Feb 15, 2013
UNIT2:L IBERALISM & THE L IMITS OF JUSTICE
Transition from Locke to Sandel
Central issue of Unit 2: Justice
o What does justice mean?
o How is justice enacted and how is it enforced in the law and social norms/values?
o Is there a universal understanding of justice – is it culturally conditioned and contextual or
is it universal across the board?
Connection to Unit 1:
o How does an individual go about pursuing justice? Last unit was about the individual
connecting with society
o What do we do when our individuals sense of justice conflicts with others in society? – this
relates to the question of whether or not justice is universal
Whose sense of justice prevails?
Emphasis on the individual
o Sandel is invested in the right/freedom of the individual to act according to their own
o Interested in seeing how this right/freedom plays out in a democracy where individual
often have diverging claims and interests
Unlike Locke’s division of church/state, Sandel sees difficulty in maintaining neutrality
o I.e., religious/culture and state concerns often overlap on issues of same-sex marriage,
abortion etc.…) – there’s evidence where religion and secular concerns are always
Sandel advocates for a participatory system of justice
o Come together to engage in discussion and debate over issues of social, political
o Develop a more accurate and informed understanding of one another’s position
o In this shared model, it will allow us to come to some shared understanding of how we
can/ought live together in a diverse society and globalised world
o Sandel criticizes the legal tradition for being too naïve in thinking that we can separate
religion and secular – this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible to go about
achieving equality, but the way that we go about it is providing a way so that everyone can
participate in society
Differences in Locke and Sandel’s understanding of Liberalism
What sorts of socio-historical conditions might be influcing their concerns? (i.e., Locke was
speaking to a predominately Christian audience, and addressing conflict among Christians. Can the
same be said for Sandel?
There are ways in which the marginalization in Sandel’s context is being addressed – that’s the
diference between Locke and Sandel – Locke’s time period was Christo-normative whereas today,
even though Canada may come from Christian origins, there is effort to be accepting of all people.
1 Principles Underlying Liberalism
Emphasis on the individual rights and freedoms
Effects seen in contemporary legal and political issues (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, universal
We see individual rights and freedoms as defining factors of liberal democracies
Yet exercising these individual rights often collides with shared notions of justice or ‘the good life’
– there’s no good in going around and claiming our individual rights without acknowledging the
rights of others
The good life is one that is identified and promoted by a shared group, by a society – living by the
guidelines set aside by society
Sandel’s “liberalism and the Primacy of Justice
The right prior to good?
Sandel is not concerned whether rights are individual, or communitarian
He’s concerned whether rights can be justified wtout the conception of good life – we don’t accept
something as right or wrong unless we have a communal conception of what is good and valuable
2 ways good is linked with justice:
o Communitarian values of community determines what is good/just
o Teleological (telos means end point moving toward a fixed (perfect) end; progress is
deemed to be a theological movement towards an ultimate end; actions in society are
justified because they’re moving toward a perfect/desirable end
Primacy of justice
1. Moral sense highest social virtue; outweighs all other virtues
2. Deontological view independently derived; an end in itself as opposed to an idealized
perfect end – prior to all other ends – the immediate actions along the way – not concerned
with the final perfect end.
o Deontological ethics - every end is an end onto itself; every action has to be right along the
way – i.e., you may not use immoral means to achieve a particular just end
E.g., lie to protect; torture to gain information
o Opposes consequentialism and theology, because they may justify using a variety of
immoral means to achieve a particular (just) end
Liberalism philosophy’s main crux is the development of individual freedom, but the concepts of
liberal freedom change throughout different historical time periods. However, the final aim of
liberalism remains fixed (i.e., its belief in essential human goodness and human rationality).
“Liberalism assumes that people, having a rational intellect, have the ability to recognize problems
and solve them and thus can achieve systematic improvement in human condition”
2. Classical Liberalism
Classical liberalism stemmed from the ideals of the Enlightenment period, which marked the turning
point in human thought and human reason. Classical liberalism stresses human rationality along with
the importance of individual property rights, natural rights, and the need for constitutional
limitations on the government (i.e., give the individual freedom from any influence or restraint that
the government may attempt to uphold). Classical liberalism represents principles such as:
representative government, the protection of civil liberties, laissez-faire economics.
3. The sociological objection to liberalism
2 Social conditions have a pervasive influence of social conditions in shaping individual values and
political arrangements. According to this theory brought by Sandel, “liberalism is wrong because
neutrality is impossible, and that neutrality is impossible because try as we might, we can never
wholly escape the effects of our conditioning” (11). In other words, the hyped idea of liberalism and
independence is just an illusion. Sandel argues that the ideal of a society governed by so-called
“neutral” principles is “liberalism’s false promise” in that by virtue of our social conditioning, biases
will exist that will influence ideas and conceptions in favor of individualistic values.
