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In Defense of Liberty “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God,

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Presentation on theme: "In Defense of Liberty “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God,"— Presentation transcript:


2 In Defense of Liberty “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”

3 Introduction: Use of Military Force For what reasons may military force be deployed? For what reasons can the resort to force be justified? Self Defense (national sovereignty) Defense of Liberty Enforcement of Justice Protection of Human Rights

4 The Value of Liberty Request for “reasons” is an appeal to moral theory (which we have reviewed) Rights & Justice will be covered in coming weeks “Defense of Liberty” is a common justification for appeal to force But what makes “liberty” so important that force can be justified in its defense?

5 Descriptive Answer FP 130: liberty is one of the chief virtues of democratic systems U. S. Constitution defines political institutions and procedures that ensure the liberties of citizens U.S. Military, under civilian control, is one of these institutions (“Constitutional paradigm”) Bill of Rights defines specific spheres of individual liberty that cannot be abrogated by government (e.g., First Amendment)

6 Normative Answer: Utilitarianism Individual liberty is a component of happiness. “Individuals care not only about what happens to them, but also about their ability to determine or influence what happens to them” (Prof. Doug MacLean) People are better at recognizing and promoting their own happiness than that of others Individuals should thus be granted the moral right to a sphere of private interest to pursue their own happiness (Jefferson)

7 Normative Answer: Kant Freedom (“autonomy”) is the basis of morality “Ought” implies “can”: if my reason imposes obligations and limitations on my behavior, it should be feasible for me to choose voluntarily to live within those constraints “Fact of Freedom” is the basis for human dignity – for treating persons as ends, not merely as means to an end (CI 2 )

8 Normative Answer: Aristotelian Virtue Theory Focus on individual freedom is a modern, not an ancient, preoccupation Reason is the foundation of freedom (Kant), whereas for Aristotle, Reason is the means for discerning the Good Judgment (phronesis), wisdom, self-control – a sphere of liberty permits the cultivation of these virtues Happiness (eudaimonia) and human flourishing are unattainable for the slave

9 J. S. Mill’s On Liberty Classic attempt to address these questions thoroughly Unusual to have a utilitarian defending an individual moral right (“nonsense”) Utility is the ultimate appeal (and this would normally favor the group over the individual) Mill, however, appeals to “utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being”

10 Public versus Private Behavior “Public” acts are those actions which affect the well being of others, especially actions that might harm others “Private” acts are those actions which affect the well being only of myself and no others

11 The Liberty Principle Also known as the “harm” principle “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self- protection…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

12 Public Infringement of Liberty [Compare Kant’s negative (“perfect”) duties not to do harm – differences?] “Acts of whatever kind, which without justifiable cause do harm to others may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavorable sentiments, and when needful, by the active interference of mankind” “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited: he must not make himself a nuisance to other people”

13 Private Realm of Liberty “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” “His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant [for restraining his liberty]” We must be allowed to pursue our own interests “without impediment from our fellow creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong.”

14 Why? Reasons? “the strongest of all the arguments against the interference of the public with purely personal conduct is that, when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place” “in general, government should avoid interfering with the private lives of citizens, since they invariably do a poor job of regulation, and cause more harm than good, even when well intentioned”

15 Implications Thought and, to a large extent, speech (including publication) ought NOT to be regulated Individual social practices like drinking, gambling, use of drugs, etc., are not “right or wrong, in and of themselves;” they should not be regulated except as they affect the public welfare E.g., “no person ought to be punished simply for being drunk, but a soldier or policeman should be punished for being drunk on duty”

16 Special Status of Thought & Speech (Public Fallibility) If the majority opinion is wrong, how else shall we discover error? If the majority opinion is true, how else shall we know its justification? Received opinion must be “vigorously and earnestly contested,” else it be held “in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds” Usually the received view contains only partial truth; the full truth is revealed only “by the collision of adverse opinions”

17 Conclusion: “Positive” Duties of Citizenship “There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others which [a person] may rightfully be compelled to perform, such as to give evidence in a court of justice, to bear his fair share in the common defense, or in any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection Also can be required “to perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a fellow creature’s life, or interposing to protect the defenseless” “Everyone who received the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct toward the rest”

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