Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality

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Clarendon Press, 1993 - Law - 241 pages
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 moralitybeing 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 human goods that can be pursued and realised in different morally upright ways.

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Its Value and Limits
Social Cohesion and the Legal Enforcement

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