. 1
( 7)


Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship confronts a question that is
central to Aristotle™s political philosophy as well as to contemporary
political theory: What is a citizen? Answers prove to be elusive, in part
because late-twentieth-century critiques of the Enlightenment called
into doubt fundamental tenets that once guided us. Engaging the two
major works of Aristotle™s political philosophy, his Nicomachean Ethics
and his Politics, Professor Susan D. Collins poses questions that current
discussions of liberal citizenship do not adequately address. Drawing a
path from contemporary disputes to Aristotle, she examines in detail
his complex presentations of moral virtue, civic education, and law;
his view of the aims and limits of the political community; and his treat-
ment of the connection between citizenship and the human good.
Collins thereby shows how Aristotle continues to be an indispensable
source of enlightenment, as he has been for political and religious
traditions of the past.

Susan D. Collins is assistant professor of political science at the Univer-
sity of Houston. Her research focuses on political thought in classical
antiquity. She has contributed to the American Journal of Political Science
and the Review of Politics, and she is coeditor of Action and Contempla-
tion: Studies in the Moral and Political Thought of Aristotle and cotrans-
lator of Empire and the Ends of Politics: Plato™s “Menexenus” and Pericles™
Funeral Oration.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery
of Citizenship

University of Houston
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521860468

© Susan D. Collins 2006

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place
without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published in print format 2006

eBook (NetLibrary)
ISBN-13 978-0-511-22634-2
ISBN-10 0-511-22634-9 eBook (NetLibrary)

ISBN-13 978-0-521-86046-8
ISBN-10 0-521-86046-6

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
In memory of my parents
Elizabeth and Thomas Collins

Acknowledgments page ix

Introduction:The Rediscovery of Citizenship 1
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
1 6
Liberalism and Its Critics
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship
Aristotle on Law, Education, and Moral Virtue
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
2 47
Courage as Noble Sacri¬ce and Self-Concern
Noble Deeds and the Ascent of Virtue
Magnanimity and Virtue as the Highest Good
Justice as a Virtue
3 67
Justice as the Lawful
Justice as Fairness
Reciprocity and the Regime
Justice and the Dual Ends of Moral Virtue
Law and Right Reason
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
4 91
The Problem of Prudence
Education, Law, and Compulsion
The Political Community as Natural End
Recasting the Question of the Good Life
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
5 119
The Identity of the Citizen
Citizenship, Revolution, and the Regime


The Good Citizen and the Good Man
Citizenship and the Rule of Law
Political Wit and Enlightenment
6 147
Nobility and Irony
Politics and Wit
Education, Liberty, and Leisure
Conclusion:Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship 166

Bibliography 179
Index 189

In the course of my education, I have had the support of teachers, col-
leagues, friends, and family. I dedicate the book to the memory of my
parents, Elizabeth and Thomas Collins, whose love and care for their
children seemed in¬nite and who were models of decency and human-
ity. I am especially grateful to two teachers, Leon Craig and Christopher
Bruell; their example and thought continue to inspire me, and I will
always remain in their debt. My gratitude also to the faculty at Boston
College, Robert Faulkner, Susan Shell, and the late Ernest Fortin, who
enriched my studies. Four friends in particular, Monty Brown, Lorna
Dawson, Robert Bartlett, and Devin Stauffer, have made my life and
thought better in every way, and I am very grateful to Lorna and Bob
for their tireless comments on the manuscript in its various phases.
In writing the book, I have also bene¬ted from the advice of several
colleagues and friends. Paul Rahe and Harvey Mans¬eld assisted at
critical points in the publication process and provided extensive com-
ments on the manuscript. Stephen Salkever, Arlene Saxonhouse, and
Mary Nichols were incisive readers whose suggestions greatly improved
the work. Others have given their support along the way, including
David Bolotin, Matthew Davis, Charles Griswold, John Scott, Lorraine
Pangle, Thomas Pangle, Ty Tessitore, Sandy Thatcher, and Catherine
Zuckert, and I have had the good fortune of wonderful colleagues at
the University of Houston, in particular, Ted Estess, Cynthia Freeland,
Ross Lence, Donald Lutz, Rick Matland, Susan Scarrow, and Robert


Zaretsky, whose fellowship always managed to lift my spirits. My grad-
uate assistants, Sarah Neal and Carol Brown, cheerfully and expertly
took on every task, however tedious, and made my work so much eas-
ier. My warm thanks to the editors at Cambridge, Lewis Bateman and
Beatrice Rehl, who supported the manuscript from the beginning; to
Louise Calabro, who guided it through the production process; and
to Helen Greenberg, whose careful copyediting helped to polish it.
Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude to my husband, Joseph,
and daughter, Isabella. I cannot imagine my life without them; their
existence alone makes it worth living.
Parts of Chapters 2, 3, and 4 appeared in an earlier form in “Moral
Virtue and the Limits of the Political Community in Aristotle™s Nico-
machean Ethics” in the American Journal of Political Science 48 ( January
2004). I am grateful to the John M. Olin Foundation for supporting
a critical year™s leave to work on the manuscript and to the Earhart
Foundation for their generous summer support, which helped me to
complete the publication process.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship
The Rediscovery of Citizenship

During an interview on the ¬rst anniversary of September 11th, author
David Halberstam was suddenly moved to remark, “I used to say I
was a New Yorker. Now I like to think of myself as a citizen of the
city.”1 As a response to the attacks on America™s most cosmopolitan
city, Halberstam™s comment spoke powerfully to the newfound sense
of citizenship that then gripped the nation and has since struggled for
de¬nition. For what, indeed, does it mean to be a “citizen”?
To be sure, the events of September 11th and their aftermath have
impelled all serious observers to speak anew of the sacri¬ces and duties
of citizenship or of a deeper commitment to community. Beyond
this, however, language often fails. With Rousseau, perhaps, some
had sought to efface the very word citizen from our vocabulary, or,
with Kant, to search out a higher notion of world citizenship, or, with
Hobbes, to rest content as subjects rather than citizens as long as life
and liberty were otherwise preserved. But if, in the face of present chal-
lenges, such notions seem inadequate “ if, in particular, we are awake to
aspects of citizenship that our own principles and assumptions obscure
or resist “ where might we turn for understanding? This study turns to
Aristotle™s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, the two works in the history
of political philosophy that together contain the most comprehensive
and systematic investigation of the question “What is a citizen?”

1 CNN, “Newsnight with Aaron Brown,” 9 September 2002, Interview with David

Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

The Aristotelian tradition became almost moribund with the suc-
cess of modern liberalism and of attacks such as those of Hobbes on
the many “absurdities” of the “old Morall Philosophers,” Aristotle chief
among them. Yet today Aristotle™s thought enjoys a remarkable renais-
sance. Against the orthodox liberal concept of the state as an asso-
ciation of rights-bearing free agents who contract with one another
for the sake of peace and the pursuit of happiness, scholars are again
taking seriously the idea articulated most fully by Aristotle that human
beings are “political animals.” By giving new currency to the old view
that individuals are naturally situated within a political community that
requires speci¬c virtues, molds character, and shapes its citizens™ vision
of the good, the revival of Aristotelianism has challenged even such
staunch defenders of liberalism as John Rawls to examine again the
sphere of the citizen. This reexamination of citizenship belongs also to
the recent work of scholars as diverse as Alasdair MacIntyre, Richard
Rorty, Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Michael Sandel, Peter
Berkowitz, Stephen Macedo, William Galston, and Martha Nussbaum.
Yet, for all their diversity, the efforts of these scholars are typically uni-
¬ed by certain liberal presuppositions or ends and, in particular, by the
concern to marry liberal principles of equality and individual freedom
with a more or less Aristotelian view of community.
Although my book begins from current efforts, it does not seek to
duplicate them. In undertaking a study of Aristotle™s account of citizen-
ship, I contend that this account is a source of insight for us precisely
because it does not begin from liberal presuppositions. Aristotle™s pre-
sentation of citizenship™s foundation in law and moral virtue is the
classic statement of the preliberal view of political authority and civic
education, according to which the community is prior to the individual
and the highest purpose of the law is the education to virtue. Moreover,
his investigation of citizenship and its connection with virtuous action
and the good life addresses the question that is in principle left open
by liberal thought: the question of the highest human good. Aristotle™s
treatment of these matters clari¬es the limitations of the current redis-
covery of citizenship, with its distinctive liberal assumptions, as well
as attachments and concerns that persist within our experience and
yet are scarcely acknowledged, let alone explained, by liberal theory.
By illuminating dimensions of citizenship that we either overlook or
obscure, Aristotle invites our rediscovery of citizenship in its own right.
Introduction 3

