moral address vs. access-to-reasons approaches to a “justify to” necessary condition on state legitimacy

My recent presentation at the NASSP annual conference, “Justifying-To As Moral Address,” I distinguished between “access to reasons” and “moral address” views of a general sort of necessary condition for state legitimacy (or permission to coerce).  In the presentation, I interpreted Bernard Williams’ view of state legitimacy as a version of the second view. And also argued that there are reasons to think that the moral-address-focused approach, while distinctive, needs to appeal to a reasons-access condition in order to get its permission-generating work done.

I find the following striking in characterizing the justifying-to approach (definitive, supposedly, of public reason theorists) as simply a condition of reasons (or access to reasons):

“Some political philosophers and theorists place a requirement of public justification on the permissible use of state coercion or political power. According to these theorists the recognition of citizens as free and equal moral persons requires that coercion be justified for or to others by their own lights, or with reasons that they could recognize as valid. On this view, a public justification is achieved when members of the relevant public have adequate or sufficient reason to endorse a particular coercive proposal, law or policy. [from section 1 of SEP entry, “Public Justification,” Vallier & Zalta]

… The family of public reason liberal political theories… can be categorized in accord with a master principle, the Public Justification Principle (PJP)…

A coercive law L is justified in a public P if and only if each member i of P has sufficient reason(s) Ri to endorse L.

… The justification is “public” because it is a justification that encompasses a public, though it does so severally and individually. It is not necessarily public in another important sense, i.e., the kind of publicity associated with common knowledge. So an individual’s reason is Ri need not be commonly known to others who are members of the same public P…”  [from section 2 of the same SEP entry] 

Just a little commentary and interpretation, then two substantive points.

[interpretation] I take the relevant conclusion here to be the practical (or practical-attitude) conclusion of the coercee endorsing L (including its coercive imposition on some group of people that includes oneself).  However, to make my points below, I’ll switch from endorsement to acceptance — the reasons for this will become obvious.  On any version of PJP, it would be an additional thing to add that the reasons to accept L need to be presented by the state (or anyone).  What matters is simply that each person under the power of the state has sufficient reason to accept L. So PJP interprets all public reason approaches as having the necessary condition to be a condition (of or in the coercee) of reasons or access to reasons.  I’m not that concerned about what views count as public reason views (if one rules out a substantial amount of belief and ignorance as unreasonable — and hence not in need of address for achieving reasonable acceptance — what we get might not look much like a public reason view of state legitimacy; as Williams’ view of state legitimacy does not look much like Rawls’).  I’m interested in the narrow issue of what a broadly justify-to type of necessary condition on state legitimacy might be.

[1]  The intuition behind PJP (or more generically a justify-to necessary condition on state legitimacy) seems to be something like this:  obtaining actual (and reasonable-enough) consent (to coerce) being impractical, but certain collective ends being achievable only via state coercion, the way, or main way, for the state to respect the agency, reasoning and interests of those under its coercive power is to restrict its coercive power to those coercive elements that each under its power has sufficient reason to accept.  (This condition strikes me as more necessary and sufficient than simply necessary — or at least as fully specifying one way of generating state legitimacy — but we can consider it simply as a necessary condition.)  By contrast, one might focus on the condition of a coercer (e.g., the state) engaging in reason-giving behavior that exhibits and communicates adequate moral address or benign intent (so that the coercee has sufficient reason to interpret the coercion as something other than domination or some other form of abuse or exploitation).  Arguably, something like this is Bernard Williams’ focus in his essay “Realism and Moralism” (my jumping-off point for the presentation). Such a condition is most plausibly construed as a minimal necessary condition for state coercion to be permissible (or for one mechanism of permissibility generation to do its work).  Minimal in that quite a lot more would be required to specify the mechanism of permission-generation (and hence the sufficiency).  (As Williams’ essay makes evident, it does not seem that the essential content of adequate moral address needs to involve the regarding of all people or all citizens as “free and equal” in anything like the sense that one would associate with liberalism historically (or with any more specific sense of this phrase associated with the public reason or political liberal approach to liberalism).)

