Arguing politics can be tricky—so do your opponent a favour, and tell them the real reason you think like you do. Who knows? They might even listenby Christina Easton / May 18, 2018 / Leave a comment
“Bad for children; bad for schools; bad for freedom.” These were the headline arguments of Christian groups lobbying for a ‘no’ vote in last year’s Australian referendum on same-sex marriage. Rather than appealing to the Bible or the authority of the Church as you might expect, they used ostensibly secular reasons.
It turns out that this is part of a wider trend. In an interview study conducted in Britain, the political scientist Steven Kettell found this to be an increasingly common feature of political lobbying by conservative Christian groups.
Somewhat ironically, this is putting into practice a liberal ideal that has been prominent in political philosophy since the eighties. One proponent of this idea is Charles Larmore, who argues that when two people disagree, “each should prescind from the beliefs that the other rejects,” instead “retreating to neutral ground, to the beliefs they still share.”
The thought here is that when deliberating together about political issues, we should argue using public or neutral reasons. These are reasons which offer grounds that reasonable people can accept independently of their views on more controversial matters.
A matter of respect?
A similar idea is found in the later work of John Rawls. He thought that for political decisions to be legiti…