In Defense of Moderate Inclusivism: Revisiting Rawls and Habermas on Religion in the Public Sphere
The paper discusses Rawls’ and Habermas’ theories of deliberative democracy, focusing on the question of religious reasons in political discourse. Whereas Rawls as well as Habermas defend a fully inclusivist position on the use of religious reasons in the ‘background culture’ (Rawls) or ‘informal public sphere’ (Habermas), we defend a moderately inclusivist position. Moderate inclusivism welcomes religiously inspired contributions to public debate, but it also makes normative demands on public argumentation beyond the ‘public forum’ (Rawls) or ‘formal public sphere’ (Habermas). In particular, moderate inclusivism implies what we call a ‘conversational translation proviso’ according to which citizens have a duty to supplement religious with proper political arguments if – but only if – they are asked to do so by their co-discussants. This position, we argue, is more in line with the deeper intuitions behind Rawls’ political liberalism and Habermas’ deliberative model than is the fully inclusivist alternative.
Keywords: conversational translation proviso, deliberative democracy, ethics of citizenship, Habermas, moderate inclusivism, public reason, Rawls