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ON JUSTIFYING THE MORAL RIGHTS OF THE MODERNS: A CASE OF OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2006

Gerald F. Gaus
Affiliation:
University of Arizona

Abstract

In this essay I sketch a philosophical argument for classical liberalism based on the requirements of public reason. I argue that we can develop a philosophical liberalism that, unlike so much recent philosophy, takes existing social facts and mores seriously while, at the same time, retaining the critical edge characteristic of the liberal tradition. I argue that once we develop such an account, we are led toward a vindication of “old” (qua classical) liberal morality—what Benjamin Constant called the “liberties of the moderns.” A core thesis of the paper is that a regime of individual rights is crucial to the project of public justification because it disperses moral authority to individuals thus mitigating what I call the “burdens of justification.”

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2007 Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation

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Footnotes

Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Philosophy Department workshop on the morality of capitalism, and at the conference on rights theory at the Murphy Institute, Tulane University. I am grateful for the comments of the participants; my special thanks to David Schmidtz, Julian Lamont, and Andrea Houchard for their useful written comments and suggestions.
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ON JUSTIFYING THE MORAL RIGHTS OF THE MODERNS: A CASE OF OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES
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