He thereby helps us to comprehend not only the perspective of cul-
tures or communities that do not share liberal principles, but also the
full signi¬cance of the question “What is a citizen?” as an enduring
human concern.
In following Aristotle™s investigation of this question through both
the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics, my study re¬‚ects his view of
the deep connection between ethics and politics and brings into their
proper relation two works that are too often treated apart. Besides
its introduction and conclusion, the book has six chapters. Chapter 1
draws a path to Aristotle™s thought, beginning from the general cri-
tique of the Enlightenment and the speci¬c criticisms of Rawls™s in¬‚u-
ential account of liberalism that opened the door not only to post-
Enlightenment views but also to the return to Aristotle. I trace in this
context Rawls™s reformulation of his original account “ his “political
liberalism” “ as well as other current efforts to describe a citizenship
that is robust enough to support political order yet compatible with
individual freedom and equality. In the disputes provoked by these
efforts, two problems have emerged that provide a bridge to Aristotle™s
thought, even as they underline its distinctiveness: ¬rst, the priority of
justice, or “the right,” over the good, which remains a crucial but con-
troversial claim of Rawlsian liberalism; and second, the nature of civic
education, which raises dif¬cult questions for scholars who wish to
establish the moral and political supports of liberal politics while pre-
serving a sphere within which individuals can freely pursue the good
as they see ¬t.
The disputes over these problems indicate the limitations of the
current rediscovery of citizenship and the initial reasons for turning
to Aristotle™s thought. To explore fully the relation between the right
and the good, and the nature of civic education, one must begin from
Aristotle™s treatment of law and the education to moral virtue in his
Nicomachean Ethics. This treatment opens the way to his direct investi-
gation of the meaning and limits of citizenship in the Politics.
The next ¬ve chapters proceed thematically, examining in turn the
connection of citizenship with moral virtue, education, and the good,
and its relation to the political community and law. In Chapters 2
and 3, I show that the Nicomachean Ethics offers an account of civic
education that is superior to those currently available, ¬rst, because
it acknowledges the authoritative role of the political community and
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

the law with regard to education, and, second, because it clari¬es how
this education bears on the question of the good. In particular, by
bringing out the moral and political dimensions of the good, Aris-
totle is able to explore a concern central to human experience that
liberal thought necessarily obscures: the relation between the good
life and the nobility and justice that constitute morally virtuous action.
Aristotle shows that as the educator to virtue, the political community
necessarily elevates this life as best and seeks to reconcile two ends as
proper to right action: the common good and the perfection in virtue
as an end in itself. In his account of the most complete virtue, justice,
he establishes that the deepest problem of civic education is the irre-
pressible tension between these two ends. Against the claims of the
political community and the law, this dif¬culty reopens the question
of how one determines the proper end of action and indicates that
the law, for all its authority, cannot be the ¬nal arbiter concerning the
good. In contrast to others, I do not believe that Aristotle has or desires
a single solution to the problem of right action. Nevertheless, his care-
ful treatment of this problem comprehends the perfection that is the
highest pedagogic end of the law and illuminates its signi¬cance for
our good as citizens and human beings.
My argument then moves to two chapters that focus on Aristotle™s
Politics. In Chapters 4 and 5, I examine the demands and necessities
of citizenship in connection with the question of the good and then
outline more fully Aristotle™s treatment of citizenship in the context of
the political community™s legal prerequisites and natural end. I argue
that while Aristotle gives full due to the political community™s authority
regarding moral virtue and the good, his analysis of the dispute over
distributive justice establishes the boundaries of this authority in every
regime or political order. His precision about these matters further
illuminates the law™s limitations with respect to its pedagogic aims and
reveals the necessity of a move to a natural or transpolitical, as opposed
to a legal or political, perspective on human action and political life.
In his analysis, Aristotle sheds light on the dif¬culty that may be
most troubling for us as liberal citizens: the potential tension between
the demands of civic devotion and the independence of individual rea-
son. Accordingly, in Chapter 6, I argue that Aristotle sketches a middle
ground between thoughtless or dogmatic commitment to convention
and skeptical alienation from it. The possibility of this middle ground
Introduction 5

emerges in his account of education in the Politics and in his eluci-
dation of an apparently minor moral virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics,
wittiness. Against a view popular today that the tensions, con¬‚icts, and
evils inherent in political life are proof of its tragic and ultimately
incomprehensible nature, I suggest that there is in Aristotle™s political
philosophy a comic vision in the highest sense: a vision, in short, that
appreciates both the nobility and the limits of human striving and that
in no way despairs of wisdom about human affairs. Such a perspec-
tive, Aristotle indicates, supports a form of prudence by which citizens
understand and defend the bene¬ts of a decent political community
while remaining clear-eyed about its failings or limitations.
My conclusion returns to the current rediscovery of citizenship to
explore directly the guidance offered by Aristotle. That Aristotle is
not a liberal democrat bears repeating. To mention a few obvious
issues: He lists democracy as a deviant regime, his own best order is
aristocratic, and his treatments of slavery and of the political status
of women and foreigners are hardly models of inclusiveness. But as
antidemocratic as Aristotle™s thought may be in some respects, it does
not suffer from many of our own blind spots and frequently speaks to
our most serious concerns. Indeed, for all the clear goods of a liberal
order, recent events have underscored that citizenship does not sim-
ply confer bene¬ts but requires sacri¬ces, and involves not only rights
but also duties “ in short, citizenship frequently asks not what your
country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. For us,
then, Aristotle™s treatment of the relation between individual and com-
munity, the connection between justice and the good, and the nature
of civic education elucidates aspects of citizenship that we acknowl-
edge without always exploring and for which liberal theory offers lit-
tle insight. Moreover, because Aristotle™s investigation of citizenship
addresses the question of the human good with a completeness that
liberal thought necessarily eschews, it offers Halberstam™s “citizen of
the city” a path to understanding the relation between being a citizen
and living well as a human being. By thus challenging us to rediscover
these dimensions of citizenship and to re¬‚ect anew on the question
of the good, Aristotle™s political philosophy can be for us, as it was for
thinkers across the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions of the past,
an indispensable source of enlightenment.

Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

The current debate about liberal citizenship is marked by a pervasive
doubt about such fundamental liberal principles as the primacy of the
individual, the neutrality of the contractual state, and the priority and
universality of rights. To be sure, there have been past disputes about
the political and legal terms of citizenship. In the American case, for
example, disputes have ranged from the arguments concerning nat-
uralization at the Constitutional Convention to the battle over voting
rights to more recent discussions of immigration. But these past dis-
agreements also re¬‚ected a more fundamental consensus that “the
¬rst mark of American citizenship,” and of liberal citizenship in gen-
eral, is the “political equality of rights,” and that de¬ning citizenship
largely entailed working out the full meaning of these terms.1 Since
the current debate follows from critiques of liberal thought itself, how-
ever, we now confront fundamental questions concerning the very ide-
als and principles that have traditionally undergirded discussions of
In providing an overview of these critiques and the ways in which
scholars have subsequently sought to reconceive liberal citizenship, I
seek not to recapitulate this ongoing debate but to describe the gen-
eral context within which it has arisen and to draw out problems that
provide a bridge to Aristotle™s thought. I begin from two developments.

