June 14, 2008

Why political liberalism needs to be argued and fought for

Some posts ago I was engaged in trying to show that there are good reasons why Western civilization is worth fighting for. Yet, should I have written that time “Liberal Thought” or “Liberalism” instead of “Western civilization” there would have been little difference. Moreover, a few days later I was complaining that, being relativism (perhaps) the very physiology of the West, we, Western countries, are facing the risk of being condemned to living without deeply held and widely shared values.

Now, this post by Norm—in response to this New York Sun article by Martha Nussbaum about John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism—raises a question which is strictly related to the content and spirit of both my previous posts: “Is it possible to establish—establish persuasively—liberal political principles and institutions on the basis of values that are non-controversially shared between different metaphysical and social outlooks?”

His answer is affirmative, but he argues that the reason why “political liberalism is better” is not just because it is “a framework neutral,” that is to say, as I would put it, that relativism—at least if taken in the most extensive acceptation of the word, according to which all ethical systems are equal—far from being the very physiology of the West, should be regarded as its own pathology.


  1. All this 'Relativism' discussion, which I could not continue for lack of time and for the feeling I had it had reached a point of sterility and mere opposition ....

    Sterility ... comes from a total different view of mine, where political and especially moral principles can be based on values which derive from our evolution and that science (rather than philosophy, political thought or religion) is in a good position to discern.

    In other words, and according to evolution theories, some basic principles are inborn, thence belonging to our species, thence non controversial. I am referring to the works of Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (this last guy being a bit too ... rigid though).

    Who knows, in the future we might get back on that, the only problem being my blog deals with other themes lol :-)

    (I let you seduce me into these pretty political topics, my readers being worried: what the hell happened to him lol?)

    All my best regards

  2. PS
    My thought is in progress on that, like on all I write and think, of course.

  3. PPS
    What I mean is that my way of escaping relativism is probably so different from yours that I wonder if there is some room for further fruitful discussion lol