For well over a decade, much of liberal political theory has accepted the founding premise of Rawls's political liberalism, according to which the fact of reasonable pluralism renders comprehensive versions of liberalism incoherent. However, the founding premise presumes that all comprehensive doctrines are moral doctrines. In this essay, the author builds upon recent work by Allen Buchanan and develops a comprehensive version of liberalism based in a partially comprehensive social epistemic doctrine. The author then argues that this version of liberalism is sufficiently accommodating of the fact of reasonable pluralism. The conclusion is that the founding premise of political liberalism admits of a counterexample; there is a version of comprehensive liberalism that is sufficiently pluralistic.
Robert B. Talisse is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Vanderbilt University. His most recent book is A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy (Routledge 2007).