Moral Status and the Status of Morality in Political Liberalism

Andrew W. Siegel

in Debating Democracy's Discontent

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294962
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598708 | DOI:
 Moral Status and the Status of Morality in Political Liberalism

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Political liberalism asserts that, in light of the fact of reasonable pluralism, the principles of justice which govern the basic social structure cannot be founded on a set of doctrines that some reasonable persons would not accept. For the political liberal, Sandel’s critique of the pervasiveness of the unencumbered self in legal discourse shows that we need to raise neutrality to a higher level, not that we need to relinquish it. One can oppose slavery and defend abortion rights while remaining neutral on moral and theological questions. Slavery is impermissible on the political conception of justice because it fails to recognize the political status of individuals who possess the properties of citizens and because it violates the principles which govern the fair terms of social cooperation among citizens. Although it appears that the political liberal must, in order to ward off metaphysics, denounce a constitutional right to abortion, she can preserve legal neutrality by leaving the issue of abortion rights to the states to decide.

Keywords: abortion; doctrines; metaphysics; moral; neutrality; pluralism; political; reasonable; slavery; theological

Chapter.  4971 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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