Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The good life

Liberalism contains a contradiction.

On one hand it is based on tolerance and individual freedom: it tries to create a structure in which individuals can go out and pursue their own vision of "the good life."

While at the same time, liberalism itself is a subjective version of the good life.

As Michael Sandel points out, if moral relativism is the arguement that animates liberalisms commitment to diversity, are not toleration and freedom values that are subject to the same scrutiny of moral relativism?

The focusing point for this arguement might be the debate about whether people should be allowed to wear their Muslim burkas and scarves in a public school. Liberalism is torn between the messiness of diversity and the attempt to create universal, secular institutions in which individuals can live and pursue their own visions of the good life.

Liberalism, in the broadest sense of the word, the sense in which all Americans are liberal in their belief in inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness/property. Liberalism is hard to grapple with. It a tool to make sense of an increasingly confusing world.

In America, can people truly go out and seek their own version of the good life? What could be done to further that? Is their a tension between diversity and toleration?

Toqueville said: "Americans are born equal, instead of becoming so." "In the beggining, all the world was America."

Do you ever feel like there is a trade off? You can pursue your own vision of happiness, but your neighbors are strangers. The liberal public square is either a hushed, secular non-temple or a babbling chaos of strangers speaking different languages.

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