chapter  4
12 Pages

Liberal Underpinnings

WithAnat Biletzki

The most fundamental principle morally underpinning a just political constitution is that individuals must have a set of basic liberties. Utilitarianism is a moral theory; liberalism is a social-political philosophy. In the conventional story about rights it is usually Liberalism, capital L intended, as a philosophical or political worldview, that is credited with “inventing” rights. The liberal focus on individual freedoms rather than on the autonomy of a society as a whole and the supposed priority given to liberty over equality in liberal thought have both been reviewed from the very beginnings of liberalism. Liberalism of the Millian type raises the question of the liberty of the human being as against the powers of government or society. Perhaps it is Thomas Hobbes’s posit of an absolute ruler that has deprived him of recognition as a necessary protagonist in any discussion of the development of liberal human rights.