Nicholas Walterstorff’s Consosial Posisition

            When Walterstorff discusses Rawls’s political liberalism, he is very critical to the idea of political conception of justice as fairness as freestanding principle. At first, he refuses the idea that it is not possible for us, either as liberal theorist or as common people, to remove our comprehensive perspectives from our programming, to deposit them in memory, and then, using only the light of our common human reason, to analyzes the ideas of our political culture and elaborate those ideas into principle of justice. Walterstroff thinks this idea is impossible to work out because he believes that it is difficult to expect that many of reasonable and rational citizens would accept those principles, or even some of them would do so. As a result we cannot develop the political conception of justice (Walterstorff, 99).         
Secondly, he finds that the independent sources proposed by the proponent of liberal position fails to solve some of the important and contentious political issues. Even, these independent sources are simply irrelevant and have nothing to say to some problems we face today. To support his position he refers to Kent Greenawalt's studies.[1] Here among the others he finds data showing that the independent source cannot give an adequate answer to the issues of welfare assistance (Greenawalt 1988, 173-174). Moreover he is very disappointed to know that the idea of liberal democracy has nothing to say about the controversy concerning the issue of abortion (Greenawalt 1988, 120-137). It is of the liberal democracy’s fundamental ideas that all persons are to be granted with equal protection under the law, but it makes no contribution to save the fetus (Walterstorff, 103-104).
Thirdly, Waltersorff thinks that it is not equitable that citizens should refrain

from using their comprehensive perspectives and use, instead the freestanding sources in public debate. The reasons are, first it is part of a religious belief that adherents of religion are ought to base their  decision concerning the fundamental issue of justice on their religious conviction; and second it is not easy job to detect whether or not an argument proposed by the utilitarian or the nationalist part of his comprehensive perspectives (Walterstorff, 105).
Fourthly, Walterstorff cannot accept Rawls’s rationale for the idea of restrain on the use of reasons based on comprehensive doctrines. Rawls says that in order to treat partners in political discussion as free and equal and to respect them, we must refrain from comprehensive convictions and use only the independent source. Walterstorff refuses this idea and maintains that it is still an acceptable practice within liberal democracy to discuss issues on the basis of people’s convictions and to reach the agreement whether through consensus or voting. Contrary to Rawls’s idea, it is even considered as more respecting to the partners if we allow them to present their reasons on the basis of what they believe as true than on the basis of the independent source which they may not agree upon (Walterstoff, 105-109).
Several times Walterstorff insists that there is no restrain on applying the religious reason in political discussion. However, it does not mean that there is not restriction at all. He agrees on the necessity of the regulation when people are conducting a public debate. The restriction, however, must be set only in the manner of discussion and in the way to conduct it, that it ought to be in accordance with the civility (Walterstorff, 111).
            Finally, he disagrees with Rawls on the way to solve the issues. To settle the disputed issues Rawls begins with establishing an agreement on the political conception of justice as the basis for discussion. In the contrary, Walterstorff says there is no need to reach consensus on the basis for discussion. Rather we discuss a particular issue and aim at achieving agreement concerning that particular issue alone. We settle the problem casuistically and at ad hoc basis. (Walterstorff, 113-114).
Rejecting Rawls’s proposal, Waterstorff, then, advances the Consocial Position as the alternative and defines it as follow:
                        The consosial position agrees with the liberal position and opposes the competition-of-interests position concerning the goal of political discussion, decisions, and actions: the goal is political justice. But it departs from the liberal position on two defining issues. First, it repudiates the quest for independent source and imposes no moral restraint on the use of religious reasons. And second, it interprets the neutrality requirement, that the state be neutral with respect to religious and other comprehensive perspectives present in society, as requiring impartiality rather than separation (Walterstorff, 115).

[1] Two works of Ken Greenawalt referred by Walterstorff are Religious Conviction and Political Choices (1988) and Private Consciences and Public Reasons (1995).