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Overlapping consensus : a model for moral education and moral deliberation in pluralistic societies

McGill University
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  • Moral Education
  • Cultural Pluralism.
  • Education
  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Pluralism, the variety of philosophical, moral, cultural and religious worldviews of contemporary society, is a characteristic of Western democracies. This places upon such societies a great challenge for the teaching of moral principles in schools and for the establishment of such principles in the public sphere. John Rawls's political idea of an overlapping consensus is a principle of decision-making that can be used as a model for arriving at principles for moral education and also as a model for moral deliberation in the public domain. Multicultural narratives can play an important role in enhancing the creation of an overlapping consensus on public moral issues in pluralistic societies. They can be examples of the kinds of challenges involved in the moral decision process and also serve to illustrate the importance of moral perception as a complement to moral reflection in the task of moral deliberation. Teaching the multicultural nature of modern civilization and also the universal incidence of the democratic council tradition can strengthen citizens' sense of mutual respect in the course of public speech. This can help to develop a culture that is more open to the formation of an overlapping consensus on matters that concern public morality.

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