An alternative model of political reasoning

F. M. Frohock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The primary instrument of dispute management in political liberalism is a form of political thinking and talking that tries to reconcile opposed positions with an impartial settlement based on fair arrangements and mutual respect, one that is careful to treat rival views equitably, and reasoned through from start to finish with open methods that lead to a public justification understandable to the disputants. But this model of reasoning is notoriously deficient in resolving disputes among radically different communities. A more effective form of political reasoning for these disputes that yet respects the background values of liberalism is found in the languages of state depicted in realist accounts of international relations. These languages avoid liberal appeals to be reasonable, reciprocity controlled by moral criteria, and the quest for common reasons. They represent a deliberative search for an accord that will meet the interests of the disputing parties as they define these interests and understand the settlements, and in this sense are welcome models to manage divisive issues in pluralist democracies. A complete version of political reasoning would contain both liberal and realpolitik models and a mechanism to adjudicate the appropriate uses of each model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-64
Number of pages38
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006


  • Binary reasoning
  • Dispute management
  • Modus vivendi
  • Political liberalism
  • Public reason
  • Realpolitik

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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