Kymlicka - Liberalism and Communitarianism
Interest of humanity is to live the good life. This is different than living the life we currently believe to be
good. That is, we must be able to deliberate and allow for the possibility that we were and are wrong.
However, it must be we ourselves who do this revision, and not someone else.
We therefore have two conditions for fulfilling this essential interest: to be able to live in accordance
with our beliefs, and to be free to question those beliefs.
Five communitarian arguments against liberalism:
1) Empty view of the self
Being free to question all limits of social situation is defeating, because total freedom is a total void. The
ability to revise our projects, in and of itself, is an empty pursuit.
Kymlicka agrees, and says that “it’s because [our projects] are so important that we should be free to
revise and reject them.”
Real question: whether our tasks must be set for us by society. Communitarians say yes, liberals say that
they may, but it is not necessarily so. “Nothing is ‘set for us,’ nothing is authoritative before our
judgment of its value.”
We do have to accept some things as ‘given.’ However, the substance of the ‘given’ does not have to be
set by community, but can be replaced by us.
2) Violation of self-perceptions
Rawlsian idea of the ‘unencumbered self’ doesn’t correspond with self-perception. We don’t see
ourselves as prior to our ends.
Kymlicka says this is a straw man. “What is central to the liberal view is not that we can perceive a self
prior to its ends, but that we understand ourselves to be prior to our ends, in the sense that no end or
goal is exempt from possible re-examination.”
Thus, to say that we must always be capable of imagining ourselves without our present ends is not to
say that we must be able to imagine ourselves totally unencumbered by any ends.
3) Ignoring embeddedness in communal practices
Communitarian moral reasoning is a process of self-discovery; liberal moral reasoning is a process of