1 Judith Shklar, American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1991), p. 1.

Liberalism and Its Critics 7

First, in the last decades of the twentieth century, a growing percep-
tion that liberal thought, and the Enlightenment project in general,
failed to make good on its promise to ground morality in a rational
and nonteleological framework raised serious doubts about liberal-
ism™s capacity to defend its own moral and political principles. These
doubts opened the way to a return to the Aristotelian tradition that the
Enlightenment had rejected, as well as to post-Enlightenment views.2
Second, criticisms of Kantian moral philosophy and of John Rawls™s
in¬‚uential Kantian politics in A Theory of Justice raised questions about
the relation between the individual and the political community that
have signi¬cantly shaped the present efforts to reconceive citizenship.

liberalism and its critics
The remarkable renaissance of Aristotle™s thought in the late twenti-
eth century was made possible in part because of doubts arising within
the tradition of liberal thought. In returning to classical philosophy,
neo-Aristotelianism represents a break with what Stephen Salkever
has called “the intransigently antiteleological character” of liberalism™s
“founding texts.”3 But as a sketch of some of the developments leading

2 The school of thought having its inspiration in Aristotle is wide and diverse, and while
I hope to capture some of this breadth and diversity in the notes, my discussion in the
text is limited by my immediate purposes. I therefore con¬ne my references to the
works of several well-known thinkers involved in the revival of Aristotle™s thought in
the 1980s and 1990s. More detailed critical surveys of the rise of Aristotelianism, and
the related return to an ethics of virtue, include Gregory Trianosky, “What Is Virtue
Ethics All About?,” American Philosophical Quarterly 27 (October 1990): 335“44; Peter
Simpson, “Contemporary Virtue Ethics and Aristotle,” Review of Metaphysics 45 (March
1992): 503“24; and John C. Wallach, “Contemporary Aristotelianism,” Political Theory
20 (November 1992): 613“41. Volume XIII of Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Notre
Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) contains representative articles.
3 Salkever, “˜Lopp™d and Bound™: How Liberal Theory Obscures the Goods of Liberal
Practices,” in Liberalism and the Good, eds. R. Bruce Douglass, Gerald R. Mara, and
Henry S. Richardson (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 167. See also Alasdair MacIntyre,
“The Privatization of the Good: An Inaugural Lecture,” Review of Politics 52 (Summer
1990): 348 and After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1981), p. 54; Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd
ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 175. For fuller discussions of
liberalism and the question of teleology, see Salkever™s Finding the Mean: Theory and
Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1990), pp. 21“36; William Galston, Justice and the Human Good (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1980), ch. 2 and Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Diversity in the
Liberal State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chs. 4“7.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

up to it indicates, this break resulted less from a reevalution of ancient
teleology than from critiques that called into question liberalism™s own
moral and political principles. For, alongside Aristotle™s natural phi-
losophy, early liberals such as Hobbes and Locke jettisoned also the
classical view that the end of government is the human good, under-
stood as virtue and the perfection of human nature. Armed with a
new mechanistic and materialistic science of nature, they sought to
comprehend the brute facts of our original or prepolitical condition “
the “state of nature” “ and especially what they saw to be the inevitable
con¬‚ict or war among human beings in the pursuit of their individ-
ual goods, within a political compact whose central purposes were
the protection of its members from harm, regulation of their various
interests, and preservation of their natural freedom. Despite aban-
doning an overarching idea of the human good, then, early liberalism
sought to establish natural and rational principles for ordering civic
life. Although in the state of nature the pursuit of our individual good
has no moral import of its own, it becomes a matter of moral and
political import when we enter into association with one another, as
we are compelled to do if we desire peace and prosperity. In the face
of the war and oppression that the unbounded pursuit of our desires
would produce, it is both necessary and right to establish an associa-
tion in which peace and freedom are preserved “ in which our natural
freedoms, our rights to life and property, for example, are enjoyed in
the fullest way without harm to others. From this point of view, the
main tasks of government become the regulation of competition and
protection of individual freedom, and the central problem of politics,
the abuse of power.
Liberalism™s story, however, is only just beginning. Under the in¬‚u-
ence of later Enlightenment thinkers on both sides of the English
Channel “ with Rousseau and Montesquieu and Hume and Burke
as obvious exemplars “ and with the rise of Romanticism, German
Idealism, and Marxism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
the view of nature and human nature grounding the denial of a highest
human good succumbed ¬rst to an emerging and then to a full-blown
sense of the basic historicity of human existence. Under this new dis-
pensation, human nature came to be seen as a product of and not a
constant within the continual ¬‚ux of time and events. More generally,
Liberalism and Its Critics 9

the idea of nature itself appeared as a salutary myth, a conceptual
fabrication for the purposes of justifying the liberal ideal of the state.
This new sense of our historicity obviously did not allay but deepened
doubt concerning the existence of a highest human good “ in a world
of ¬‚ux, the good or happiness too is radically contingent “ yet, more
importantly, it eventually also engulfed the principles informing lib-
eral politics itself. It thus darkened liberalism™s horizon with a new
thought. For although Kant and Hegel sought to show that our sta-
tus as historical beings need not undercut the possibility of a rational
moral or political order, if indeed reason can stand above the histori-
cal ¬‚ux, contemporary scholars began to grapple also with the more
radical views of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and their intellectual heirs. To
recall Alasdair MacIntyre™s in¬‚uential formulation in After Virtue, the
view drawn out by Nietzsche (and his “emotivist and existentialist suc-
cessors”) is that “all rational vindications of morality manifestly fail
and that therefore belief in the tenets of morality needs to be explained
in terms of a set of rationalizations which conceal the fundamentally
non-rational phenomena of the will.”4
In rejecting the tradition of which Aristotle was the core, the Enlight-
enment claimed to be able to ground a new, if leaner, morality in true
science and rationality. But liberalism™s deepening skepticism, follow-
ing the break with the ancient tradition, ¬nally called into question
its own principles of justice and morality. This development has been
greeted by some as a crisis and by others as a liberation. According to
MacIntyre, for example, the failure of the Enlightenment to secure a
rational foundation for moral consensus and political life means that
the liberal tradition cannot defend against challenges to the public
authority and a disintegration of individual life into self-absorption
and private grati¬cation “ if everything is permitted, then anything
goes.5 Arguing that “the defensibility of the Nietzschean position turns

4 MacIntyre, After Virtue, p. 117 (emphasis in text).
5 The effort to reform moral and political life gave rise to the communitarian move-
ment with which many contemporary Aristotelians are identi¬ed. But the terms “neo-
Aristotelian”, “communitarian,” and “liberal” are somewhat amorphous in their appli-
cation to any one position. Even those who would identify themselves as liberal might
yet argue in favor of what Michael Walzer has called a “communitarian correction”
(“The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism,” Political Theory 18 [February 1990]:
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

in the end on the answer to the question: was it right in the ¬rst place
to reject Aristotle?”, MacIntyre has sought to replace liberal theory
with “something like Aristotle™s ethics.”6 Others have pursued less
radical strategies, seeking, for example, to ¬nd resources within the
Enlightenment tradition for its defense, to modify liberalism in an
Aristotelian direction, or to rediscover the republican elements of lib-
eral thought. Efforts of this kind are represented by the work of Peter
Berkowitz, Stephen Macedo, William Galston, Martha Nussbaum, and
Michael Sandel.7 Still others, who assert and even celebrate the demise
of Enlightenment metaphysics, strive, like Habermas, to formulate a
“postmetaphysical” but still liberal framework for ethics and politics
or, like Richard Rorty, to search out new possibilities of “individual

15), and communitarians typically have commitments to certain liberal goals, since,
as Galston observes, “most Anglo-Americans are, in one way or another, liberals; all
are deeply in¬‚uenced by the experience of life in liberal societies” (Liberal Purposes,
p. 79). As Charles Griswold has noted, “Among those who in some sense wish to return
to the Greeks, there is remarkable consensus that the political offspring of the Enlight-
enment are, at least in good part, worth preserving. (I refer to liberal institutions and
political arrangements)” (Adam Smith and the Virtues of Enlightenment [Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999], p. 4). For overviews of communitarianism, see
Amitai Etzioni, ed., Rights and the Common Good: The Communitarian Perspective (New
York: St. Martin™s Press, 1995), and C. F. Delaney, ed., The Liberalism“Communitarianism
Debate (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little¬eld, 1994).
6 MacIntyre, After Virtue, p. 117 (emphasis in text).
7 See, for example, Peter Berkowitz, Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism (Prince-
ton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); Stephen Macedo, Liberal Virtues: Citizen-
ship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1996) and Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Galston, Justice and the Human
Good, Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Diversity in the Liberal State (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1991), and Liberal Pluralism: The Implication of Value
Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2002); Martha Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach,” in
Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Volume XIII: Ethical Theory, Character and Virtue, ed.
Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling, Jr., and Howard K. Wettstein (Notre Dame,
IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988); pp. 32“53, “Human Functioning and
Social Justice: In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism,” Political Theory 20 (May
1992): 202“46, and “Aristotelian Social Democracy” in Aristotle and Modern Poli-
tics: The Persistence of Political Philosophy, ed. Aristide Tessitore (Notre Dame, IN:
University of Notre Dame Press, 2002); Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
and Democracy™s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1996). Malcolm Scho¬eld offers a helpful overview of
several uses to which Aristotle™s political thought has been variously put in Saving
the City: Philosopher-Kings and Other Classical Paradigms (New York: Routledge, 1999),
pp. 100“1.
Liberalism and Its Critics 11

