Liberalism and the Moral Significance of Individualism: A Deweyan View

Reason Papers 19 (Fall):13-29 (1994)
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A liberalism which scorns all individualism is fundamentally misguided. This is the chief thesis of this paper. To argue for it, I look closely at some key concepts. The concepts of morislity and individualism are crucial. I emphasize Dewey on the "individuality of the mind" and a Deweyan discussion of language, communication, and community. The thesis links individualism and liberalism, and since appeals to liberalism have broader appeal in the present context of discussions, I start with consideration of liberalism. The aim is to dispute overly restrictive conceptions and explore a broader perspective. To bring the argument to a close, attention turns first to Dewey on value inquiry, to Dewey's "democratic individualism" (cf. Dewey 1939, 179), and to the concept of moral community. Disputing the acquisitiveness of utilitarian influences in classical liberalism, a Deweyan argument from the nature of moral community supports re-emphasis on individualism in contemporary liberal thought.
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