[2] On either sort of view, I suspect that the right way to generate permissible coercion runs through the acceptability of the coercion to each relevant coercee.  The basic meta-ethics-y, conceptual point here is this:  plausibly, X’s coercing Y via PHI-ing being acceptable to Y (i.e., it being something that Y has sufficient reason to accept) is sufficient for X’s PHI-ing (with respect to Y) being permissible.  (That might not be quite right.  But something in this ballpark. And to get a general permission to PHI, we would need to specify the relevant group and relevant reasons for accepting the coercion of self or others such that the several acceptability is unified or non-accidental in some way.)  On this kind of picture, (adequate, genuine) moral address by the coercer might be necessary, in an empirical real-world sense, in order for the coercion to be permissible because (a) without solid knowledge that an act of coercion is not mere domination or other form of abuse, the coercee would not have sufficient reason to accept the coercion and (b) the most reliable way to obtain this information is via relevant reasons-giving behavior of the coercer.  Such moral address might be communicated via the sincere presentation of any number of reasons favoring the coercee accepting the coercion (“look, this is necessary to achieve something really important for everyone concerned, including you,” “look, this is something you should already want to do or contribute toward,” “look, the likely cost to you here is just not so high,” etc.;  nothing sophisticated is required and neither is anything like an airtight case favoring acceptance).  However, the basic mechanism for generating permissibility would be via the action being acceptable for each relevant party (relative to her background beliefs and values, at least if they are reasonable enough — something that public reason theorists and their critics get quite a bit of mileage out of). In this way and for these reasons, I think theorists who are focused on (adequate, genuine) moral address as the important justify-to type of necessary condition for state legitimacy should see moral address as operating through the more general reasons-access condition implicit in acceptability or reasonable acceptance.

Does my distinction in different possible “justify-to” necessary conditions for state legitimacy or permission to coerce seem clear and on-point (abstracting from what exactly is definitive of being a public reason liberal)?  Does it seem plausible (due to an acceptability-to-permissibility connection or for other reasons) that a moral address necessary condition would operate through a reasons-access-related mechanism of generating normative permission?  (Bonus question:  does the sort of connection between acceptability and permissibility outlined seem like a promising way of generating permissibility via something like hypothetical consent or reasons that would support this (noting that no reference to the normative powers of actual consent, agreement, asking-then-getting-permission, etc. is made)?)

5 thoughts on “moral address vs. access-to-reasons approaches to a “justify to” necessary condition on state legitimacy

  1. I’ll take a stab at the first two questions in your final paragraph. Let’s see if I understand what’s happening.

    There are two kinds of justify-to conditions, or two ways to think about justify-to conditions on legitimacy:

    i. x may legitimately coerce y to φ only if y has sufficient reason to φ (independently of the coercion, threats, etc.)
    ii. x may legitimately coerce y to φ only if x first engages in reason-giving behavior that exhibits adequate moral address or benign intent.

    Now, I take it that (ii) without (i) would be unacceptable, precisely because it doesn’t include (i). Suppose for the sake of argument that early term abortion is morally permissible, and Janet believes that it is. Janet’s government passes laws prohibiting early term abortions, and so coerces her not to have an abortion. If we take (ii) without (i), the government’s prohibition of abortion will be legitimate so long as the government or its agents try to persuade Janet not to have an abortion and offer her what they take to be decisive reasons against it. But ex hypothesi, they’re mistaken; they’re in fact coercing her to do what she has good reason not to do, if she so chooses. I’d imagine this can’t be the sort of result that any proponent of a justify-to requirement wants.

    Of course, (ii) doesn’t state sufficient conditions, only a necessary condition. But for a justify-to requirement, (ii) needs not only some extra conditions, but the extra condition stated in (i). Yet — and here’s the main point — one might think that we need both (i) and (ii) without thinking that (ii) has to operate through (i). I’m not sure I fully understand what you have in mind by the moral address requirement operating through the acceptable reason requirement. If what that means is that the acceptable reason requirement explains the moral address requirement — (ii) holds because without it (i) cannot be satisfied, since if (ii) is not satisfied y cannot know that the coercion is not domination or abuse, and hence cannot have sufficient reason to accept it — then it makes sense. It seems plausible, though, to think that (ii) has grounds independent of helping people to see that (i) is met. Striving to meet (ii) when possible is plausibly just part of what it is to treat someone as free and equal, maybe just part of what it is to treat her fully as a person. (ii) needs (i), but it doesn’t seem that it must depend explanatorily on (i).

    Perhaps the more interesting question is whether (i) needs (ii).