and private spiritual liberation.”8 These challenges to Enlightenment
thought and the attempts to reconceive ethics and politics form the
general context within which the debate about liberal citizenship is
At the same time, speci¬c criticisms of Kantian moral philosophy
and of Rawls™s well-known account of liberalism in A Theory of Justice
have signi¬cantly shaped this debate. The in¬‚uence of the Kantian
view in the liberal tradition can be traced in part to Kant™s effort to vin-
dicate morality in the face of liberalism™s own skepticism and, at the
same time, to elevate the liberal claim concerning the fundamental
freedom of human beings.9 In short, according to Kant, the most com-
pelling evidence of human freedom, and the true locus of morality and
law, are to be found in our capacity through reason to formulate and
act in accord with a universal law, which we legislate for ourselves
and which is, by virtue of its universality, free from any contingency
and subjective interest.10 Whereas our desire for our own good leads
to “heteronomy,” or many particular and subjective maxims of action,
reason enables us to transcend this particularity by asking the ques-
tion “Can this maxim become a universal law?” By placing the locus
of moral action in our very freedom from the desires and passions,
and in the sense of duty that accompanies the self-legislated moral
law, Kant is thus able to dispense with notions of nature and the good
while both elevating individual freedom as an end and establishing
strict standards for moral action.
In A Theory of Justice, Rawls conjoins the idea of law and duty at the
center of Kant™s moral thought with the liberal contract theory of polit-
ical association carried to “a higher level of abstraction.”11 To recall

8 J¨ rgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and
Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998); Richard Rorty,
“The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy” in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:
Its Evolution and Consequences in American History, eds. Merrill D. Peterson and Robert
C. Vaughan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 272“3.
9 See Sandel™s discussion of “deontology with a Humean face” in Liberalism and the
Limits of Justice, pp. 14, 21.
10 I follow here especially Kant™s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. H. J. Paton
(New York: Harper & Row, 1964).
11 Unless otherwise noted, all references to A Theory of Justice are to the ¬rst edition.
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971),
pp. 3, 11. Chapter 1 is Rawls™s summary of his position, especially as it stands to his
main opponent, utilitarianism. See pp. 251“7 for a speci¬c discussion of the Kantian
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

Rawls™s argument in brief: When we imagine the founding moment of
the political contract, the “original position,” we must abstract from all
particular ends or preferences of the individuals who are parties to this
contract and conceive of a “self prior to its ends.” We are then to imag-
ine these parties collectively establishing, under a veil of ignorance
concerning their own circumstances and ends, the universal rules
to govern their future association. By this account, there is no need to
evaluate the speci¬c ends actually desired by individuals; the key is to
ensure that the process established for negotiating their differences
is fair. In this way, Rawls™s “procedural liberalism,” his emphasis on
“justice as fairness,” understands itself to be accommodating a multi-
plicity of subjective ends “ and so preserving the freedom of individuals
to pursue them “ while offering a rational and nonutilitarian account
of the rules governing our political association.12
In following Kant, Rawls is able to derive the rules of political jus-
tice as well as to supply a moral ground for liberal institutions and
processes.13 “Though it rejects the possibility of an objective moral
order,” Michael Sandel notes in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, “this
liberalism does not hold that just anything goes. It af¬rms justice, not
nihilism.”14 Our reverence for the law as moral is connected with its
detachment from any particular and merely subjective end, and our
obedience to justice is to a universal rule that does not speci¬cally
advantage any individual or set of individuals. Liberalism thus entails,
in Rawls™s well-known phrase, “the priority of the right over the good,”
a priority justi¬ed in part because “the desire to express our nature as

derivation “ the “high point of the contractarian tradition in Kant and Rousseau” “ of
the principle of “justice as fairness.” See also Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1993), p. xv.
12 Sandel™s observation is helpful: “˜Deontological liberalism™ is above all a theory about
justice, and in particular about the primacy of justice among moral and political
ideals. Its core thesis can be stated as follows: society, being composed of a plurality
of persons, each with his own aims, interests, and conceptions of the good, is best
arranged when it is governed by principles that do not themselves presuppose any
particular conception of the good; what justi¬es these regulative principles above
all is not that they maximize the social welfare or otherwise promote the good, but
rather that they conform to the concept of right, a moral category given prior to the
good and independent of it” (Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 1).
13 See also Rawls™s summary of the aims of A Theory of Justice in his Political Liberalism,
p. xv.
14 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 176.
Liberalism and Its Critics 13

a free and equal rational being can be ful¬lled only by acting on the
principles of right and justice as having ¬rst priority.”15
Yet, for all their persuasive power and liberal underpinnings,
Kantian moral philosophy and the liberalism it inspired became so
much the object of criticism that Rawls ultimately modi¬ed elements
of his theory of justice.16 In general, critics argued, reverence for the
moral law and justice cannot be sustained in the face of the morally
diminished or arbitrary character of the ends the law superintends.
The defense of the law as moral, that is, collapses if we cannot sup-
ply reasonable arguments in behalf of the goods that are protected.
Moreover, in insisting on a separation between the right and the good,
Rawlsian liberalism both covers over the connection between liberal
justice and a uniquely liberal vision of the good, and relies on a picture
of the self that misrepresents the relation between the individual and
the political community.17
According to the ¬rst of these criticisms, the elevation of the moral
law and justice, which is grounded in their supposed universality and
neutrality, is undercut by the fact that their task is to superintend an
arena that has no moral elevation of its own.18 That our highest and

15 Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 574. Rawls does not alter this statement in his revised
edition; see p. 504.
16 It is dif¬cult to overstate the in¬‚uence of Kantianism on the view of liberalism that
prevailed in 1970s and 1980s, an in¬‚uence for which Rawls especially is to be credited:
“Within academic philosophy, the last decade or so has seen the ascendance of the
rights-based ethic over the utilitarian one, due in large part to the powerful in¬‚uence
of John Rawls™s A Theory of Justice” (Sandel, Liberalism and Its Critics, p. 4). See also
Galston, Justice and the Human Good, p. 9: “Robert Nozick has remarked that the
eminence of John Rawls™s theory is such that ˜political philosophers now must either
work within [it] or explain why not™.”
17 For detailed critiques of Kant and Rawls, see all of Sandel™s Liberalism and the Limits
of Justice and Galston™s Justice and the Human Good, as well as chs. 6 and 7 of his Liberal
Purposes. Also, there is an entire neo-Aristotelian school of virtue ethics that has its
inspiration in G. E. M. Anscombe™s in¬‚uential repudiation of any “law-based” ethics
in her seminal article “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy 33 ( January 1958):
1“19. I do not rely on Anscombe™s argument here, which is on the order of MacIntyre™s
global critique of liberalism. See Trianosky, “What Is Virtue Ethics All About?” and
Simpson, “Contemporary Virtue Ethics and Aristotle,” for fuller discussions of the
school of virtue ethics having its source in Anscombe. For recent works, see Philippa
Foot, Natural Goodness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001); Rosalind Hursthouse, On
Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Roger Crisp and Michael
Slote, eds., Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
18 In allowing for different ends or “life plans,” Rawls makes room for the operation of
reason in “carrying through a rational plan” with a view to attaining those ends and
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

truly free “ truly human “ action is the formation of and obedience to
the self-legislated law underlines the fact that all our other actions and
choices are unfree or slavish, tied as they are said to be to inclination or
preference.19 Our most serious action proves in this way to be for the
sake of our less serious pursuits, our freest deeds for the ful¬llment of
our slavish desires. But if there is no more to the sphere of individual
ends than a kind of self-serving acquisitiveness having its source in
inclination or desire, how worthy is this sphere of protection? The
dif¬culty, Sandel suggests, is that “the morally diminished status of the
good must inevitably call into question the status of justice as well.”20
Our reverence for the law, so necessary to our sense of duty and law-
abidingness, is inevitably connected with its purposes. In protecting
pursuits and ends lower than itself, then, the law invariably declines in
Indeed, according to Sandel, “once it is conceded that our con-
ceptions of the good are morally arbitrary, it becomes dif¬cult to see
why the highest of all (social) virtues should be the one that enables
us to pursue these arbitrary conceptions ˜as fully as circumstances per-
mit™.”21 At a minimum, in commanding the protection of practices and
pursuits that have no moral dignity of their own, and that some indi-
viduals may abhor, the law requires citizens to exercise the highest of

