O’Donovan again, asking, What makes “public reason” reasonable?
He states the premise that “rational communication is directed to ‘persuasion’ broadly understood, that is to say, it is concerned with communicating reasons for acting, reasons for believing.” These persuasions are nourished within a tradition, but, he insists, they are not “confined within its community walls.” Conversations happen; people change their minds. Contemporary public reason, he charges, fails to “allow space for learning.”
When learning is allowed as a possibility, we conclude, reasonably enough, that “disagreement may disappear as well as appear.” In fact, “the unstable and eclectic character of our society does not make moral agreement less like.” Human beings are made to pursue truth and wisdom, and if we are to be free for such a search, “we need only liberate ourselves from determinist theories of society that thing they can tell us in advance just which agreements are and which are not possible.” Because pluralism ontologizes certain kinds of disagreements, it prevents precisely the sort of persuasion that O’Donovan is talking about.
So: As understood in contemporary liberal order, “public reason” nullifies the aims of reason.