The Asymmetry Objection Rides Again: On the nature and significance of justification disagreement

Timothy Fowler, Zosia Stemplowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Political liberalism offers perhaps the most developed and dominant account of justice and legitimacy in the face of disagreement among citizens. A prominent objection states that the view arbitrarily treats differently disagreement about the good, such as on what makes for a good life, and disagreement about justice. In the presence of reasonable disagreement about the good, political liberals argue that the state must be neutral, but they do not suggest a similar response given reasonable disagreement about what justice requires. A leading political liberal, Jonathan Quong, has recently offered a rebuttal to this asymmetry objection. His reply rests on an innovative distinction between justificatory and foundational disagreement. Quong claims that disagreements about justice in a well ordered society are justificatory while disagreements about the good are foundational, and suggests that this fact blocks the asymmetry objection. We assess Quong's solution and argue that it fails to justify legitimate state action on matters of justice but not the good. We conclude that the asymmetry objection continues to undermine political liberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-146
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Quong, Political Liberalism, Reasonable Disagreement


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