even, to a certain extent, in assessing them. But, as he further argues, “we eventually
reach a point though where we just have to decide which plan we most prefer without
further guidance from principle . . . we may narrow the scope of purely preferential
choice, but we cannot eliminate it altogether.” Thus, his objection to utilitarian-
ism is less its view that choice is rooted in desire or inclination and more that it
“does not take seriously enough the distinction between persons” (A Theory of Justice,
pp. 548“54, 27). For this reason, among others, Sandel criticizes Rawls™s view of moral
agency, which he describes as only “apparently voluntaristic” in its being grounded
in “something already there (in this case the shape and intensity of [his] pre-existing
desires)” and as ¬nally limited only by the “unchosen” principles of justice (Liberalism
and the Limits of Justice, p. 167).
19 Consider MacIntyre™s remark: “Kant of course denies that morality is ˜based on
human nature™, but what he means by ˜human nature™ is merely the physiological
non-rational side of man” (After Virtue, p. 52).
20 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, pp. 167“8. For his full criticism, see
pp. 154“68. Galston takes up Rawls™s later effort to offer a more robust account
of moral agency and concludes that “Rawls™s conception of moral personality will
appeal only to those who have accepted a particular understanding of liberal political
community” (Liberal Purposes, p. 131).
21 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 168.
Liberalism and Its Critics 15

all the social virtues while also averting their eyes or holding their
nose.22 Yet this very requirement suggests that for all their claims to
universality and neutrality, the law and justice are not truly separable
from the ends of the nonmoral or subjective sphere they superintend “
that judgments concerning these ends must be barred from the public
sphere lest they undercut citizens™ reverence for the law and justice.
But if so, the law is neither a true expression of autonomy nor simply
neutral as to our private pursuits. Rather, in abstracting from the pref-
erences or ends of individuals, it either compels assent by silencing
objections or it ultimately transforms these objections.
In fact, critics also observe, the very claim that the law and justice are
universal and neutral obscures the connection between the principles
of the liberal order and the vision of the human good that informs it.
For undergirding liberal justice, and re¬‚ected in the ends it promotes,
are distinctively liberal judgments about the good: In presupposing
that rights are prior to duties, for example, liberal justice assumes that
the individual is of higher dignity or sanctity than the community; in
preferring open markets to sumptuary laws, it judges free exchange
and prosperity to be superior to cultural and religious habits that may
impede them; in insisting that there can be no taxation without repre-
sentation, it identi¬es individual labor and the enjoyment of its fruits,
as compared to need or membership in a certain community, as the
true ground of property.
To speak in the most general terms, the other side of liberalism™s
professed skepticism about the existence of a human good, and its
corresponding concern about power, is its reverence for individual
freedom. As open-ended an aim as this freedom may seem to be,
no political order, even the most well-intentioned liberal order, can
secure itself and perpetuate its speci¬c form without in¬‚uencing the
character and moral vision of its members. To the contrary, accord-
ing to William Galston, liberalism “is rather committed to a distinc-
tive conception of the human good, a conception that undergirds

22 Drawing a Christian inference, Charles Taylor suggests that this form of liberalism
requires that we must “hate the sin, love the sinner.” See Taylor, “Living with Dif-
ference” in Debating Democracy™s Discontent: Essays on American Politics, Law and Public
Philosophy, eds. Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1998), p. 215.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

the liberal conception of social justice.”23 In the ¬rst place, the pro-
tection of individual freedom carries clear constitutional prescrip-
tions, such as popular sovereignty, elective of¬ce, divided govern-
ment, an independent judiciary, and individual rights, to name a
few. The support of such an order, moreover, entails a whole set
of virtues exclusive of other possibilities: tolerance and sturdy self-
reliance instead of righteousness and obedience, for instance; the
work ethic and not the renunciation of worldly goods. Indeed, as Rawls
himself acknowledges even in his early work and most fully in Political
Liberalism, the institutions and practices of a liberal order require of
citizens speci¬c excellences or virtues.24 Behind the apparent univer-
sality and neutrality of liberalism, then, a certain educative in¬‚uence
The fact of liberalism™s educative power also reveals a fundamen-
tal error in the Kantian“Rawlsian view of the self, and therefore of
the relation between the individual and the political community.26 In
asking us to conceive of the individual as a “self prior to its ends,”

23 Galston, Liberal Purposes, p. 18. See chs. 4“7 for Galston™s exploration of the claims in
favor of liberal neutrality, particularly those of Rawls. For Rawls™s response to Galston™s
objections, see Political Liberalism, pp. 195“200.
24 One of the questions in debate is how broadly and deeply liberalism™s educative
in¬‚uence extends, that is, whether there is a limited or “thin” theory of the good,
as Rawls argues, by which public life and public virtues are de¬ned and shaped but
which does not constitute a “way of life” speci¬c to liberalism. For other examples,
see Lyle A. Downing and Robert B. Thigpen, “Virtue and the Common Good in
Liberal Theory,” The Journal of Politics 55 (November 1993): 1046“59, and Michael
Walzer, “The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism,” Political Theory 18 (February
1990): 6“23.
25 Galston, Liberal Purposes, p. 18. Suggestions as to how liberals might defend speci¬cally
liberal virtues, and examples of such virtues, are offered by Salkever in Finding the
Mean, ch. 6 (his “Lopp™d and Bound” has such a project as its central task), as well
as by Galston in Liberal Purposes, pp. 213“37. One could consider also Nussbaum™s
“thick, vague theory of the good,” the most recent version of which she lays out in
“Aristotelian Social Democracy” in Aristotle and Modern Politics. For another effort
to make a quasi-Aristotelian defense of liberal virtues, see Berkowitz™s Virtue and the
Making of Modern Liberalism. By comparison, see Sharon Krause™s treatment of the
moral resources in a liberal concept of honor in Liberalism with Honor (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).
26 This argument clearly applies to the reigning Kantianism of the 1970s, but there
have been more recent treatments of Kant™s thought about virtue and education that
would appear to provide a more subtle view. See Martha Nussbaum™s summary of this
literature in “Virtue Ethics: A Misleading Category?” The Journal of Ethics 3 (1999):
Liberalism and Its Critics 17

and so as prior to association with others, this view presupposes that
through the operation of reason, individuals can be radically free from
the communities “ family, friends, and nation “ that are the primary
source of their moral experience and judgment.27 Individuals are
thus said to be, to use Rawls™s words, “self-originating sources of valid
claims.”28 Yet as Habermas has pointed out and Rawls has acknowl-
edged, the self of the original position requires moral powers that can
be acquired only within society and through association with others.29
These powers are not conceivable, that is, prior to these associations.
In this respect and more generally, the picture of the “unencumbered
self ” in A Theory of Justice obscures the ways in which the communities
within which we are raised give impetus and substance to individual
moral agency and confer upon us obligations of a morally relevant
It is not surprising, then, that critics of Kantian ethics and Rawlsian
liberalism are often considered, their own protests notwithstanding,
communitarians.31 For even scholars who disown the label, including
MacIntyre and Sandel, nonetheless insist that an individual is signif-
icantly shaped by the community within which he or she is raised.
Indeed, Rorty has approvingly suggested, Sandel goes so far as to
reject the “ahistorical self ” of Enlightenment metaphysics in favor of
a “theory of the self that incorporates Hegel™s and Heidegger™s sense
of the historicity of the self.”32 Yet, it is not necessary to understand

