Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Unreasonableness and Rights: On Quong’s Liberalism without Perfection

Topics: Philosophy of law, Political philosophy
Keywords: compossibility, conflicts of interest, property rights, unreasonableness


This article argues that Quong’s Liberalism without Perfection errs in claiming that the grounds for enforceably prohibiting unreasonable conduct are that it is unreasonable. What grounds that prohibition is, rather, that such conduct violates independently determined distributively just rights. Political liberalism presupposes a theory of distributive justice.

Let me start with two questions: Do we have a moral right to do wrong—that is, to engage in morally wrong conduct? And do we have a moral right to be unreasonable—that is, to engage in unreasonable conduct?2 Quong’s answer to the first question is ‘yes’, and to the second question, ‘no’ (LWP: 305 ff.). I am inclined to agree with both of Quong’s answers here, but not with the reasons he advances in support of his second answer. And this disagreement may, I think, shed some further light on what we might more generally call the ‘political liberalism project’. First, however, a word of clarification before we get into that. For, more strictly, what both questions are asking is: ‘Do our moral rights include Hohfeldian
claims to other persons’ forbearance from interfering with our morally wrong, or unreasonable, conduct: that is, interfering solely on the grounds that this conduct is morally wrong or unreasonable?


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