14th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Fumagalli

Corrado Fumagalli

Unreasonable doctrines, containment and the comprehensive character of political liberalism

Recently, a burgeoning literature has been focusing on the so-called unreasonable. Following Rawls’s scattered insights, the debate has followed two fundamental directions. On the one hand, people have speculated on a set of transformative strategies that could bring the unreasonable back in the legitimating constituency (transformative containment). On the other hand, scholars have focused on how and why the unreasonable can be coerced from the point of view of a stable liberal democratic society (enforcement containment). This paper goes to the roots of these two theoretical trajectories in order to demonstrate that, regardless the form one favours the most, if we take seriously what means to be unreasonable within a well-ordered society, containment fails to satisfy the commitment to stability. Drawing upon textual evidence from A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, we advance a dilemma. Either we assume that unreasonable people are nothing more than a heuristic category to justify, to the reasonable, the implementation of practices that explicitly collide with the principles of justice; or, if we maintain the connection between containment and stability as well as the idea that unreasonable people, with Rawls’s words, are a fact of democratic societies, we should also admit that containment to those people that are truly unreasonable is likely to bring about even more instability.