27 Susan Mollar Okin provides a classic feminist critique of Rawls in ch. 5 of her Justice,
Gender, and the Family (New York: Basic Books, 1989).
28 Rawls, “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory,” Journal of Philosophy 77 (August
1980): 543. Cf. Political Liberalism, p. 32, where Rawls speaks not of “self-originating
sources of valid claims,” but of “self-authenticating sources of valid claims.”
29 See the exchange between Rawls and Habermas in The Journal of Philosophy 92 (March
1995): 109“80.
30 See especially Sandel™s discussion in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, pp. 178“83. Con-
sider also Alasdair MacIntyre™s general criticism of the “privatization of the good” in
liberalism in “The Privatization of the Good,” as well as Martha Nussbaum™s shift
toward a more Kantian“Rawlsian view from her early position in The Fragility of
Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 2001) to her later work, a shift that she discusses in the
Preface to the revised edition of the former work, pp. xviii“xxiv.
31 See, e.g., Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Spectre of Communitarianism,” Radical Philosophy
70 (March“April 1995): 34, and Michael J. Sandel, “Political Liberalism,” Harvard
Law Review 107(7) (May 1994): 1766“7.
32 Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” p. 260.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

our situation in such radical terms to see that the challenge to the
Enlightenment, and to the Kantian and early Rawlsian views of ethics
and politics, raises deep questions about the relation between the
individual and the political community. If, for example, the individ-
ual is properly understood as situated within a political community,
then does this community have primacy and authority over individ-
ual pursuits and aims? If no political order is neutral with respect to
the moral education and good of its members, what is the nature
and scope of its educative in¬‚uence? If, as members of a particu-
lar political community, individuals acquire duties not derivative of
rights, what is the status of these duties, especially with respect to
rights and the pursuit of happiness? If, in sum, the political commu-
nity cannot be understood simply in terms of a contract among unen-
cumbered or free agents, and is undergirded and de¬ned by certain
practices and virtues, then what are the “distinctive marks” of liberal
As scholars struggle with these questions, moreover, they ¬nd them-
selves in a radically unsettled world. For not only have doubts about
liberal principles arisen from within, but the attacks of September 11,
2001, informed us with stunning ferocity of the challenges, practical
and theoretical, presented by those who deny the truth of these princi-
ples and who take their bearings from divine law. In what is frequently
called the “post-9/11 world,” it is clear that a full account of the foun-
dations and aims of citizenship cannot proceed in an isolated world
of liberal assumptions. Both our own doubts and the challenges from
without require us to get to the root of the matter and, by returning to
a fundamental reconsideration of the relation between the individual
and community, to ask again the question “What is a citizen?” In a way
that is not true of liberal thought, this question is central in Aristotle™s
political philosophy; nevertheless, there are problems belonging to
the current debates about citizenship that offer a bridge to his thought
even as they clarify its distinctiveness. By outlining Rawls™s reformula-
tion of his theory of justice, the treatment of moral disagreement by
deliberative democrats Dennis Thompson and Amy Gutmann, and the
recent work of Sandel, Berkowitz, Macedo, and Galston, I draw out two
problems in particular: the relation between justice, or the right, and
the good, and the nature of civic education.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 19

the limits of liberal citizenship
In response to criticism that the argument of A Theory of Justice is
grounded in a Kantian conception of the person as autonomous and
therefore relies upon a comprehensive doctrine or theory of the good
even as it claims not to do so, Rawls refashions his account to present a
liberalism that is “political, not metaphysical.”33 Replacing some of the
Kantian elements of his original argument, he begins from the prob-
lem presented by a modern democratic society: “A modern democratic
society is characterized not simply by a pluralism of comprehensive
religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of
incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines.”34 Given the
“fact of reasonable pluralism,” Rawls™s political liberalism con¬nes its
authority and operation to questions of “social cooperation” and seeks
an “overlapping consensus” among comprehensive doctrines that can
endorse, each from its own point of view, a political conception of
Accordingly, the political sphere is the sphere within which the
individual as citizen takes on a “public identity” and members of the
same political community come together to deliberate concerning
“the fair terms of social cooperation between citizens regarded as free
and equal.”36 This form of deliberation requires an “idea of public
reason” in accord with which “comprehensive doctrines of truth or
right [are] replaced by an idea of the politically reasonable addressed

33 See Rawls™s own account of this reformulation in his Introduction to Political
34 Ibid., p. xvi. See also Rawls™s discussion of the meaning of “reasonableness” in Justice
as Fairness: A Restatement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 191.
35 Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. xvi, 10, and all of Lecture IV. Rawls rejects Habermas™s
effort to derive these principles from a “norm of rational dialogue” or idealized
speech situation (see pp. 191“2).
36 Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 47. See also his Introduction, pp. xiii“xxx, in which he
describes his overall project. Rawls continues to draw inspiration from Kant, though
now from Kant™s distinction between public and private reason in “What Is Enlight-
enment?” (see p. 213). But consider also “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” in
The Law of Peoples, With “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1999), pp. 175“80, as well as Stephen Salkever™s critique of Rawls in
“The Deliberative Model of Democracy and Aristotle™s Ethics of Natural Questions”
in Aristotle and Modern Politics: The Persistence of Political Philosophy, ed. Aristide Tessitore
(Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), pp. 342“74.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

to citizens as citizens.”37 Public reason seeks not to dictate the ends
or goods of the free and equal citizens to whom it refers but to set
the standards and procedures by which to adjudicate disputes aris-
ing from the diverse pursuits of the good. Re¬‚ecting a version of the
social contract, public reason requires citizens “to propose principles
and standards as fair terms of cooperation and to abide by these will-
ingly, given the assurance that others will likewise do so.”38 While the
pursuit of the good on the part of an individual may belong to a com-
prehensive view, then, the content of public reason is given by “the
principles and values of the family of liberal political conceptions of
justice” that meet three conditions: (1) they “apply to basic political
and social institutions,” (2) they are “presented independently from
comprehensive doctrines,” and (3) they “can be worked out from fun-
damental ideas seen as implicit in the public political culture of a
constitutional regime.”39
Rawls argues that the idea of justice thus understood is “freestand-
ing,” requiring at most that citizens endorse the “essentials of a demo-
cratic regime” or “constitutional democracy.”40 As the modern alter-
native to the ancient regime in which citizens are bound together in
a common vision of the good, political liberalism has its roots in the
“clash between Salvationist, creedal, and expansionist religions” “ a
clash born of the Reformation and its aftermath.41 As a solution to
this problem, moreover, it is neither an answer to the question of the
human good nor a branch of moral philosophy; the “moral psychology
of the person” consistent with political liberalism is but a “scheme of
concepts and principles for expressing a certain conception of the per-
son and an ideal of citizenship.”42 In this regard, political philosophy

37 Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” pp. 132, 136“8.
38 Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. 48“9. For a full account of the idea of public reason,
see Rawls™s “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.” See also Justice as Fairness, in which
he makes explicit the problem that citizens must act “at the expense of their own
interest” (p. 191).
39 Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” p. 143; Political Liberalism, p. 254.
40 Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. xvi, xxx, 10“11. Rawls argues that a comprehensive
doctrine cannot reject the essentials of a democratic regime as a minimal requirement
of reasonableness, but Galston counters that “this criterion packs far too much into
the idea of the ˜reasonable™.” See Galston, “Two Concepts of Liberalism,” Ethics 105
(April 1995): 518.
41 Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. xxv.
42 Ibid., pp. 87“8.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 21

is “autonomous.” While it cannot say anything it wishes since it is lim-
ited by human psychology and history, it nonetheless constructs its
schemes in response to the problem of modern society with which it
is presented: “We strive for the best we can attain within the scope the
world allows.”43
According to Rorty, Rawls™s reformulation of his theory of justice
represents a welcome turn on his part to pragmatism, and it would
seem that the effort to eschew metaphysics or comprehensive doc-
trines of any kind opens the door to a pragmatic politics that not
only takes its bearings from the practices and problems of the age,
but brackets all foundational disputes in search of a present consen-
sus. Rorty perhaps endorses the fullest version of this view in arguing
that Rawls™s pragmatic (and Hegelian) turn re¬‚ects the conclusion
at which we have arrived in history: the conclusion that “democracy
takes precedence over philosophy.”44 Indeed, he argues, “disenchant-
ment” with or detachment from foundational principles, religious and
philosophic, is “the price we pay for individual and private spiritual lib-
eration, the kind of liberation that Emerson thought characteristically
American.”45 Beginning from a deeply communitarian premise “ the
historical self of the post-Enlightenment era is constituted by the com-
munity “ Rorty arrives at a liberal outcome: individual liberation. The
effort to reenchant the world by returning to foundational principles,
he contends, would entail the highest of costs: “the freedom of indi-
viduals to work out their own salvation.”46
Whether or not Rorty faithfully captures Rawls™s own position, his
insistence on the priority of democracy to philosophy helps to illumi-
nate the impetus for and the consequences of Rawls™s move away from
Kant and his sharpened emphasis on the problem to which political
liberalism is the solution. The ideas of justice as fairness and of pub-
lic reason represent the tools with which those who hold con¬‚icting

