The renewed interest in virtue ethics raises again a persistent question, namely, the relationship between the virtue ethics theory and liberalism as a political philosophy. Virtue ethicists focus on the good—i.e., human flourishing—and debate what constitutes that good. This focus creates a problem for liberals who are rights-oriented, which is the dominant form of contemporary liberalism.
The recent and timely book by Menachem Mautner, Human Flourishing, Liberal Theory, and the Arts, reminds us, however, that liberalism comes in many stripes. There is no one liberalism. Rather, there are many liberalisms. I discuss three aspects of Mautner’s remarkable and important book: first, his conception of human flourishing and its relationship to liberalism; second, his argument that a liberal political order committed to human flourishing ought to promote the arts; and third, his argument that the liberalism of flourishing is better able than neutralist liberalism to compete with religion in providing what Mautner calls “Big Meaning.”