The Unromantic Rousseauian: Scanlon on Justice, Value Coherence and Freedom

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Scanlon differs from many liberals – Isaiah Berlin, for example – in that he rejects deep value pluralism. He thinks that the requirements of social justice actually cohere with the requirements of other political values. But like many other liberals, Scanlon does not think that value coherence has any implications for the kind of freedom that we should care about in assessing social and political institutions. In this paper, I take issue with Scanlon’s view of the relation between value coherence and freedom. Following Rousseau, I argue that value coherence does in fact contribute to our freedom, and that we should structure our basic institutions so as to increase value coherence and thereby enhance our freedom overall.

The Unromantic Rousseauian: Scanlon on Justice, Value Coherence and Freedom

in Journal of Moral Philosophy




Isaiah Berlin“Two Concepts of Liberty,” Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969) p. 168-9. See also Bernard Williams “Ethical Consistency” Problems of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1973); “Conflicts of Values” Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981); and “Conflicts of Liberty and Equality” In the Beginning Was the Deed (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2005).


Isaiah Berlin“Two Concepts of Liberty” p. 168.


T.M. Scanlon“The Significance of Choice,” The Tanner Lectures on Human Valuesvolume 8 Sterling McMurrin (ed.) (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press 1988) p. 185.


 See Scanlon“The Significance of Choice” p. 214.


ScanlonWhat We Owe to Each Other p. 162.


ScanlonWhat We Owe to Each Other pp. 162-3. Friendship and mutual recognition can be understood as two instances of the same abstract form of value. We might call this abstract value “solidarity” or “standing with others.”


 See Scanlon“The Diversity of Objections to Inequality” p. 214-15.


 See Scanlon“The Diversity of Objections to Inequality” p. 216-17. Justice would also require that society take steps to soften the impact that these differentiations would have on the self-worth of those who are left in inferior positions.


 See RawlsA Theory of Justice461.


ScanlonWhat We Owe to Each Other p. 164-5. Scanlon does not use the terms “congruent” and “non-congruent.”


ScanlonWhat We Owe to Each Other p. 166.


 See Harry Frankfurt“Identification and Wholeheartedness” in The Importance of What We Care About (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988). My discussion in this section draws on Waheed Hussain “Autonomy Frankfurt and the Nature of Reflective Endorsement” Journal of Value Inquiry vol. 44 no. 1 (March 2010).


 See G.A. CohenKarl Marx's Theory of History: A Defense (Princeton: Princeton University Press1978) p. 302-7. As Cohen notes firms make money by selling things and this requires them to generate demand by constantly drawing attention to the attractions of their products.


ScanlonWhat We Owe to Each Other291.


Scanlon“The Significance of Choice” 185.


 See Joshua CohenRousseau: A Free Community of Equals pp.145-64.

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