Liberalism and Social Contract

Charles Larmore speaks of moral complexity as it exists in a pluralistic sense. The idea of pluralism says that each and every person has their own separate conception of the good as it appears to them. It is I virtually impossible to have to separate entities come up with the same exact concept of the “Good Life” and what it holds for them. As there are these conflicts ideals that exist in each of us it is possible for our conception of the good to come under attack from competing concepts that are held by others around us. Some one who is Muslim may have a conception of the good that wants to eradicate me and my notion of the good.

There needs to exist some centralized thought controlled by the state to protect each individual concept of the good that exists under the people it resides over. If pluralism is true and evident in society then there needs to exist a liberal state to have a manner of political order to protect the differing conceptions of the good that exists within it to protect the personal ideals. The main idea that Larmore is trying to set out between the political order and personal ideals is that the Kant’s idea of the right being prior to the good is essential to the protection or cooperation of these two principles.

Although this is a theory from Kant it is not a metaphysical like Kant brings up, rather it is a political movement that is necessary for the protection of individual personal ideals. The right of political neutrality must take priority over any individual conception of the good. This justifies political authority as the right of neutrality is more important than the personal good because without any sort of neutrality of the state none of us would be able to keep our own ideals of what the good is and practice it in our lives.

This principle of primacy of the right is a political ideal that does not need to extend into all of morality but is necessary in the manner of political order. This primacy is important in the manner that it literally allows for that personal good to exist. For a moment imagine if some one lived in Mooneyville and their conception of the good differs from everyone else around him. It is essential for this mooneyite to give primacy of the right in the political realm so he is able to hold his own conception of the good. If there were no political liberal right of neutrality then he could either be cast out of the society or even forced to change his conception of the good.

Larmore brings this to point in the way of his modus vivendi which is useful to have a justice that exists in the state to protect our own conception of the good respectively. Hume wrote of justice as an “artificial” virtue that we create to make things in life work. Larmore thinks that there is a problem with this idea of an artificial virtue, he argues that “what distinguishes an artificial virtue from a natural one (such as courage) cannot be that it fails to be ?instinctive,’ as Hume wrote,” (Larmore, 70-71) this is evident in that every virtue must be learned in some way either by teaching of the intellectual or the habituation of the moral virtues that Hume considers natural.

It is important to see what Hume thought of as the “circumstances of justice” that are explained in two groups, the external and the internal that cause conflict based on wants and needs and individual concepts of the good respectively. This conflict creates a need for the virtue of justice to take care of the problems that arise.

This encompasses the principle of liberal justice that is necessary for anyone to keep their conception of the good life. This modus vivendi or way of living is a means of accommodation between the political right and the individual concept of the good. It is a sort of pragmatic principle the helps us all get along in this pluralistic setting of any society. This comes of great value to each of us as individuals. This modus vivendi distinctly allows us each to hold our own point of view.

All though this view is quite helpful it is not the only perspective that can be taken from this relation of the political neutrality and individual concepts of the good. Instead of this sense of accommodation we can take Kant’s view of expressivism. The expressivist view says that we “could understand political neutrality as expressing the very sort of detachment we ought to have in general toward any substantial ideal of human flourishing. ” The political order of the state is to express the highest ideal of the self, which is that of autonomy.

The true personal ideal is the autonomy that we each possess. This view does not guarantee any sort liberalism as it can be a nonliberal principle in which the state must cultivate a primary notion of the good life in its citizens. Kant does hold that this autonomy must be taken on not only in the political order but in the individual ideals as well but this not so to Larmore who states that we do not have to make the right prior to the good in our personal ideal but it is necessary in the form of the political order.

This autonomy from Kant provides the authority of liberalism and choice that we have. Larmore then talks about the moral psychology that has to do with motivation and obligation. If we internalize this sense of moral right then it gives us the motivation to hold an obligation of doing the right act. He also talks about how this motivation can be socially learned through our experience. I really like this idea of the modus vivendi that we have that makes it necessary for us to give priority of the right in order to keep our own conception of the good.

We can not escape the fact that we live in a pluralistic society and that if we are to keep our own way of life from coming under attack then we need to all get along in a neutral way. If we did not have any neutral principles that allows us to be safe in our ways of thinking then the right would rely on power. Whatever faction of that held power would be able to impose their own conception of what is good upon everyone around them. This is would result in the formation of tribes that would not mix to become one society.

A distinct example of this is the Muslim culture with the differences between the Shiet and the Suni who hold similar but still conflicting notions of the good and are unable to even interact because there is no neutral state that holds the justice of the right above their thoughts of the good. Using the route of expressivism is a rough road to travel as well because I do not think we are capable of achieving the autonomy that is necessary to make it work. The main basis that Kant works with is the sort of depersonalizing ourselves to become an autonomous true self that is the true ideal.

This is impossible as I see it because we are set here in our own minds and these particular situations. I know that it is a tough thing to get around considering that Kant is highly regarded by all and maybe I am just not smart enough to see the true meaning of it but if we were to strip away any inclination and make a move to the phenomenal self I do not see how that could possibly be expressed by any sort of state. The idea of the expressivist view that tries to create an expression of the individual conception of the good through the political right is just a far fetched concept.