    I’m wondering about (i) itself, though, much in the way I’ve wondered about it before. It is one thing to say, as I think we all have to say, that one cannot legitimately be coerced to do what one does not have sufficient reason to do, or has sufficient reason not to do. It is another thing, and not one that I am inclined to accept, that one cannot legitimately be coerced to do what one has sufficient reason to do when one cannot ‘access’ the reasons. It’s unclear to me what sort of constraint that is supposed to be anyway, since the proponent of this sort of requirement, as you present him, doesn’t think it has to be met for people whose views are too unreasonable or whatever. That seems like a way of rejecting the access requirement. But if we reject the access requirement, then (i), and even the combination of (i) and (ii), does not distinguish public reason liberalism from its perfectionist rivals, liberal and anti-liberal. My perpetual objections return.

    A problem that I don’t think I’ve noticed before, though, is with all this talk about ‘sufficient’ reasons. Why should we take seriously the suggestion that y’s having a sufficient reason to φ is anywhere close to a sufficient condition for the legitimacy of coercing y to φ? Vallier’s formulation above is narrower, since it is about sufficient reason to endorse a law, not sufficient reason to do what the law requires. But if we’re thinking about what the law requires, it seems wild to think that so long as I have a sufficient reason to do that, the law is legitimate. I take it that you and I would have sufficient reason to choose to donate 1/3 of our income to famine relief. But we also, I take it, have sufficient reason to choose not to donate 1/3 of our income to famine relief. (Of course details about circumstances might make one or both of these false, but they certainly could both be true of us). But a law requiring us to donate 1/3 of our income to famine relief would not be legitimate precisely because we could reasonably choose not to do it. The least controversially legitimate laws are not like that: the law prohibits murder, rape, assault, but none of those is something that I could reasonably choose to do. Obviously the reasonableness of some things prohibited by law is more sensitive to circumstances, which is one reason it can be hard to make good laws, and one role for law is to settle what will be unreasonable among options that are antecedently eligible. But surely the requirement for legitimacy can’t be stated in terms of sufficient reasons to do what the law requires. It’s got to be stronger than that, at least if it’s going to be more than a fairly trivial necessary condition.

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  2. Thanks for the reply, David. I’ll respond piecemeal. Not sure to what extent we are on the same page.

    (1) What the coercee might have sufficient reason to do is *accept* the coercive act by the coercer — not do the thing that the coercer would coerce her into doing. So the coercee having sufficient reason to do what the coercer would coerce her into doing is just not on the table (maybe I was not sufficiently clear on this point). So I take your (i) and (ii) to be off a bit from the two conditions that I was trying to address. But I take that it is easy to correct that (reasons for/against PHI-ing go to reasons for/against my accepting the state coercing me into PHI-ing).

    (2) But yeah (ii*) without (i*) would be insufficient for permissible coercion (or even coercion that would be acceptable to the coercee) — even if (ii*) on its own is sufficient (or nearly so) for the coercion being permissible. If the state coerces someone to do something that they do not have sufficient reason to do (e.g., having the abortion), the state giving a bunch of reasons favoring the coercee’s acceptance of the coercive act (e.g., threatening jail if she doesn’t comply), even if it does communicate adequate moral address, does not suffice for the coercee having sufficient reason to *accept* the coercive act (regardless of the balance of reasons for or against the coercee doing the thing she would be coerced to do). (ii*) does not need (i*).

    (3) Yes, part of the thought is that (i*) needs (ii*): without knowing that coercion is performed with the right intent, there is a good chance that the coercion is simply domination, abuse, etc. and this, plausibly, makes it such that one does not have sufficient reason to *accept* the coercive act. However, again, this does not speak to whether the coercee has sufficient reason to do the thing she would be coerced into doing by the coercive act.

    (4) Suppose, though, that X has reason to accept some coercive state action (say, to wait some period before getting an abortion, in order to be presented with relevant information and make an informed decision) but thinks she does not. She lacks access to relevant reasons, has some false beliefs, etc. (but not in a way that is too unreasonable or irrational). The idea behind, to some extent, “taking people as they are” in terms of their reasons for or against accepting some coercive act or regime (or other actions of the state or others) is that this is required to respect their agency, rationality, interests, etc. (and one has strong reason to respect others in these ways). This general idea seems uncontroversial to me. For we can adjust the “reasonableness dial” to take people more as they are or less as they are (with respect to reasons to accept coercive things that others or the state might do).
    Certainly some of these settings will be indefensible (lead to anarchy or perhaps parents being prohibited from coercively controlling their children). But there are settings that make sense, right? And this is a way to at least formally meet your perpetual objections to public reason accounts of legitimacy.

