Moral uncertainty and public justification

Jacob Barrett, Andreas Schmidt

Research output: Working paperAcademic


Moral uncertainty and disagreement pervade our lives. Yet we still need to make decisions and act, both in individual and political contexts. So, what should we do? The moral uncertainty approach provides a theory of what individuals morally ought to do when they are uncertain about morality. Public reason liberals, in contrast, provide a theory of how societies should deal with reasonable disagreements about morality. They defend the public justification principle: state action is permissible only if it can be justified to all reasonable people. In this article, we bring these two approaches together. Specifically, we investigate whether the moral uncertainty approach supports public reason liberalism: given our own moral uncertainty, should we favor public justification? We argue that while the moral uncertainty approach cannot vindicate an exceptionless public justification principle, it gives us reason to adopt public justification as a pro tanto institutional commitment. Furthermore, it provides new answers to some intramural debates among public reason liberals and new responses to some common objections.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherGlobal Priorities Institute
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameGlobal Priorities Institute Working Paper Series

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