Kant explains this through the way of autonomy but it seems as if it is just creating an aura of conformity by saying that every concept of the good can be expressed by one central and definitely flawed state. This just does not seem to be a true liberal state because it could easily fall into a totalitarian stance. If the state is in order to express the autonomy of the people then it just seems to me to allow for any individual in charge of the state to merely express their own view. If Kant is right then this would truly express the right of everyone but I do not see how Kant can make the jump into the noumenal realm if it even exists.

There seems to be some problems that do exist with the idea of a modus vivendi as I have read more about the different views on liberalism. I do agree with Rawls as he says that a modus vivendi does not cut it. Claudia Mills says that Rawls believes that political liberal stability is answered in the wrong way according to the “mere modus vivendi. ” She goes on, “Right away, then, we know that there is supposed to be something ? mere’ about a modus vivendi, not necessarily bad, but lesser, diminisihed, seocond-best, dissapointing. Why? ” (Davion & Wolf, 194).

Rawls says that this can be answered by the fact that a modus vivendi aboandons a hope of a political community that it adversely affects the “social concord and the moral quality of public life” (Rawls, 146-147). If this modus vivendi does not work then what is there to do about the opposing views of the good from the pluralistic stand point. With no point of protection the conflicting conceptions of the good will not have any staying point of protection from each other. If we have this set of liberalism and neutrality that Larmore proposes it is a good set but only as much as it occurs to everyone as it relates to the power people hold.

People can hold any number of powers through ways of money, land, and followers that can be quite influential in any given society. It seems essential to have some sort of system to keep a check on any given person over powering others with their own concept of the good. This is the whole idea of the totalitarian state or a despotism where one person gains all the power and their conception of the good is not just expressed upon the masses but is systematically imposed upon them. There is a way in which people in a given society need to enter into a social contract in order to have their freedom saved.

In a sense they have to give away part of their own freedom to get back more in return. This social contract known as “Contractarianism” names both a political theory of the legitimacy of political authority and a moral theory about the origin and legitimate content of moral norms. The political theory of authority claims that legitimate authority of government must derive from the consent of the governed, where the form and content of this consent derives from the idea of contract or mutual agreement.

The moral theory of contractarianism claims that moral norms derive their normative force from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. Many philosophers write on this subject of contractionsism, names such as Rawls, Hobbes, Rousseau, and other such writers. One thing that I did not find in any of their writing was social contract as a protection of the personal conception of the good. I have not seen in my (limited) reading anything about this subject matter that to me seems so apparent. It is hard to say that everyone will just “Get along” as Rodney King wants us to.

There is an appearant power struggle that exists within any given society. Each and every individual wants their own conception of the good to be taken on as the main and true conception of the good. It is inherent in the fact of having a conception of the good. If Suzy did not believe that her conception of the good was good enough to impose upon the entire world she literally could not hold that view. There is an undeniable air of supremacy whenever you bring up anyone’s own peronsal ideals. This is specifically why Larmore, Rousseau, and others are writing about the political right of a society.

There needs to be some sort of political order in the manner of agreement, laws, and enforcement implace or we could literally be taken over by anyone person who imposed his own conception of the good on others and has gained enough power to make a movement out of it. If there is some second thought on these matter that they could not exist just look at our own society. We have a forum of agreement that we call voting to come to laws that do restrict our freedom but at the same time protect it. If I was the only person around whose concept of the good mattered I would drive my car as fast as it could go every day but I have given up that freedom in order to protect a greater freedom of driving safely from point A to point B, where ever it is I may be going.

Some may try to contend that this kind of social contract would not be a liberal state as we have to get up our own freedoms, some freedoms that frankly people do not want relieve themselves of for any reason. This contract works in much the same way that a modus vivendi would by giving a primacy to the right. Kant would still contend here that his own idea of expressivism would fit the purposes of the contract and I do not see how they could.

If the state expresses us I do not see how that makes us more free or gives anyone protection of conflicting views of the good. The liberal state still stands through this social contract. Rousseau actually gets to the social contract theory by way of Human Nature by way of the family. The family lives together in common liberty with a contractual obligation to each other to stand together and care. This sense of standing together is what I am most intrested by. People left to their own bidding would do their will.

In thought expierements brought in by Plato talking about the Myth of Gyges shows that anyone left with no concept of consequence to restrict them will take their own personal ambition to force their conception of the good up on everyone and anything they see fit. Gyges clearly saw taking over the lord of his domain as his own personal good and so would any other human left to their own devices as such. Thus there needs to be some sort of contract among all existing in a given society to create an era of sensible leaving without fear of anyone person or group taking over their own conception of the good.

Through this theory I think we have the best chance of holding our individual conception of good without having it attacked for any reason. This theory of liberalism holds only as far as people in the given society make their own attempts to create and maintain it. The theory engulfing these thoughts are only as good as they are put into practice in society as a whole and by the citizens that live with this inherent pluralism. Most modern societies have made a shift to these liberal states save a few totalitarian states.

I am happy to give a way some of my freedoms to shoot another man to allow myself the freedom of worrying about being shot walking down the street. Of course there are always outliers that exist but either they are systematically brought into contract or thrown out of the society by way of prison or in a philosohpy department some where in Ohio. Bibliography Davison & Wolf. The iI dea of a Political Liberalism. Binmore, Ken. Game Theory and the Social Contract, Volume I: Fair Play. Hampton, Jean. Hobbes and The Social Contract Tradition. Larmore, Charles. Patterns of Moral Complexity.