Reviving reasonableness: Expansive reason-giving and receiving for global social justice education

Derek Tannis


Reasonableness is a term that is used widely in relation to global social justice, yet its meaning differs depending on its theoretical foundations.  In this paper, I examine the breadth of these meanings, focusing on the pedagogical significance of reasonableness as something that is assessed, recognized and enacted.  I present a model of reasonableness that expands upon Erman’s (2007) concept of reason-giving and is founded upon the philosophy of inter-subjective recognition as described by Honneth (1996) and the idea of capabilities as theorized by Sen (2009) and Nussbaum (2005).  I develop a typology of reason-giving and reason-receiving, including arbitrary, emotive, authoritative, tentative and expansive analytical-relational modes.  I conclude that the assertion of another person’s reasonableness / unreasonableness may be viewed as an inter-subjective and intercultural lived relation.  Approximating the cosmopolitanism proposed by Nussbaum (2005) and Appiah (2006), I propose that we should aim to create learning approaches and environments that foster exploratory and compassionate reason-giving and receiving.  In an era of global social justice discourse and action, I argue that cultivating a reflective approach to reason-giving and receiving would develop in students an expansive conception of and capacity for reasonableness.

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