War and Global Public Reason

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This paper offers a new critical evaluation of the Rawlsian model of global public reason (‘GPR’), focusing on its ability to serve as a normative standard for guiding international diplomacy and deliberation in matters of war. My thesis is that, where war is concerned, the model manifests two fatal weaknesses. First, because it demands extensive neutrality over the moral status of persons – and in particular over whether they possess equal basic worth or value – out of respect for the beliefs of inegalitarian yet ‘decent’ societies, or ‘peoples’,
Rawlsian GPR renders calculations of proportionality in war impossible. Second, because its content is provided by a conception of global justice (the so-called ‘Law of Peoples’) whose injunctions are addressed exclusively to peoples, as corporate agents, Rawlsian GPR pushes the moral evaluation of the independent wartime choices of individuals off the agenda of the global public forum altogether.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-422
Issue number4
Early online date28 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017