Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 11th, 2013

There is no liberty that is more important to liberalism than the freedom to form, embrace, criticize, reject, and revise theories of every sort, especially political theories. For this reason it is misguided to suppose the liberal defense of civil liberties is well served by drawing a perimeter of privacy around “comprehensive moral views,” about which disagreement is expected, leaving theories of justice in the public realm, on the other side of the perimeter. It must be expected that in a liberal society political theories, like other moral, religious, and philosophical theories, not only may but will be objects of persistent disagreement. The consensus that a liberal political system certainly needs for its good order will have to be much less theoretical, and perhaps less tidy, than many have supposed. It will involve, most obviously, an agreement on a set of laws, especially constitutional laws, and a sharing of certain customs and habits of political behavior.

Fortunately, such agreement is possible and adequate. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of civil liberties, and the non-violent political participation made possible by democracy, generally recognize the advantages of the requisite agreed arrangements. And, in fact, it is at least as true of any society as it is of a human individual that its integration cannot be the integration of a theory. Even in a society ostensibly governed by an official ideology, most people are likely not to understand the ideology very well; and among those who understand it better, there will probably be implicit if not explicit differences in interpretation. There will also surely be interests and pressures within the society that are by no means in harmony with the ideology.

Robert Merrihew Adams, A Theory of Virtue, ISBN 0-19-920751-8, pages 225 to 226.

Published in: Books, Catechism | on April 11th, 2013 | Permanent Link to “Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue” | Comments Off on Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue

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