Micah J. Schwartzman

The Ethics of Reasoning from Conjecture

Journal of Moral Philosophy


An important objection to political liberalism is that it provides no means by which to decide conflicts between public and non-public reasons. This article develops John Rawls’s idea of "reasoning from conjecture" as one way to argue for a commitment to public reason. Reasoning from conjecture is a form of nonpublic justification that allows political liberals to reason from within the comprehensive views of at least some unreasonable citizens. After laying out the basic features of this form of nonpublic justification, this article responds to three objections based on concerns about insincerity, cultural imperialism, and the epistemic authority of those who reason from conjecture.


Micah J. Schwartzman, The Ethics of Reasoning from Conjecture, 9 Journal of Moral Philosophy 521-54 (2012).

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