibility requirement should therefore be rejected.

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