    (Of course, we have to justify some non-crazy setting for the “reasonableness dial.” That does not strike me as a super-hard task, but it is not a task that I was trying to accomplish. I did not mean to address this issue at all in my post, though of course it is central to the tenor of the public reason approach. However, since the “reasonableness dial” has an extreme “know all the relevant facts or you are irrational/unreasonable” setting, having a justify-to condition is independent of the degree to which false, incorrect or moderately irrational or unreasonable background beliefs and values need to be addressed or satisfied for the relevant kind of reasonable acceptability to each and all to be achieved.)

    (5) It occurs to me that perhaps we are thinking of reason-access requirements differently. I am using it in a very general way that allows for reasons that are relevant facts to be accessible to an agent via their being obvious enough, common knowledge, etc. (e.g., one would be irrational or unreasonable not to acknowledge that P for some values of P). I don’t think of access to a reason (whether good or bad, relevant or spurious) in terms of having subjective representations or values (or even in terms of having rational or reasonable enough subjective representations or values, though this will be an important part of the rationality and reasonableness story).

    (6) I agree with your points at the end about having sufficient reason to PHI not being at all sufficient for the government to legitimately coerce one to PHI. But is the same true for having sufficient reason to *accept* the government coercing one into PHI-ing? To be sure, there seem to be defeating conditions (or conditions in which, if permission is generated, it is generated in a different way). For example, if the reasons for and against rejecting/accepting the coercion do not skew strongly in one direction, then actual acceptance would seem to do the normative work. (This would work like actual and hypothetical explicit agreement.) This does, however, suggest that ‘sufficient reason to accept (by the reasonable-enough lights of the person who would accept)’ be replaced by ‘decisive reason to accept (by the reasonable-enough lights of the person who would accept)’ or something like this. I’m not sure this is quite right, but our intuitions about when actual acceptance does and does not do the relevant permission-generating work tell us that the reasons for/against acceptance normally do not do this work when the reasons for/against acceptance are anywhere close to equally-balanced. I suspect that the full, explanatorily deep story is not captured, though, by simply switching from ‘sufficient’ to ‘decisive’. But yes, thanks, this is a good point to think more about.


    • Ok, I see where I misunderstood, I think. Precision about just exactly what it is that we’re supposed to have reasons for, and just what strength of reasons we’re supposed to have, is helpful.

      I’m puzzled, though, over whether there’s really much to the distinction between having a decisive reason to φ and having a reason (sufficient, decisive, reasonable-enough) to accept the government compelling one to φ. Suppose I do not have a decisive reason to give a portion of my income to a local hospital; I have a sufficient reason to do it, but I also have sufficient reasons not to do it. How exactly are we supposed to get from here to my having a good reason to accept government compulsion to give a portion of my income to the hospital? One thought might be: well, law can create obligations, not simply enforce antecedent ones; so we might pass a law taxing incomes to support the local hospital, and since it’s a law it would be backed by threat of coercion; the legitimacy of this law doesn’t require that we have decisive reason to do as it commands before it commands it, but only that the reasons to accept it as a law (and hence as backed by threat of coercion) be good enough prior to its being a law. Since I’m inclined to accept that law can create obligations, that sort of move might make sense. But I doubt that it really works unless it somehow hooks up the act that the law requires — giving a portion of my income to the hospital — with something that I do already have decisive reason to do. Perhaps what I have already have decisive reason to do is support the common good of my community, of which a well functioning hospital is plainly a part, and the law gives me an obligation to give some of my income to the hospital by settling on that as a way that we can effectively and efficiently meet our pre-existing obligation. Obviously the devil is in the details, but the details aren’t what concern me right now. On this sort of story, we can end up with what your account is suggesting — good reason (maybe decisive, maybe not) to accept a coercively backed law that requires us to do something that we did not previously have decisive reason to do. But it seems to me that we get this, if we do, only on the condition that the law makes the action one that we have decisive reason to do, and that otherwise the coercion isn’t justified. Otherwise put, the law gets its legitimacy in this case from its authority, where its authority is its giving us decisive reason to do something that we would otherwise not have decisive reason to do. We don’t strictly need authority for legitimacy; the law doesn’t give me a decisive reason not to murder people, but the law prohibiting murder is legitimate. But it does seem to me that law needs authority if it is going to have legitimacy when what it requires is not something that we have antecedent decisive reason not to do.

