Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality / Edition 1

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The central pre-liberal tradition of Western thought about morality, politics, and law has maintained that the legal prohibition of certain powerfully seductive and corrupting vices is sometimes warranted for the sake of preserving the moral quality of the cultural environment in which people make the morally significant choices by which they form their characters. Against this traditional view, various liberal thinkers argue that there is something in principle unjust about the legal enforcement of 'personal' or 'private' morality. They contend that 'morals laws' violate fundamental individual rights to 'autonomy', 'privacy', or 'moral independence'. In Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, Robert P. George defends the traditional position on morals legislation against criticisms advanced by leading contemporary liberal theorists. He argues that such legislation, insofar as the morality it enforces is sound, can play a legitimate, if subsidiary, role in maintaining a moral environment conducive to virtue and inhospitable to at least some forms of vice. Among the liberal critics of morals legislation whose views George considers are Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Waldron, David A. J. Richards, and Joseph Raz. George also considers the famous defense of morals laws advanced by Patrick Devlin in his celebrated debate with H. L. A. Hart in the 1960s. George provides a 'communitarian' reinterpretation of Devlin's central thesis which enables it to withstand Hart's criticisms. Nevertheless, George criticizes and rejects Devlin's position on the ground that a sound defense of the 'legal enforcement of morals' cannot legitimately prescind from the question of whether the morality being enforced is sound. Otherwise, honorable and important civil liberties are placed in jeopardy. Making Men Moral concludes with a sketch of a 'pluralistic perfectionist' theory of civil liberties and public morality. This theory grounds basic rights and freedoms in the diverse hu
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"George is an accomplished controversialist; his arguments are always clear, sophisticated, and highly interesting. Making Men Moral deserves the attention of moral, political, and legal theorists."--Choice

"Making Men Moral is a strong defense of morals laws against arguments critical of traditional jurisprudence by contemporary liberal legal scholars."--Modern Age

"...contains much erudition and wisdom worthy of study and reflection."--Modern Age

"There is much to praise in George's book."--Ethics

"This book is clear, incisive, and well argued. I highly recommend it."The Review of Metaphysics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198260240
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 5.44 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert P. George, Associate Professor of Politics, Princeton University

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Central Tradition: Its Value and Limits 19
2 Social Cohesion and the Legal Enforcement of Morals: A Reconsideration of the Hart-Devlin Debate 48
3 Individual Rights and Collective Interests: Dworkin on 'Equal Concern and Respect' 83
4 Taking Rights Seriously: Waldron on 'The Right To Do Wrong' 110
5 Anti-Perfectionism and Autonomy: Rawls and Richards on Neutrality and the Harm Principle 129
6 Pluralistic Perfectionism and Autonomy: Raz on 'The Proper Way to Enforce Morality' 161
7 Toward a Pluralistic Perfectionist Theory of Civil Liberties 189
List of Works Cited 230
Index 235
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