What Are Basic Liberties?

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Our initial aim is to characterize, in a manner more precise than before, what Rawls calls the “analytical” method of arrival at a list of basic liberties. As we understand it, this method employs one or more general conditions that, under any just social order whatever, putative entitlements must meet in order for them to be among the basic liberties encompassed, within some just social order, by Rawls’s first principle of justice (i.e., the liberty principle). We then argue that the general conditions that feature in Rawls’s own version of the analytical method, which employ the notion of necessity, are too stringent. They ultimately fail to deliver as basic certain particular liberties that, we argue, should be encompassed within any fully adequate scheme of liberties. In order to address this shortcoming, we provide a significantly amended, disjunctive, general condition. This replaces Rawls’s necessity condition with a probabilistic condition and it also appeals to the principle of legitimacy. We defend our new approach both as apt to feature in applications of the analytical method and as adequately grounded in justice as fairness as Rawls articulates the theory’s fundamental ideas.
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First archival date: 2018-06-15
Latest version: 4 (2020-01-14)
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