4. Deontological Liberalism
Sandel introduces this theory as one about the “primacy of justice among moral and political ideal”
(1). This theory is about how the principles that govern a society are best arranged when they do not
“themselves presuppose any particular conception of the good”, but rather that they conform to the
concept of right – a moral category.
Deontological liberalism – a theory about justice –
o Moral sense of justice – justice is primary because it’s the highest of all social virtue –
justice is better than any other virtue
o Foundational – individually derived; justice is foundational and the highest (and
everything is based on it) because it is independent from the social and that it sets the
framework for everything (i.e., if something’s good or bad, it depends on the
independent meaning of justice)
o Justice is an end in itself, it’s independent from the social, and it’s abstracted from the
o In the moral sense, deontological liberalism opposes consequentialism – consequences
determine the justness of an action – if you perform a particular action and you get
good consequences then it’s a good action and vice versa – the consequences determine
the morality of the actions.
Why does deontological liberalism oppose consequentialism?
Consequences take place in the social – the definition of justice is embedded in
the social. In contrast, deontology opposes this idea and advocates for the view
that justice is separate from the social, and it’s operates outside the social
o Teleology – the belief that evolution leads towards perfection – so, human evolution is
progressing towards an ideal of perfection. As society progresses, we become more and
more just -justice is re-embedded into the social – but deontological liberals will say
that justice is separate from the social; the idea of progress and aiming for justice is
flawed. For teleological thinkers, justice is subject to change, whereas deontological
liberals will believe that justice is not subject to chance
o Mill believes that the two can be detached
o P.3 – for Mill, justice stands higher on the scale of social utility – utility is a degree of
desire; utilitarianism is based on the largest amount of happiness for the largest
amount of people – this involves making people happy, which is by definition social
o Kant – 2 problems with utilitarianism
Because they’re unreliable, they can be coercive
The greatest good is subjective and our idea of justice therefore becomes
very unreliable, and because certain people’s ideas of the “good life” will
be accepted over others, it will be coercive.
3 Our conception of justice has nothing to do with popular conceptions of the good, nor with the
means to achieve those goods. Instead, the priority of right is derived entirely from the concept
of freedom and the mutual external relationships of human beings (transcendental)
Kantean word for empiricism – Phenomenal realm – the realm of experience and the social
o He contrasts this from the noumenal realm (this subject has freedom and autonomy) –
an abstracted realm of philosophical ideals, which is independent of the phenomenal
realm, independent of experience and the social - this is the realm where we have our
definition of justice
Animals can only live phenomenal existence, and in the noumenal there’s the n human beings.
The subject – empirical subject would be based on experience; humans are different, humans
exist in another realm that’s abstracted – humans have a consciousness that unites all of their
experiences – this transcends experience and interpret/unite them in different ways. Only
humans have this unity, this noumenal experience – because of this, it’s the noumenal realm
that makes us human – it’s the realm of rationality that Locke was talking about – free from
experience, free from the social, abstracted from any nitty gritty material realities. Our
definition of justice is in this realm, in this abstract realm.
In the phenomenal realm, we can have good understandings of the end, there’s no guarantee of
unification, but in the noumenal realm there’s rationality. Kant tells us that the noumenal
realm is the only realm where we can be free (transcendental subjects are the only way that
humans are free p. 9, first paragraph)
P. 11 – 2 objections:
o Sociological objection – never gets out of the phenomenal level
o Deontology with a human face
For Kant – large distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal
For Rawls – there can be some fusion of the two realms
II. Justice and the Moral Subject
For Rawls, being fair means we need to:
o Hide behind a veil of ignorance – being blind or not able to see the specificities of a
person’s identities and as a result we’ll treat them in a more fair as opposed to treating
them according to our own biases
(i.e., not influenced by social bonds)
o and adopt an ‘original position’
Fundamentally objective/neutral and rational
o Is it more fair to be detached/aloof (as per Rawls)?
o Or do we need contextual information to be able to judge fairly? (i.e., substantive)
What is fairness based upon?
o Abstract or concrete?
o What does a fair, or just process involve?
o Formal equality vs. Substantive equality – The experiences of different individuals means
that we cannot treat everyone the same because treat everyone the same means to
perpetuate the differences – it’s important to acknowledge the differences and rebalance
Chapter: “Justice and the Moral Subject”
This chapter sets the tone for the unit. Sandel outlines concerns re:
John Rawls’ theory of justice, and the limitations to a liberal approach
4 Sandel’s main concern:
A strict individualist approach to justice and fairness ignores the importance of community, social
bonds and loyalty
Homogenous society – unified ideal, singular interests
We have asked whether fairness is best achieved by:
o Putting differences aside?
(i.e., seeing one another as the same without allegiances r concrete identity)
o Or is acknowledging difference a necessary part of fairness?
I.e., substantive equality
How realistic is it to ignore difference, specificity and identity?
March 1, 2013
III. Individual & Social Cl