Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 February 2009
Liberalism is commonly believed, especially by its exponents, to be opposed to interference by way of enforcing value judgments or concerning itself with the individual's morality. My concern is to show that this is not so and that liberalism is all the better for this. Many elements have contributed to liberal thought as we know it today, the major elements being the liberalism of which Locke is the most celebrated exponent, which is based upon a belief in natural, human rights; the liberalism of which Kant is the best known exponent, which is based on respect for persons as ends in themselves; and the liberalism of Bentham and the Mills, which is based upon utilitarian ethical theories and most especially with concern for pleasure and the reduction of pain. These different elements of liberalism have led to different emphases and different political and social arrangements, but all have involved a concern to safeguard values and to use force to that end. Today they constitute strands of thought which go to make up liberal thought as we now know it, hence it is not simply a historical fact about liberalism, but a fact about its philosophical basis, that liberalism is firmly involved in certain value and moral commitments. In the remainder of this paper I shall seek to bring this out.
1 Equally relevant, we should not say of such a wife who is forced to procreate against her will by her husband that she is ‘interfered with’ by him.
3 I am greatly indebted to Mr. Brian Farrell of University College, Dublin, for this point and for other material in this section.
4 London, Hutchinson, 1966.
6 This article is based on papers read to the Philosophical Society at the Queen's University, Belfast, and to the Irish Philosophical Society.
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