For millions of people the principles and practices of liberalism are the fundamental building-blocks of their moral and political outlooks. Yet what arguments can liberals give in support of their belief that their morality is superior to others, principally when they wish to use political power to enforce it? Their own commitments to regard everyone as free and equal, their appreciation of human diversity and their tendency to embrace a disenchanted view of the world's metaphysical nature all threaten to undermine any reasons they might offer. Scrutinising these sources of self-doubt, Liberal Justifications surveys a wide range of theories that have tried to give liberalism the grounds it needs for moral and political self-confidence. It begins by describing the scale of the problem and equips readers with a concise understanding of what justification entails. It then puts contemporary liberal theory into perspective as a response to the failings of enlightenment liberalism. The political liberalism of John Rawls is shown to be pivotal to the debate, but ultimately unsatisfactory as a resolution of the justification crisis.
The book then develops various alternative views, exploring neo-Kantianism's attempts to recast enlightenment liberalism using the notion of practical reason; contextulaist attempts which contend that liberalism must abandon its universalist aspirations; and the argument - inspired by Hobbs - that justifications to diverse people will always be a patchwork of different reasons. Finally the book asks whether liberalism's justification project can ever fully succeed - and what the consequences might be if it cannot.show more