Foundations of Liberalism

Foundations of Liberalism

Foundations of Liberalism

Foundations of Liberalism


This book is an original critique of contemporary liberal theories of justice, focusing on the problem of how to relate the personal point of view of the individual to the impartial perspective of justice. Moore's examination of prominent contemporary arguments for liberal justice reveals that individualist theories are subject to two serious difficulties: the motivation problem and the integrity problem. Individualists cannot explain why the individual should be motivated to act in accordance with the dictates of liberal justice, and--related to this--offer radically incoherent accounts of the person. Revisionist attempts to ground liberalism in contextual and perfectionist terms offer more defensible foundations, but Moore argues that such theories do not support liberal political principles. She concludes by sketching a historical and concrete approach to political and ethical theorizing which reformulates the relation between self-interest and morality, and is not subject to the problems that beset liberal individualist theories of justice. Her book advances the debate between communitarians and liberals about the kind of moral foundation which a liberal society requires.


There are, broadly, two types of liberal approaches to the issue of justice: justice as mutual advantage and justice as impartiality.

According to the theory of justice as mutual advantage, the principles of justice are regulative principles governing the pursuit of self-interest, adherence to which is self-interestedly rational. the moral subject is viewed for the purposes of this theory as a rationally self-interested non-tuist, who considers the principles of justice from the perspective of her own particular interests, aims, and situation in the world. This conception of justice was first put forward by Glaucon in the Republic but is now most closely associated with Hobbes theory in Leviathan and with contemporary Hobbesians such as David Gauthier.

The principles endorsed by the theory of justice as mutual advantage may be described as intrinsically fair in the sense that they are mutually beneficial to those subject to them; and they require mutual restraint on (narrowly) self-interested behaviour. the animating idea behind this conception--that the principles of justice have to be acceptable to each person subject to them-- can be expressed through the metaphor of a contract, specifically by the contractual requirement that each person must consent to the principles of justice. of course, a contractual device is not essential to this type of theory: it is sufficient to show that it would be self-interestedly rational to adhere to the principles of justice.

On the theory of justice as impartiality, the principles of justice are acceptable to each person when that person is viewed impartially, as just one person among others. This conception of justice can also be modelled in contractual terms, as long as the contract or agreement is between people defined abstractly, so that their . . .

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