43 Ibid., p. 88. See also Lecture III, as well as Rawls™s discussion of the four roles of
political philosophy in Justice as Fairness, pp. 1“5, and Galston™s criticism in Liberal
Pluralism, pp. 42“6.
44 Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” p. 269. See also Chandran Kukathas
and Phillip Pettit, Rawls: “A Theory of Justice” and Its Critics (Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press, 1990), p. 144.
45 Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” p. 272. Rorty claims to be following
Dewey, but cf. Sandel, Debating Democracy™s Discontent, pp. 322“3.
46 Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” p. 272.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

religious or moral doctrines formulate the terms of peace and secure
the freedom of each to live as he or she sees ¬t within the same political
association. For the sake of this peace and freedom, individuals in their
“public identity” appeal only to reasons that are acceptable or “reason-
able” to their fellow citizens. As Rawls notes in his ¬nal restatement of
justice as fairness:

Together, the values of justice and of public reason express the liberal ideal
that since political power is the coercive power of citizens as a corporate body “
a power in which each has an equal share “ this power is to be exercised, at
least when constitutional essentials and questions of basic justice are at stake,
only in ways that all citizens may reasonably be expected to endorse.47

The appeal to fairness “ to the priority of the right and democracy “
seeks common ground within diversity and thus rules out, for political
purposes, recourse to the opinions, beliefs, and principles that consti-
tute this very diversity. Or, to be more precise, the ideas of the good that
are allowed into the political realm have to be political ideas, which
means that they must “belong to a reasonable political conception of
Rawls thus appears to secure the priority of the right on new
grounds “ the “fact of reasonable pluralism” as opposed to the nature
of a free self “ and to rest the moral elevation of justice and the law on
their protection not of the sphere of merely subjective preferences,
but of the diversity of comprehensive doctrines of the good. Yet even
scholars who are sympathetic to Rawls™s liberalism doubt that his new
position wholly achieves its aims. In particular, critics are unconvinced
that it adequately captures the character of moral disagreement within
a democratic order, the relation between liberal justice and the human
good, and the nature of civic education. Some of the central disputes
concerning these matters provide an opening to Aristotle™s view of the
law, education, and moral virtue in his Nicomachean Ethics. Although
liberal thought has traditionally rejected this view, we must now recover
it if we are to achieve clarity about the question of citizenship. I trace
a path to this recovery with the aid of Gutmann and Thompson™s dis-
cussion of the problem of moral disagreement, Sandel™s criticism of

47 Rawls, Justice as Fairness, p. 190 (my emphasis).
48 Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 176.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 23

Rawls™s political liberalism, and recent discussions of liberal virtue and
civic education by Berkowitz, Macedo, and Galston.
In their defense of a form of democracy that is fundamentally delib-
erative, Gutmann and Thompson argue that Rawls™s “constitutional-
ism” “ his focus on the principles of justice that order a democratic
society “ leaves untouched the area of “middle democracy” in which
moral disagreements arise in everyday political life and require our
deliberation.49 Indeed, they argue, both the constitutional democracy
of Rawls and the “procedural democracy” of Robert Dahl place obsta-
cles in the way of a robust deliberative politics: the latter by telling
citizens “to agree on some neutral rules of play and keep their moral
disagreements to themselves” and the former by leaving moral delib-
eration and the defense of rights “to an institution that is supposed
to be above politics “ the Supreme Court.”50 The dif¬culty with these
views is that moral disagreement does not cease at the constitutional
or procedural doorstep; as Rawls himself recognizes, “issues such as
abortion, preferential hiring, and health care are central to the ques-
tion of justice in democratic societies.”51 Following Rawls, Gutmann
and Thompson largely agree that individuals in their capacity as cit-
izens must conform to the requirements of public reason, speci¬ed
in the principles of reciprocity, publicity, and accountability.52 Never-
theless, they also contend, the con¬‚icts over issues such as abortion
or af¬rmative action are grounded not simply in interpretive disputes
concerning the constitutional meaning of liberty and equality, but

49 As Bohman and Rehg observe, “The term ˜deliberative democracy™ seems to have
been ¬rst coined by Joseph Bessette, who argued against elitist (or ˜aristocratic™) inter-
pretations of the Constitution. Bessette™s challenge joined the chorus of voices calling
for a participatory view of democratic politics.” See James Bohman and William Rehg,
eds., Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
1997), p. xii. Deliberative or “participatory” democracy found powerful inspiration
in the thought of Hannah Arendt; see especially The Human Condition (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1998).
50 Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 347.
51 Ibid., pp. 35“8.
52 They lay out these three principles in chs. 2 to 4 of Democracy and Disagreement.
Particularly with respect to the principle of reciprocity “ “the foundation of reci-
procity is the capacity to seek fair terms of social cooperation for their own sake” “
they acknowledge a debt to Rawls (as well as to T. M. Scanlon) but add that “we give
greater emphasis than they do to actual political deliberation and draw different
implications with respect to the content of the principles of justice” (pp. 52“3, n. 1).
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

also in fundamental disagreements concerning the good for individu-
als and society. While acknowledging Rawls™s “deliberative turn” in his
later work, Gutmann and Thompson contend that his view of deliber-
ation is too narrow to capture the scope and nature of moral disagree-
ment in democratic politics, and that, in particular, the principles of
deliberation ought to allow public discussion of claims grounded in
comprehensive views. By barring such claims, they argue, both pro-
cedural and constitutional democracy attempt to enforce a kind of
truce among citizens at the expense of real consensus and political
progress. In short, the question at the heart of the matter is whether
claims deriving from doctrines of the good can, and indeed must, be
brought into deliberation concerning the just or the right in public
affairs. As Gutmann and Thompson conclude, “Moral argument will
almost certainly intrude into politics no matter what our theories say
or what our practices imply. The important question is what kind of
moral argument our democracy should foster “ what its content should
be, and under what conditions it should be conducted.”53
Notwithstanding the much-debated question of whether Gutmann
and Thompson offer an account of deliberative democracy that suc-
ceeds in truly accommodating moral disagreement, 54 their extensive
analysis of actual moral argument amply illustrates that battles over
abortion and capital punishment, as well as a whole host of issues
regarding education, health and welfare, employment practices, and
so forth, bring to the deliberative forum ideas of justice ¬rmly rooted
in views of the good life and good society. These views frequently
con¬‚ict: the sanctity of a fetus as created and conceived in God™s grace
as opposed to the control of a woman over her own body; equal oppor-
tunity for the sexes as compared to the roles endorsed by nature or
by God; the righteousness of vengeance versus the charity of forgive-
ness.55 Within the realm of middle democracy, it seems impossible to

53 Ibid. See also Gutmann and Thompson “Why Deliberative Democracy Is Different,”
Social Philosophy and Policy 17 (Winter 2000), p. 161: “In modern pluralist societies,
political disagreement often re¬‚ects moral disagreement. . . . Any satisfactory theory
of democracy must provide a way of dealing with this moral disagreement.”
54 See, for example, the essays compiled in Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democ-
racy and Disagreement, ed. Stephen Macedo (New York: Oxford University Press,
55 Thompson and Gutmann™s treatment of Mozert v Hawkins is particularly illuminating
concerning the clash of such fundamental ideas, and their interpretation of the case
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 25

avoid moral con¬‚ict among comprehensive views that are overtly or
covertly brought into the debate. Yet, in the absence of real deliber-
ation, Gutmann and Thompson suggest, we never confront the true
grounds of our disagreement and thus fail to exploit the opportuni-
ties to arrive at real consensus, if only about why we must agree to
Clarity about questions of the good, moreover, sheds light on liber-
alism™s own claims and assumptions. Even if we limit the idea of justice
to Rawls™s strict view that justice is social cooperation among citizens
understood as free and equal, the principles of freedom and equality
are themselves connected with certain views of what is truly good: a life
lived free from coercion and as a truly autonomous being, for instance,
or a society that cares for its least advantaged members. And Rawls, too,
ultimately rejects Rorty™s radical historicist version of his position by
defending political liberalism in terms of the goods it achieves, such as
those inherent in the exercise of the moral powers required of citizens
of a well-ordered democratic society and in the “public recognition”
of one™s status as a free and equal citizen.56 To assert with Rawls that
these goods are not anchored in a comprehensive doctrine “ that they
are strictly “political goods” “ does not undercut the more basic fact
that justice carries with it an idea of the good, if an ostensibly political
Indeed, it is by pressing hard on Rawls™s “political conception of
the person” “ his separation of our public and personal identities “
that Sandel begins to ¬nd fault with his effort in Political Liberalism to
“[rescue] the priority of the right from controversies about the nature
of the self” by attaching it to the fact of reasonable pluralism.57 “The
fundamental question,” Sandel insists in response to Rawls™s refor-
mulation of his position, “is whether the right is prior to the good”:
whether, for example, “rights can be identi¬ed and justi¬ed in a way
that does not presuppose any particular conception of the good life,”
and whether “the case for rights [rests] on the moral importance of

