ICLRS Associate Director Brett Scharffs participated in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Institute of World Religions China Social Sciences Forum – World Religions and the Dialogue of Civilizations – held in Beijing on November 2-4, 2013. Professor Scharffs addressed the question, “Can Public Reason Accommodate Conscience?”
Scharffs noted that public reason as a framework for political dialogue has come to have a force in American and European political thought that might have come as a surprise even to its most articulate contemporary defender, John Rawls. But as religious and other minority or dissenting voices are increasingly pushed to the margins of public discourse a serious philosophical, political and practical question has arisen about the extent to which public reason can accommodate claims of conscience. The basic problem, Scharffs said, can be presented starkly: if public reason rules inadmissible reasons that are not publicly accessible, is there any reason to respect conscience at all, since by its very nature the claims of conscience may be private and only partially accessible or explicable. If public reason reigns supreme as a model of public discourse, Scharffs asks, are claims of conscience doomed?
An abstract of his article was published in the Conference Handbook, and the full paper will be published in a book of papers from the conference. To view the accompanying PowerPoint presentation in English and Chinese, click the links below.