The Implicit Argument for the Basic Liberties

Res Publica 24 (4):433-454 (2018)
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Most criticism and exposition of John Rawls’s political theory has focused on his account of distributive justice rather than on his support for liberalism. Because of this, much of his argument for protecting the basic liberties remains under explained. Specifically, Rawls claims that representative citizens would agree to guarantee those social conditions necessary for the exercise and development of the two moral powers, but he does not adequately explain why protecting the basic liberties would guarantee these social conditions. This gap in his argument leads to two problems. First, the Rawlsian argument for the priority of liberty would fail if the gap could not be filled. His argument would still support the protection of individual freedoms, but these freedoms would be treated like other primary goods and regulated by the difference principle. Second, without a full argument, there is not sufficient reason to favor Rawls’s left-liberal conception of the basic liberties over a more right-leaning conception that would prioritize the protection of free-market rights. To address these two problems, this paper fills in the gap in order to better explain Rawls’s full argument for egalitarian liberalism.



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Chris Melenovsky
Suffolk University

Citations of this work

The Basic Liberties: An Essay on Analytical Specification.Stephen K. McLeod & Attila Tanyi - 2023 - European Journal of Political Theory 22 (3):465-486.
Self-Respect and the Importance of Basic Liberties.Vegard Stensen - forthcoming - Moral Philosophy and Politics.

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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Collected papers.John Rawls - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Edited by Samuel Richard Freeman.
Free Market Fairness.John Tomasi (ed.) - 2012 - Princeton University Press.
Rawls.Samuel Richard Freeman - 2007 - New York: Routledge.

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