10. Political liberalism and the preventive containment of unreasonable beliefs and behavior


  • Joonas Pennanen University of Jyväskylä




This paper examines the ways in which illiberal and unreasonable views can be legitimately contained in a politically liberal society, and discusses some of the pressing reasons to undertake, or abstain from, such measures. Theoretical background for the discussion is provided by Rawlsian political liberalism. The paper focuses on the particular justification for the preventive containment of unreasonable views offered by Jonathan Quong (2011). It is claimed that Quong’s approach raises some significant worries (not unrelated to the ‘third-order pathologies’ discussed above in Chapter 2). The suggestion is put forward that political liberals would do well to pay more attention to respect and relations of recognition.

Author Biography

Joonas Pennanen, University of Jyväskylä

Joonas Pennanen (joonas.h.s.pennanen@student.jyu.fi) is a PhD student at University of Jyväskylä.


Bocchiola, M. (2012) ‘Liberalism, Containment, and Education’ Philosophy and Public Issues 2 (2), pp. 43–50

Bohman, J. (2003) ‘Reflexive public deliberation: Democracy and the limits of pluralism’ Philosophy & Social Criticism 29 (1), pp. 85–105

Clayton, M. & Stevens, D. (2014) ‘When God Commands Disobedience: Political Liberalism and Unreasonable Religions’ Res Publica 20, pp. 65–84

Dreben, B. (2003) ‘On Rawls and Political Liberalism’ in S. Freeman (ed.) The Cambridge companion to Rawls Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 316–46

Ekeli, K. (2012) ‘Liberalism and Permissible Suppression of Illiberal Ideas’ Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 55 (2), pp. 171–93

Freeman, S. (2007) Rawls New York: Routledge

Friedman, M. (2000) ‘John Rawls and the Political Coercion of Unreasonable People’ in V. Davion & C. Wolf (eds) The Idea of a Political Liberalism: Essays on Rawls Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 16–33

Gursozlu, F. (2014) ‘Political Liberalism and the Fate of Unreasonable People’ Touro Law Review 30 (1), pp. 35–56

Kelly, E. & McPherson, L. (2001) ‘On Tolerating the Unreasonable’ Journal of Political Philosophy 9, pp. 38–55

Laden, A. (2007) ‘Reasonable Deliberation, Constructive Power, and the Struggle for Recognition’ in B. van den Brink & D. Owen (eds.) Recognition and Power: Axel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 270–89

Larmore, C. (1999) ‘The Moral Basis of Political Liberalism’ Journal of Philosophy 96, pp. 599–625

Larmore, C. (2003) ‘Public Reason’ in S. Freeman (ed.) The Cambridge companion to Rawls Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 368–93

McBride, C. (2013) Recognition Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press

Nussbaum, M. (2011) ‘Perfectionist Liberalism and Political Liberalism’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 39 (1), pp. 3–45

Quong, J. (2004) ‘The Rights of Unreasonable Citizens’ The Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (3), pp. 314–335

Quong, J. (2011) Liberalism Without Perfection Oxford: Oxford University Press

Quong, J. (2012) ‘Liberalism Without Perfection: Replies to Gaus, Colburn, Chan, and Bocchiola’ Philosophy and Public Issues (New Series) 2 (1), pp. 51–79

Rawls, J. (1999/1971) A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition Cambridge (Mass.): Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

Rawls, J. (1985) ‘Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 14 (3), pp. 223–251

Rawls, J. (2005/1993) Political Liberalism: expanded edition New York: Columbia University Press

Rawls, J. (2001) Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (ed. Kelly, E.) Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

Sleat, M. (2013) ‘Coercing non-liberal persons: Considerations on a more realistic liberalism’ in European Journal of Political Theory 12 (4), pp. 347–67

Stemplowska, Z. & Swift, A. (2014) ‘Rawls on Ideal and Nonideal Theory’ in J. Mandle & D. A. Reidy (eds.) A Companion to Rawls Chichester: John Wiley Sons, Inc., pp. 126–41

Sunstein, C. (2003) Why Societies Need Dissent Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

Waldron, J. (1993) Liberal Rights: Collected papers 1981–1991 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press




How to Cite

Pennanen, J. (2015) “10. Political liberalism and the preventive containment of unreasonable beliefs and behavior”, Studies in Social and Political Thought, 250. doi: 10.20919/sspt.25.2015.34.