Judgment and liberalism

Our humanity is bound up with freedom of interpretation.

The capacity to interpret and respond effectively is what is meant by the word judgment.

To the degree an individual’s capacity to interpret is denied and interpretations suppressed, that person’s individuality and humanity is denied.


Society always requires some degree of denial — tempering — of individuality, but the proper degree is contestable and is a matter of judgment. The belief that such tempering is unnecessary and unjust might sound liberal, but in fact is typically the result of ¬†illiberal privileging of one’s own judgment over the judgment of others who might experience excesses of untempered individuality as interfering with their attempts to live a reasonably peaceful life. The belief that the tempering of individuality can be settled unambiguously and rendered incontestable by laws or rules is also illiberal, because this belief generally presumes the objective correctness of one’s own interpretation of law.


Forms of liberalism that try to create conditions of material and social equality according to a single privileged interpretation of fairness are not only shallow, but they inevitably degrade into illiberal leftism. Deep liberalism is democratic and agonistic.


Are you a liberal? Ok, then: Where are you prepared to make painful concessions to public will? Where will you sacrifice intense superficial convictions to your deeper loyalty to liberal principles?

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One Response to Judgment and liberalism

  1. Paula Thornton says:


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