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A Clueless Electorate? Assessing the New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen
Unformatted Document Text:  Steven V. Mazie—MPSA 2008 A Clueless Electorate? The New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen Page 7 of 23 within ideal theory — we raise the stakes even higher. Now the reasonable person is responsible not only for acknowledging the causes of disagreement between nobly reasoning co-citizens, she is sure enough of her grasp of those causes not to read too much into them, but to expound her moral and political beliefs proudly and robustly even as she keeps an open mind. She is a liberal with spine, a pluralist with convictions. Moving on to the “reasonable moral psychology” of Rawls’s reasonable citizen, we find a decidedly non-Humean take on human motivation. Following Kant, for whom individuals are capable of performing acts entirely out of respect for the moral law, Rawls posits that the citizen of his theory has desires for “principles” and “conceptions” in addition to those for “objects.” That is, the reasonable person desires more than “food, drink and sleep” and “status, power and glory.” 17 She also has “principle-dependent desires” of two kinds: those that serve her “rational” ends, and those that enable “reasonable” engagement with other people. Rational principles include adopting efficient means to our ends; selecting the more probable alternative; preferring the greater good to the lesser; and ordering our objectives when they conflict. Examples of reasonable principles include those of fairness, toleration and justice in mutual relations. 18 Rawls’s third category of desires, the “conception-dependent,” rely on holding and acting from a number of principle-dependent desires. I have a conception-dependent desire when I conceive of myself as a certain kind of a person and strive to fulfill the ideal associated with that concept. Rawls provides the example of someone who wishes to conduct his life in a rational manner, and therefore desires to act according to the principles noted above. Even more to the point is “the ideal of citizenship as characterized in justice as fairness”; we not only act as reasonable, tolerant, reflective, fair-minded citizens, we want to be these people. 17 Rawls, Political Liberalism, 82. 18 Rawls, Political Liberalism, 83.

Authors: Mazie, Steven.
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Steven V. Mazie—MPSA 2008
A Clueless Electorate? The New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen
Page 7 of 23
within ideal theory — we raise the stakes even higher. Now the reasonable person is
responsible not only for acknowledging the causes of disagreement between nobly
reasoning co-citizens, she is sure enough of her grasp of those causes not to read too much
into them, but to expound her moral and political beliefs proudly and robustly even as she
keeps an open mind. She is a liberal with spine, a pluralist with convictions.
Moving on to the “reasonable moral psychology” of Rawls’s reasonable citizen, we
find a decidedly non-Humean take on human motivation. Following Kant, for whom
individuals are capable of performing acts entirely out of respect for the moral law, Rawls
posits that the citizen of his theory has desires for “principles” and “conceptions” in
addition to those for “objects.” That is, the reasonable person desires more than “food,
drink and sleep” and “status, power and glory.”
17
She also has “principle-dependent
desires” of two kinds: those that serve her “rational” ends, and those that enable
“reasonable” engagement with other people. Rational principles include adopting efficient
means to our ends; selecting the more probable alternative; preferring the greater good to
the lesser; and ordering our objectives when they conflict. Examples of reasonable
principles include those of fairness, toleration and justice in mutual relations.
18
Rawls’s
third category of desires, the “conception-dependent,” rely on holding and acting from a
number of principle-dependent desires. I have a conception-dependent desire when I
conceive of myself as a certain kind of a person and strive to fulfill the ideal associated
with that concept. Rawls provides the example of someone who wishes to conduct his life
in a rational manner, and therefore desires to act according to the principles noted above.
Even more to the point is “the ideal of citizenship as characterized in justice as fairness”;
we not only act as reasonable, tolerant, reflective, fair-minded citizens, we want to be
these people.
17
Rawls, Political Liberalism, 82.
18
Rawls, Political Liberalism, 83.


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