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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Liberal political philosophy explores the foundations of the principles most commonly associated with liberal politics: freedom, toleration, individual rights, constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Liberals hold that political organizations are justified by the contribution they make to the interests of individuals, interests which can be understood apart from the idea of society and politics. They reject both the view that cultures, communities and states are ends in themselves, and the view that social and political organizations should aim to transform or perfect human nature. People have purposes of their own to pursue, either economic or spiritual (or both). Since those purposes do not naturally harmonize with one another, a framework of rules may be necessary so that individuals know what they can count on for their own purposes and what they must concede to the purposes of others. The challenge for political philosophy, then, is to design a social framework that provides this security and predictability, but represents at the same time a safe and reasonable compromise among the disparate demands of individuals.

Citing this article:
Waldron, Jeremy. Liberalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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