Goncalves, Eduardo. “The Need for Comprehensive Liberalism”. MA, Boston College, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:107665.
There has been a growing consensus within political philosophy that liberalism is the most rational form of political organization. The arguments in favor of liberalism are theoretical and also based on historical observations. The view of liberalism as a moral conception of the good life, however, seems to betray its original historical purpose, namely, to provide a peaceful political forum despite competing comprehensive doctrines. How can liberalism be a thick moral conviction of its own if it was meant to temper such zero-sum convictions? To pose this question more concretely: If historic wars between strong religious convictions were tempered by provisional liberal ceasefires, could we accept the evolution of liberalism into a strong conviction of its own? This paradoxical development of liberalism in history runs parallel with contemporary philosophical debates. Whether the most proper conception of liberalism is comprehensive, and whether it is legitimized upon such comprehensiveness are both hotly debated. Exploring these historical and philosophical avenues uncover what I think is a need for a conception of comprehensive liberalism. It is beyond my scope here to formulate a new conception of liberalism that decisively settles the debate. I do, however, point to reasons why comprehensive liberalism should be the focus of contemporary efforts. First, I find that history shows a trend of liberalism growing into a positive doctrine of its own. Second, I invoke two famous traditional conceptions, one successful and one failed, which fuel our baseline intuitions of liberalism with comprehensive, not political justifications. Finally, I show that while contemporary philosophy surrounding liberalism developed a political conception, it cannot avoid slipping towards comprehensiveness. Taken together, my argument is that any enforceable and useful theory of liberalism must be grounded on thick and comprehensive philosophical premises.