Archive for the ‘autonomy’ Category

Individualism in Political Theory

September 1, 2009

(Liberalism’s) essence lies in a respect for the autonomy of the individual. Because liberalism starts with the individual, the most characteristic liberal political doctrines are the social contract as the foundation of legitimate government and individual rights as the basis of liberty. Contemporary liberals will speak enthusiastically of natural rights, but they tend to reject the concept of natural laws, in the sense of obligations that are superior to those created by governments. Obligations in contemporary liberalism come not from nature…but from society, and they are clearly legitimate only to the extent that individuals have in some sense consented to be bound by them. Rights, on the other hand, are founded directly on our assumed status as autonomous beings.

Phillip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance, 1995, p.46

And this raises the question how community life, marriage and its obligations etc. can be supported by social contract theory.
cf.
The only obligation I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right.
Henry Thoreau