      I think I might just reject your 4 as a general principle. But I think I might still not understand how you’re understanding accessibility. Your example suggests that a person who is not suffering from some serious cognitive dysfunction can nonetheless lack access to (hypothetically) real reasons in favor of, say, a waiting period for abortions. That suggests to me that the person just has beliefs that allow her to reject the waiting period without blatantly contradicting himself. But I don’t why a law requiring such a person to endure the waiting period would thereby fail to respect her agency (again, we’re assuming for the sake of argument that the waiting period is adequately justified). When something is important enough to be required by law, part of what is important is that it get done. But law, (almost) by its mere existence, can also function as a way in which people come to appreciate the reasons as well as do the thing that needs to get done.

      To take an example that might serve its purpose more effectively for being less doubtfully justified: sexual assault laws are vague and vary by state, but the General Military Law makes it fairly clear that grabbing someone’s ass for pleasure when he has told you not to do it counts as aggravated sexual contact. Now, grabbing someone’s ass for pleasure when he has told you not to do it is, we can probably agree, pretty clearly something that we all have decisive reason not to do (barring some very weird circumstances that I’m sure particularists could cook up). But I wouldn’t have to walk very far on an average day to find a decent number of people who would disagree on the grounds that it’s really not so serious, maybe obnoxious or inappropriate but certainly not worthy of being treated as a criminal offense, maybe even just how guys are, especially if it was at a club or there was drinking or whatever. It doesn’t strike me as even the shadow of a reasonable thought that I should oppose a law like this on the grounds that it fails to respect the agency of people who disagree with it. I’d support that law insofar as it helps to ensure that not-grabbing-people’s-asses-against-their-will happens, but I also think that the law stands a good chance of playing a role in helping people to understand that they shouldn’t be grabbing people’s asses for fun against their will. Obviously there’s no guarantee that the law will play that educative or norm-endorsing function, but it seems to me that laws often do have that sort of effect or at least can if the general system of laws is decent and earns people’s respect (perhaps that’s not the case for us; if so, that seems like an intrinsic defect in the law).

      Now one response that you might already have in mind is that in cases like these the reasons are perfectly accessible. But if these reasons count as accessible, despite widespread rejection of them or efforts to rationalize contrary conclusions, then what kinds of reasons, exactly, aren’t accessible? The traditional paradigm seems to be reasons that belong peculiarly to some or other “comprehensive doctrine,” and the traditional paradigm for a comprehensive doctrine is a revealed religion. I’ve no objections to treating the doctrines of revealed religions as off limits in public justification (I hesitate to say that they’re inaccessible, but I suspect that their accessibility is pretty complicated). But the sort of acceptance / justifiability-to requirements that you’ve been discussing, and that are common among public reason liberals, exclude far more than revealed religious doctrines. So what other sorts of reasons are supposed to be inaccessible? What is it that makes them inaccessible? To have any bite, it seems that they’d need to be inaccessible only to some people, but quite accessible to others (since they need to have very high epistemic warrant for more than a few people if they’re even candidates for being backed by law). The sort of inaccessibility you have in mind isn’t the sort that results from serious cognitive dysfunction or sheer, wild irrationality. I’m skeptical that there are any plausible candidates for reasons that are live candidates for legislation but that should be ruled out due to inaccessibility.

      I know I’m harping on about background issues and ignoring your more fine-grained points about the different ways of understanding the justification-to requirements. I think that now that I’m clearer on how the thought is supposed to go, I’d agree that the distinction makes sense and that the moral address requirement can operate through the sufficient-reason requirement, but I’m still not sure it has to. More weakly, it seems coherent for someone either to hold to (*i) without (*II) or to hold (*i) and (*ii) but to think that (*ii) stems not (or not only) from any requirements on satisfying (*i), but from more basic considerations about respect, or freedom and equality, or the like. In any case, I take it that some folks want to embrace something like (*i) or something like (*ii) without embracing both; your treatment of the issue helps frame the question of whether that really makes best sense, even if it’s not incoherent.

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  3. I’ll again take up your points (some of them, anyway), roughly in your order of presentation. I think we are more on the same page (with respect to the bigger picture) than we might think.

    (7) It is easy to get some distinction between reasons to accept your coercing me into PHI-ing and reasons for me to PHI. Maybe antecedent to the coercion (coercive threat) I had more reason not to PHI than to PHI. But now that you are providing me with coercive incentives to PHI, I have more reason to accept your coercing me into PHI-ing than not. This probably does translate into there being more reason for me to PHI, perhaps especially if I go ahead and accept your coercing me to PHI. But I’m not sure these two things (or perhaps three things, counting the situation in which I actually accept in accord with my reasons) move in lock-step. This is an interesting question, partly because it potentially speaks to authority (obligation to obey) as well as legitimacy (state permission to coerce). But bigger-picture move does not really speak to this — only to reasons to accept being coerced. If the two (or three) things move in lock-step, this might provide avenue for objections to my approach along the lines of it not being in a good position to explain/justify permission for the state to coerce us into doing things that we have a strong balance of reasons not to do (prior to the enactment of coercive law). I agree that the right sort of state enacting the right sorts of laws creates reasons or obligations to do the things that the law requires.

