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Infant male circumcision in the public square: applying the public reason of John Rawls

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John Rawls is perhaps the most influential political philosopher of the twentieth century. His philosophy is based on the idea of justice as fairness and emphasizes the importance of basic liberties, including the right to bodily integrity and the use of rationality in making ethical determinations. His political philosophy addressed the challenges a secular society faces when its citizens adhere to a variety of comprehensive doctrines and religious beliefs yet requires social cooperation for the benefit of all. Public policy is determined through ‘public reason’ in which reasonable proposals are considered and compromises made. Using the decisional approaches that Rawls developed, this article explores how the process of public reason would consider the reasonableness of surgically altering the genitals of male minors for non-therapeutic ends. It will incorporate the issues of the basic liberties of minors and the weaknesses of a utilitarian defense of this practice.
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Keywords: Rawls; bodily integrity; circumcision

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 2013

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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