Liberty and Equality: How Politics Masquerades as Philosophy: R. M. HARE

Social Philosophy and Policy 2 (1):1-11 (1984)
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Abstract

It is my intention in this paper to highlight the dangers which arise when people appeal to moral intuitions to settle questions in political, and in general in applied, philosophy. But first I want to ask why all or nearly all of us are in favour both of liberty and of equality – why all our intuitions are on their side. In the case of liberty it is easy to understand why. Although philosophers have held diverse theories about the concept of liberty – theories which have been drawn together into two main groups in a famous lecture by Sir Isaiah Berlin – there cannot be much doubt that in the mind of the ordinary man to have liberty is to be under no constraint in doing what one wants to do. This, at any rate, is a main constituent of the concept of liberty as all of us understand it. Since, therefore, it seems self-evidently true that we want to be able to do what we want, we are bound to want liberty and, in general, to be in favour of it. We want it for ourselves; if we universalize our prescriptions, this constrains us to be in favour of it for others as well. That explains why, if any politician can claim that he is fighting for liberty, he is likely to win a large following. In the case of equality the matter is not so clear cut.

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