Chapter

Moral Conservatism: Preserving a Way of Life

Joel Feinberg

in The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 4: Harmless Wrongdoing

Published in print August 1990 | ISBN: 9780195064704
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833207 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195064704.003.0002
Moral Conservatism: Preserving a Way of Life

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Feinberg analyses a variety of pure legal moralism, which he calls “moral conservatism,” according to which legal coercion is legitimate when likely to prevent drastic change to a group's way of life. The moral conservative view of social change does not regard any one way of life as superior to others, but rather regards any substantial change in a traditional culture as evil per se. Feinberg outlines, first, the arguments for impure moral conservatism based on fairness and on harm to interests, and second, the arguments for pure moral conservatism based on the need to prevent free‐floating social‐change evils. He maintains that to impose legal coercion to prevent free‐floating evils, evils like false beliefs or evil thoughts that cannot ground personal grievance, would be to impose suffering and injury for the sake of no other person's good.

Keywords: coercion; culture; evil; fairness; grievance; harm; interests; moral conservatism; social change; way of life

Chapter.  20479 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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