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Call for papers
How to get there

|Debating Public Reason
International symposium
Date: November 2011, 4th & 5th
Location: Amphi 172, Bâtiment III, Hôtel Fumé
8 rue René Descartes
University of Poitiers|

Entrance fee:
Students 3€
Non-students 5€


Call for papers

500 words (maximum) abstracts should be submitted via email (colloque.poitiers@gmail.com), in French or English, by June 15, 2011. Please insert “Public Reason symposium proposal” as subject line. Along with your submission, please attach a short biography, including your contact information, selected publications, and affiliation.



The philosophical tradition has questioned the epistemological and pragmatic superiority of the public use of reason compared to its private use since Hobbes and Kant. The idea of public reason is experiencing a broad revival of interest in the practical field, including that of political praxis. Due to John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, it has become a central idea of contemporary political theory.
The growing attention to the concept of public reason is connected to an attempt to refound political legitimacy and is thereby often the basis for a renewal of democratic theories. This is especially the case for deliberative democracy which can be considered to constitute a real “turning point”. The impossibility for social order to refer to a transcendent foundation has led to an emphasis on public justification, bringing the legitimacy issue to the heart of the public sphere and opening a broad reflection on the elaboration of norms of justification. In this context, public reason would participate in a process of improvement of public institutions. However, can and shall it define, even as a regulative ideal, the exercise of democratic citizenship?
Debating public reason has been rendered necessary by the very characteristics of modern societies. In democracies that are essentially open and multicultural societies, public reason would allow for the coexistence of a plurality of values. The recognition of the ‘fact of pluralism’ is actually a key element of reflection about public reason. Would it not be eliminated however by the very modalities of its exercise? What validity can we attribute to its underlying anthropological assumptions?
This issue is widely debated and some critics consider that public reason gives rise to a logic of exclusion. The importance given to rational argumentation would expel a large number of participants from discussion, in particular minority groups (based on gender, ethnicity, culture). Isn’t it possible that, by restricting upstream public expression, the demand of consistent consensus (and not of a mere a modus vivendi) corresponds to an avoidance of conflicts under the pretext of social stability? Similarly, the specific rationality inherent in public reason could unduly exclude other forms of rationality. What is the relevance of the criterion of distinction between public and non-public reasons? Should we, among other things, accommodate a place for emotions in the process of justification? The question of appealing to alternative discursive models then challenges the understanding of public reason, especially in its procedural dimension. To what extent the ideal of public reason could be transformed and can it actually incorporate the criticisms raised?

The objective of the symposium is to better grasp the various stakes involved in the idea of public reason and determine to what extent it can constitute an operational tool. Some points of reflection emerge which are not restrictive:
– Public Reason and the conceptions of the good
– Procedural rationality and public reason modalities
– Public Reason and social conflict

Download the CFP



This international symposium addresses primarily to Phd students and post-doctoral researchers. The program consists of two days, with an introduction and a conclusion made by a senior researcher during a one hour intervention. Each senior researcher will have the task of supervising one panel in which the young researchers will speak, and to initiate discussion. Three panels of one and a half hour each will take place in each day. Each panel will permit to two or three young researchers to make a presentation of twenty minutes.

We are planning to organize a publication of these interventions.

Organizing Committee:
– Pauline Colonna d’Istria, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
– Naël Desaldeleer, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
– Jean Nestor, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA
– Thierry Ngosso, Phd Student, Université Catholique de Louvain, chaire Hoover
– Cédric Rio, Phd Student, Université de Poitiers, CRHIA

Scientific Committee:
– Catherine Audard, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
– Alain Caillé, Professor, Université Paris X Nanterre, France
– Sophie Guérard de Latour, Lecturer, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
– Roberto Merrill, Research Fellow, Université de Braga, Portugal
– Hervé Pourtois, Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgique
– Patrick Savidan, Professor, Université de Poitiers, France
– Etienne Tassin, Professor, Université Paris VII – Denis Diderot



Friday 4/11

9h30 : Opening remarks by Patrick Savidan, Directeur du CRHIA de l’Université de Poitiers

