In this meditation on the different ways in which contemporary society construes the notion of political reason, Fred M. Frohock offers an alternative to the merit forms of reasoning prominent in liberal democracies. He argues that divisive issues such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide resist rational closure: reasonable individuals often reach different and contradictory conclusions. The temptation is to abandon reason and depict governing as an exercise of pure power. What resources do we have, Frohock asks, to develop a version of public reason which can succeed even in the deep pluralism anticipated in democratic practices?
Frohock makes a provocative argument: the effects of divisive beliefs can be mitigated with a version of public reason defined as mediated speech acts. These acts are dialogues on the model of a guided conversation in which collective terms dominate simple merit adjudication. This type of public reasoning requires a survey of considerations beyond the merits of the case at hand. Frohock's book combines theory and illustrative cases to present an unusually broad survey of public reasoning in which abstract arguments are developed in the context of highly charged contemporary issues.