On justifying the moral rights of the moderns: A case of old wine in new bottles

Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (1):84-119 (2007)

Gerald Gaus
University of Arizona
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.” Footnotesa 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.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/s0265052507070045
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 47,299
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory.John Rawls - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (9):515-572.
The Metaphysical Elements of Justice.Immanuel Kant - 1965 - Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
Self-Ownership and the Right of Property.Eric Mack - 1990 - The Monist 73 (4):519-543.
Two Conceptions of Rights Possession.Derrick Darby - 2001 - Social Theory and Practice 27 (3):387-417.
The Point of View of Morality.K. Baier - 1954 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):104 – 135.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Markets, Desert, and Reciprocity.Andrew Lister - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (1):47-69.
Against the Moral Powers Test of Basic Liberty.Jason Brennan - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
53 ( #168,727 of 2,290,747 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #402,846 of 2,290,747 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature