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7 - The Good of Personal Liberty

from Part II - Critical Legal Moralism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2023

Steven Wall
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
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Summary

Personal liberty can be viewed through the lens of the good or the right. Do we value liberty because it is part of our good, or a means to our good, or do we value it because it is our right to have it? This chapter considers the value of liberty from the standpoint of the good. The ethical environmentalism defended in previous chapters, it argues, must be sensitive to the value of liberty as a personal good. In an important sense, people only lead good lives if they lead free lives. The chapter begins with the common idea that there is, or ought to be, a general presumption in favor of liberty. It next considers deeper ideals of liberty, such as autonomy or authenticity, that can be appealed to in order to explain liberty’s value. These deeper ideals are shown to be genuine ideals but their value is qualified in ways that are not widely appreciated. The chapter concludes by considering expressive or conventional reasons for opposing coercive or manipulative liberty-reducing interventions. It argues that these reasons require a deeper explanation, and one that pulls us beyond the value of liberty understood as a personal good.

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Enforcing Morality , pp. 131 - 149
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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