    (8) Let me try [4] again. I think we are largely on the same page here (but might not know it). The access here might be to propositions or contents of beliefs that one has or to facts that are objective normative reasons. Roughly, the former speaks to what one can bring to bear (given minimal rationality) while the latter speaks to what one should bring to bear, is appropriately held responsible for bringing to bear, etc. Maybe these are two different things and we simply need to distinguish them. My point is that both of these things are relevant to what one should rationally and reasonably accept. One might speak to the rational and reasonable agency of a person either by saying things like ‘look, this is a fact and you need to recognize it — and if you did you would accept that coercive law L is necessary’ or by saying things like ‘I understand how, by your imperfect lights, L might seem unacceptable to you, but here, again by your own lights, is why it is something that you actually should accept’. Both of these strategies speak to L being such that, if the person is rational and reasonable to some appropriate degree, she would accept it (to L being acceptable to her, in this sense). I don’t see why public reason theorists seem to think that all situations (or all situations in a liberal democracy or some such) call for the latter sort of responsiveness rather than the former. Rationality and reasonableness are not subjective concepts nor is there reason to think that they concern themselves only with justified belief (and valuation) not failure to cotton on to things that are true.

    (9) I agree that the law has important educational purposes. In this way, laws that initially have correctness elements as part of their justification (perhaps even when the correctness turns on empirical theory or information that is not accessible to those under the power of the law, so that we could not say to each coercee, “if you were reasonable enough, you would accept this”) might, due to their being enacted, come to be more grounded in reasonable acceptability than they were initially. Perhaps the civil rights anti-discrimination laws of the 1960s were like this.

    (10) Yes, a kind of accessibility (to objective normative reasons, facts, I think) is relevant to whether the coercer is: (a) applying a mere-correctness criterion (and perhaps, in some zoomed-out way, respecting the agency of the person while coercing them in ways that, subjectively but also reasonably, they would find to be unacceptable) or (b) applying a portion of a reasonable-acceptability criterion according to which the patient is unreasonable for failing to recognize certain things. I’m not skeptical of coming up with context-specific accessibility standards here, though I am skeptical of any neat descriptive formula. Things like how important the coercive imposition of L is will play some role in determining how obvious a fact needs to be (or how sensitive to expert opinion one needs to be) in order to count as rational and reasonable enough. Also, obviously, how obvious the relevant facts are. So I’m open to all of: (i) at least a “light” version of public-reason-style criteria for permissible state coercion in context C1, (ii) reasonable acceptability standards that call people out for unreasonable ignorance of failure to have certain correct values in context C2, and (iii) flat-out correctness-theory-style objective acceptability and permissibility determined by facts that not everyone has easy access to. I’m just focused on [i], and to some extent [ii], in trying to fish the pearls out of the public-reason super-tolerationist truth-phobic muck.

    (11) I love trying to get the background or framing questions and issues right. I think this is required to do philosophy that is explanatorily deep, not just technically good — but I find that I have to work hard not to get lost in these issues. But that focus has been helpful and productive, here! And on one of the more-particular issues that you address at the end: I’m not sure that there is a more plausible way for *moral address* (or reasons, possessed by the coercee, of proper moral address or intent in the coercer) to generate permission to coerce than through some *reasons-access condition* for the coercee (and, in particular, whether the coercion is reasonably acceptable for the coercee). I do need to do just a little more work, I think, to get the distinction perfectly clear. My reason for reading the SEP article is to try to figure out if the distinction is widely and explicitly recognized in the literature. So far, my sense is this: in conversation with Derek Bowman (and through him David Estlund!), in the “this is how you treat people as free and equal” element of the public reason view and in Williams’ view of legitimacy, moral address it either explicit or suggested. However, both the SEP entry and the Enoch piece treat the justify-to condition as a condition of access to relevant reasons on the part of the coercee, suggesting that the official “received view” on the nature of the justify-to condition is that it is a reasons-access condition. So I’m thinking that precisifying the distinction (and applying it to some theories and claims) might be something helpful that has not yet been done.


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