Liberalism in Retreat

Review of Metaphysics 62 (4):875-908 (2009)
This essay presents a brief summary of the Sen/Nussbaum conception of liberalism, offers some main points of criticism, and contrasts their conception of human flourishing and politics with an alternative one. The ultimate aim will be to show that they do not advance the cause of liberalism properly understood but actually retreat from it. The “human capabilities argument,” “public reasoning,” “internalist essentialism,” and other key concepts are discussed. The paper concludes that Sen and Nussbaum fail to adequately defend the premises of the human capabilities argument and that their argument invites a retreat from liberalism. Moreover, on their theory individuals have no basis upon which to erect borders for their resources or themselves and to say to any and all that some areas are off limits no matter who may benefit. Rather, there is only the relentless and enforced pursuit of capabilities
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