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.