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  • Author: Joseph Rivera x
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Liberal Citizenship and the Hermeneutics of Public Dialogue: A Rawlsian Perspective


Focusing on the topic of public dialogue between religiously theistic, quasi-religious, atheistic, and non-religious citizens in a liberal democracy, this paper develops a practical strategy of dialogue in the wake of Rawls’ Political Liberalism (1993). To set the stage for a rereading of Rawls, the chief points of liberal citizenship are outlined in critical dialogue with recent literature that urges citizens to abandon liberalism. While metaphysics, religious norms, and moral visions of the good are not bracketed by liberal regimes, it is true that liberal states nonetheless attempt to remain neutral in matters of religion and worship. This may yield many worldviews incommensurable with each other. Liberalism, then, as a political order, involves a pluralism of worldviews, some religious and some not. A hermeneutics of public dialogue can enable citizens to be reconciled with, rather than escape, the pluralism born of liberalism. I suggest the point of departure for such a hermeneutic lies in the vocabulary of Rawlsian “overlapping consensus.” Reconsidered in this light, overlapping consensus can open up the prospect of dialogue among citizenry in the public square in a manner that facilitates agreement and cooperation. This is due to the fact that overlapping consensus contrasts with the idea that when one converges on a policy, one must always do so for the same reason or theoretical justification. The paper concludes with the structure of a four-way dialogue that may result from the application of this hermeneutic.

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