Aristotelianism and liberalism : toward a rapprochement.


In this dissertation I offer an Aristotelian approach to remedying ambiguities and inconsistencies that have in recent years undermined and weakened liberal politics and theory. To this end, I offer five sketches of problems or puzzles internal to the liberal tradition, clarify key concepts that the liberal tradition inherited from Aristotle, and then argue for a way forward that should be amenable to both liberals and Aristotelians. I begin with two theoretical chapters having to do with the common good and its relationship to justice. The main issues are what the common good is (Chapter Two,) and which members of society should be considered as equals with regards to it (Chapter Three). After arguing that justice is constitutive of, not merely a means to, the common good, and that both Aristotelians and liberals should recognize that all human members of society are equal with regards to it, I move on to three more applied chapters. First, I argue that Aristotelians and liberals can and should agree on the truth of Mill’s harm principle, given the Aristotelian dictum that justice is always interpersonal. This rules out legal moralism and legal paternalism, which are traditionally thought to be key pieces of an Aristotelian theory of the government’s educative function. Nevertheless, I show that liberal government does have a legitimate educative function and should carry this out primarily through cardinal virtue education in publicly funded schools. Finally, I consider the contemporary firestorm of disagreement around religious freedom. I argue that when we conceive of religion broadly as a conception of what is of ultimate value, religious freedom becomes a facilitating condition for the availability of practical rationality, a basic aspect of the good life for both Aristotelians and liberals.



Aristotle. Rawls. Liberalism. Harm principle. Virtue. Common good.