Catalogue


Moral selfhood in the liberal tradition : the politics of individuality /
Paul Fairfield.
imprint
Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c2000.
description
vi, 278 p.
ISBN
080204736X :
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
subject
More Details
imprint
Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c2000.
isbn
080204736X :
catalogue key
3529397
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [261]-273) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-01-01:
In recent years there has been a growing consensus among philosophers that the traditional Western liberal concept of moral selfhood based on "atomic individualism" cannot be justified metaphysically, empirically, or morally. Many view that demise as marking the end of liberalism and a decisive victory for communitarianism and/or socialism. However, philosophers steadfast in the liberal tradition, including John Rawls, have argued that liberalism can survive intact without baggage left by 18th-century physics. Fairfield, along with others, has recast individualism on a nonatomic foundation based on hermeneutics, phenomenology, semiotics, and/or pragmatism. Although this general line of argument is fairly well trodden, only a few have been able to articulate that debate and the emerging thesis in terms that undergraduate students can understand. Fairfield's well-crafted book does the job nicely. He places the whole debate over "atomic individuality" into historical context by tracing its origins to classical contractarians (Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, and Kant), utilitarians (Bentham, James, and J.S. Mill), and more recent neoclassical liberals (Rawls and Nozick), providing a well-focused analysis that students can easily follow. Fairfield's account of the hermeneutic approach and its concept of "rational agency" is about as lucid as can be expected from a doctrine traditionally shrouded in convoluted verbiage and obscurity. Highly recommended. General readers; undergraduates through faculty. R. F. White; College of Mount St. Joseph
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2001
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Summaries
Description for Reader
Recent critiques of the foundations of liberalism from communitarian, socialist, postmodern, and other philosophical circles have served to remind liberals of several problematic assumptions at the heart of liberal doctrine from its inception to the present day. Such critiques necessitate a rethinking of the foundations of liberalism, and in particular those regarding the self and rationality that liberal politics presupposes. Beginning with a wide-ranging discussion of liberal philosophers - including Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Green, Mill, and Rawls - Paul Fairfield proposes that liberalism requires a complete reconception of moral selfhood, one that accommodates elements of the contemporary critiques without abandoning liberal individualism. The model that emerges is one of situated agency - of a historically and linguistically constituted being who is never without the capacity for individual and autonomous expression. Fairfield defends a narrative conception of moral selfhood in the tradition of phenomenological hermeneutics, one that affords a proper vantage point from which to support and interpret liberal principles.
Description for Reader
Recent critiques of the foundations of liberalism from communitarian, socialist, postmodern, and other philosophical circles have served to remind liberals of several problematic assumptions at the heart of liberal doctrine from its inception to the present day. Such critiques necessitate a rethinking of the foundations of liberalism, and in particular those regarding the self and rationality that liberal politics presupposes.Beginning with a wide-ranging discussion of liberal philosophers - including Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Green, Mill, and Rawls - Paul Fairfield proposes that liberalism requires a complete reconception of moral selfhood, one that accommodates elements of the contemporary critiques without abandoning liberal individualism. The model that emerges is one of situated agency - of a historically and linguistically constituted being who is never without the capacity for individual and autonomous expression. Fairfield defends a narrative conception of moral selfhood in the tradition of phenomenological hermeneutics, one that affords a proper vantage point from which to support and interpret liberal principles.

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