Private Rights: 1950-1985
Individual liberty is a necessary prerequisite to the possibility of moral choice and full personhood. If a person is not free to make certain critical choices in life, such as whether to love, whether or when to reveal her thoughts to others, and what God she will or will not embrace, then she is not capable of becoming an autonomous moral agent. For Jean-Paul Sartre, the key to being an ethical person was the freedom to choose. According to Sartre, if one exercises choice in accordance with a previously embraced ethical code, one is not really acting authentically. Instead, one is merely playing a role, acting in bad faith, and ceding responsibility for the choice to a predetermined code of ethics or a particular rule. Thus, if one acts in accord with a code of ethics, one is not authentically moral in doing so unless one chooses the applicable ethical rule anew in the moment of the ethical decision. The ability to choose freely is a prerequisite to morality, which is a core aspect of personhood. This principle was even true for Kant, who did embrace and develop an ethical code derived from the categorical imperative. The freedom to embrace one moral code over another was essential to Kant's vision of the ethical. Individual liberty is a prerequisite to becoming a moral being.
At the same time, individual liberty is not a value that always trumps other values in establishing authentic personhood. We live in a society that is composed of competing autonomous individuals with varying conceptions of the good. For a Robinson Crusoe, the consequences of free choice have a different meaning than they do for those of us who live in a more populous society. Crusoe's choices affect only himself. But when those of us in the organized society of today make a choice, that choice may affect