10h-11h30 : Keynote speech by Catherine Audard (London School of Economics, Grande-Bretagne)
« Les minorités religieuses et l’idéal rawlsien de la raison publique »
Discussant : Patrick Savidan
(Université de Poitiers, France)

11h30-11h45 : Pause
11h45-13h15 : From Rawls to Habermas
Discussant : Jean Nestor (Université de Poitiers, France)
– « L’usage public de la raison et la question de la justification normative », P.Karaoglu (Université Paris X-Nanterre, France)
– « Why did Rawls revisit the Idea of Public Reason? », V.Dubljevic (Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Allemagne)
– « La raison publique au coeur de la démocratie constitutionnelle. Une défense de John Rawls face à ses critiques », A.Leclerc (Université de Nantes, France)

13h15-15h : Lunch
15h-16h10 : Epistemology of Public Reason
Discussant : Pierre Crétois (Université Lyon 2, France)
– « Justificatory Sincerity Between Consensus and Convergence », E.Zoffoli (Technical University, Darmstadt, Allemagne)
– « Populisme et justification publique », S.Dumitru (Université Paris V, France)
16h10-16h30 : Pause
16h30-18h : Anthropological Presuppositions of Public Reason
Discussant : Raphaëlle Thery (Université de Poitiers, France)
– « Raison publique et droit naturel », C.Beal (Université de Tours, France)
– « Repenser la raison publique : la délibération cognitivo-affective », L.Semedo (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, France)
– « Qui est le public de la raison publique? L’exemple des politiques d’immigration », S.Chavel (Ecole normale supérieure, France)

Saturday 5/11

9h-10h10 : Is Public Reason too demanding?
Discusant : Cédric Rio (Université de Poitiers, France)
– « L’incomplétude de la raison publique », R.Merrill (Universidad do Minho, Portugal)
– « What Rawls asks of the individual », S.A.Langvatn (Bergen University, Norvège)
10h10-11h20 : A non-liberal Public Reason ?
Discussant : Naël Desaldeleer (Université de Poitiers, France)
– « A Matter Internal To Liberalism? On political liberalism’s approach to diversity », D.Weyermann (Turku University, Finlande)
– « La raison publique chez Proudhon », I.Pereira (GSPM, EHESS, France)
11h20-11h35 : Pause
11h35-13h05 : Conflictuality within public space
Discussant : Pauline Colonna d’Istria (Université de Poitiers, France)
– « Why Rawls is a Deliberative Democrat. And how Rawlsian Public Reason can accommodate disadvantaged groups », N.Silva (Oxford University, Grande Bretagne)
– « La raison publique : un consensus qui cache une forme de domination ? », N.Vanegas Toro (Université Paris 7 – Diderot, France)
– « L’éristique du débat public », G.Gauthier (Université Laval, Canada)

13h05 : Closing Buffet


How to get there

By car

Poitiers is on the main Paris-Bordeaux road (Nationale 10 and Autoroute A10), 330km from Paris, 220 from Bordeaux, 130 from La Rochelle and 100 from Tours. You have to take the Autoroute A10 (about 30 €)

By train

You can take the TGV Atlantique (railroad station in the towncenter)
– from Paris : between 1h30 and 2h (Cost : about 50 €)
– from La Rochelle : about 1h26
– from Bordeaux : about 1h36
Timetables can be found on the SNCF website: [http://www.voyages-sncf.com

By plane

– From Orly or Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airports (PARIS): you can take a shuttle to Gare Montparnasse (every 10 minutes, cost: about 25 €) and then a train to Poitiers (TGV Atlantique)
Internet website: [http://www.aeroport.fr

– From Poitiers-Biard airport: ask about timetables of flights directly to the airport.
Website: [http://www.poitiers.cci.fr/aeroport
Tél. + 33 (0)5 49 30 04 40

By bus

With Eurolines, you can come to Poitiers from most of european towns (sometimes with a change at Paris).
Internet website: [http://www.eurolines.fr


– See the website of the [Tourism Office of Poitiers
WARNING: Hotels of Futuroscope Parc are out from Poitiers.

For further information, please send an e-mail to [colloque.poitiers@gmail.com

This symposium is organized in the frame of the CRHIA of the Poitiers University, with the help of the Ecole Doctorale LPAH and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société of Poitiers.

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