The Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of
Religious Pluralism, Lucas Swaine, New York: Columbia University
Press, 2006, pp. xxii, 215.
The Liberal Conscience by Lucas Swaine represents a response
from a liberal to those who affirm a theocratic conception of the good.
Swaine distinguishes between logic and rhetoric, between that which should
persuade and that which is likely to persuade. He suggests that a
justification of liberal principles founded on conscience should persuade
honest theocrats and Swaine makes the case that this should matter to both
liberals and theocrats. The liberal, who founds a justification of liberal
principles in conscience and accommodates those whose conscience forces
them to seek exemption from certain conventional norms, in Swaine's
view, is acting in a manner consistent with the authentic spirit of
liberal principles. A liberal democratic state reflecting such a spirit,
Swaine argues, is in a stronger position logically to expect theocrats to
view it as a legitimate political authority. Otherwise, it is
presumptuous, he suggests, for a liberal democratic state to expect the
allegiance of theocrats.