EPLab • International Conference

Public Reason and Difference Conference

Christie Hartley, Ryan Muldoon

IFILNOVA – FCSH, NOVA University Lisbon

The debate on public reason seems to be fundamentally divided on the issue of how to deal with disagreement and the different understandings of what constitutes public justification. Given this divide, one key issue that arises regards how the different theories of public reason can solve the disagreement problem while taking ‘difference’ (‘what’ leads to disagreement in the first place) as a normatively relevant resource (both practically and epistemically). This issue arises because: on the one hand, the consensus view is often accused of being exclusionary and non-democratic; on the other hand, while the convergence view allows for diversity, it disregards public deliberation/public reasoning. It is, thus, unclear how each side of the debate can incorporate ‘difference’ into the idea and the process of public justification.

The aim of this conference is to discuss and explore how each view of public reason might solve the disagreement problem while taking ‘difference’ as a normatively relevant resource for deliberation, public justification, and decision-making over what we should do collectively.


Christie Hartley (Georgia State University)
Ryan Muldoon (University at Buffalo)


Thursday, March 21

9:45 – 10:00 Welcome and initial remarks

10:00 – 11:30 Keynote speaker | Christie Hartley (Georgia State University): “Public Reason, Political Subjects, and Difference”

11:30 – 11:45 Coffee Break

11:45 – 12:30 Colin Bird (University of Virginia): “Public Reason, Dignity, and Democratic Inclusion”

12:30 – 13:45 Lunch Break

13:45 – 14:30 Jiayan Sheng (LUISS University): “Reconciling Linguistic Pluralism and Consensus in Plurinational Democracies” (Online)

14:30 – 14:45 Coffee Break

14:45 – 15:30 Ahmed Siddiqi (University of California, San Diego): “Difference, Alienation, and Community”

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee Break

15:45 – 16:30 Jacklyn Rekis (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): “Beyond Justification: The Role of Religious Reasons in Rawls” (Online)

Friday, March 22

9:30 – 10:15 Hui Chunshou (East China Normal University): “Consensus and Illiberal Public Reason”

10:15 – 10:30 Coffee Break

10:30 – 11:15 Andrei Bespalov (Sofia University): “Can Convergence Public Reason Fulfil Its Promises?”

11:15 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:15 Zhang Tu (Shanghai University of Finance and Economics): “The Normative Force of Reasonable Pluralism” (Online)

12:15 – 13:30 Lunch Break

13:30 – 14:15 Sol Kim (Georgia State University): “A Defense of the Principle of Respect”

14:15 – 14:30 Coffee Break

14:30 – 16:00 Keynote speaker | Ryan Muldoon (University at Buffalo): “Diversity, Discovery and Justification in the Open Society”

To join the session on Zoom, please register in advance here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Those interested in attending the conference dinner on Thursday should contact Diogo Carneiro at diogocarneiro@fcsh.unl.pt as soon as possible.

Event supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e para a Tecnologia) of the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science under the project UIDP/00183/2020.