The place of liberty in Theories of Justice

September 21, 2012 - September 23, 2012
Students for Liberty

Bologna 4124

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Timothy Chappell
Open University (UK)
Gary Chartier

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Whatever our conception of justice is, it seems that justice poses some constraints on our liberty. If, according to the traditional definition, justice is to give to everybody what belongs to everybody, then justice limits our liberty of violating this inner command. In general justice has to do with ethics, whilst liberty is commonly understood as a property of human beings. Is it possible to claim for the existence of justice—as an ethical code, which human beings are supposed to share, and to practice —and at the same time to argue that human beings are constituted as free?

Or, on the other hand, is the claim for the existence of justice the basis in order to claim that human beings are free, insofar as if they were not free, they could not choose to be just? And if so, how this conception affects the notion of liberty? Should liberty be understood as the faculty of fulfilling the ethical commands of our nature – among whose we count the exigency of being just? Moreover, does our description of justice and of liberty as characteristics of human beings lead us to claim for the existence of human nature – and of natures, quite generally?

Each contribution is asked to tackle these questions (or a selection of them), and to analyze them even from an established philosophical perspective (e.g. Kantian deontologism, Natural law theory, Aristotelian, or Straussian teleologism, relativism, Rawlsian theory of justice, etc.). With this constraint, we hope to enable speakers to deal with the relevant issue of the topic within a limit of 8000 words (suitable for a 40 minutes presentation). Our goal is to make possible a dialogue among different conceptions of both liberty and justice, in order to compare how different philosophical perspectives face the problems involved by the relation between these concepts. As a consequence, we do not exclude an historical approach from the contributions we seek. Rather, we welcome historical papers on major philosophers, but we ask speakers to stress the philosophical problems of each perspective they would like to outline. Papers will be delivered in a webinar hosted by Students For Liberty on September 21st-23rd, 2012.

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