is the subject of some debate. See, for example, Galston, Liberal Pluralism, pp. 114“22,
and Stanley Fish™s comments in Deliberative Politics: Essays on “Democracy and Disagree-
ment,” pp. 88“102
56 Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 203.
57 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 195.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

the purposes or ends rights promote.”58 For Rawls, as for Rorty, the
justi¬cation for adopting the political standpoint or a public identity
is precisely the fact that no one comprehensive doctrine is accepted
by all. The reasonable citizen thus understands that his or her own
religious and moral ideals cannot be awarded constitutional status in
a democratic society marked by a pluralism of comprehensive views.
Yet the treatment of moral disagreement by Gutmann and Thomp-
son, and the dispute between Rawls and Sandel, raise the question of
whether liberalism can subordinate moral and religious ideals to the
requirements of liberal justice without confronting the question of
their truth or, more precisely, without addressing their claims, as well
as liberalism™s own claims, with regard to the human good.
As Sandel notes, the liberal conception of justice is not a mere modus
vivendi if its appeal to justice necessarily imports ideas of the good into
the architecture of the political order. Sandel™s argument against Rawls
on this point is both descriptive and prescriptive. The moral and reli-
gious principles that informed the Lincoln“Douglas debates and the
arguments of the early abolitionists would have been disallowed by the
requirements of public reason, and these same requirements prevent
us from offering a moral argument, as opposed to a limited consti-
tutional one, in defense of gay rights.59 Yet, the ¬ght against slavery

58 Sandel importantly distinguishes the problem that he raises from the critique by
communitarians. In his view, justice is linked with good because “the principles of
justice depend for their justi¬cation on the moral worth or intrinsic good of the
ends they serve,” whereas in the communitarian view, “the case for recognizing a
right depends on showing that such a right is implicit in the shared understandings
that inform the tradition or community in question” (Liberalism and the Limits of
Justice, pp. x“xi). As Ronald Beiner, commenting on Sandel™s Democracy™s Discontent,
observes, “The real issue in the debate with Rawls and his followers, as Sandel rightly
says, is whether a liberal theory of justice can be vindicated while avoiding appeal
to one among a set of rival and controversial conceptions of the good” (Debating
Democracy™s Discontent), p. 3. See also MacIntyre™s latest revision of his position in
Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues (Chicago: Open Court,
1999): “No account of the goods, rules and virtues that are de¬nitive of our moral life
can be adequate that does not explain “ or at least point us towards an explanation “
how that form of life is possible for beings who are biologically constituted as we are,
by providing us with an account of our development towards and into that form of
life” (p. x).
59 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, pp. 198“202, 207“10. See also Galston,
Liberal Pluralism: “It is true that after political institutions have functioned for some
time, their legitimacy may come to be taken for granted, and their constitutive values
may come to be seen as freestanding. But this is an illusion, quickly dispelled in
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 27

illustrates liberalism™s necessary recourse, especially in times of crisis,
to comprehensive ideas of the good, and the arguments on behalf of
justice for other oppressed groups will lack the same transformative
power if the strictures of public reason prohibit such comprehensive
claims. In the end, Sandel observes, it is not at all clear that the mutual
respect and accommodation that public reason demands for diverse
views of the good are achieved in the absence of real engagement
with these views. As compared with the liberal position, according to
which “we respect our fellow citizen™s moral and religious convictions
by ignoring them (for political purposes),” the “deliberative” position
entails that “we respect our fellow citizen™s moral and religious convic-
tions by engaging, or attending to, them “ sometimes by challenging
and contesting them, sometimes by listening and learning from them “
especially when those convictions bear on important political ques-
tions.”60 A liberalism that does not provide a political space for such
engagement, Sandel insists, is in danger of losing its political robust-
ness and moral self-con¬dence.
Against the liberalism espoused by Rawls, Sandel offers a “rival pub-
lic philosophy” “ a “republican” theory that centers on the idea that
“liberty depends on sharing in self-government.”61 The Rawlsian view
of “procedural democracy,” he argues in his Democracy™s Discontent, is
a rather late arrival on the American stage. This strand of liberalism
has its roots in the thought that informed the Founding, but it vied
with a civic republican strand that emphasized virtue, duty, and civic
education. Sandel is not alone in his emphasis on civic virtue and its
supports. Amid concerns about moral decline and political fragmen-
tation, the communitarian critique of the late twentieth century led
to what Berkowitz has called a “chastened understanding” on the part
of many scholars of liberalism, “who have increasingly come to appre-
ciate the capacity of a liberal framework to respect the role of moral
virtue, civic association, and even religious faith in the preservation of
a political society based on free and democratic institutions.”62 For this

times of internal or external crisis. Slavery drove President Lincoln to philosophical
arguments for human equality, and the Civil War drove him to theological re¬‚ections
on divine judgment” (p. 41).
60 Sandel, Libreralism and the Limits of Justice, p. 217.
61 Sandel, Democracy™s Discontent, p. 5.
62 Berkowitz, Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism, p. 23.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics

reason, scholars have been ever more willing to speak of the “liberal
virtues,” emphasize the educative role of religious, civic, and famil-
ial associations, and underscore the duties rather than the rights of
To be sure, Rawls himself acknowledges the necessity of virtue in
the practice of liberal politics, especially “the virtues of fair social
cooperation,” civility, tolerance, reasonableness, and the sense of fair-
ness. 63 But scholars who pursue the question of virtue more compre-
hensively and systematically offer more extensive lists of the virtues.
Sandel, for instance, mines American history to present a rich array,
including marital ¬delity, religious piety, economic industry, frugality,
individual self-control, manly courage, and practical judgment.64 Amy
Gutmann argues that in requiring citizens capable of taking a “civic
standpoint” and of deliberating together concerning their common
welfare, deliberative democracy requires a “democratic education”:
“the virtues that deliberation encompasses include veracity, nonvio-
lence, practical judgment, civic integrity and magnanimity.”65 In gen-
eral, different views as to the character of liberal political practices
and goods produce different lists of liberal virtues, ranging from ¬lial
piety and patriotic love of country to individual autonomy and critical
distance from convention and law. Whether rooted in civic republi-
canism, deliberative democracy, or even the requirements of social
cooperation, more robust notions of liberal citizenship naturally call
for more robust accounts of virtue and civic education than procedural
or constitutional liberals have been willing to offer.
Yet there is a danger for liberalism in venturing too far down the
road of virtue. The question that confronts those who, chastened by

63 Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. 194, 301“2.
64 Thomas Pangle™s “The Retrieval of Civic Virtue: A Critical Appreciation of Sandel™s
Democracy™s Discontent” (in Debating Democracy™s Discontent) offers a detailed account
of the many virtues, and sources of inspiration for them, in Sandel™s argument; see
especially pp. 21“6. Pangle™s critique is also helpful in drawing out the question of
whether Sandel himself confronts the full implications of his effort to retrieve civic
65 Amy Gutmann, Democratic Education, p. xiii. Or, as Bohman and Rehg argue, deliber-
ative democracy occupies the terrain between liberal theorists, such as Hobbes and
Locke, who emphasize self-interest and civil strife, and civic republicans, such as
Harrington and Rousseau, who focus on the common interest and harmony.
Deliberative Democracy, p. x.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 29

the communitarian critique, seek to articulate the moral core and ped-
agogic requirements of liberal citizenship is whether, in specifying the
liberal virtues and mandating civic education, a liberal order consti-
tutes what it professes to eschew: a comprehensive good and moral
order “ in the ancient sense, a regime. At the heart of the rediscovery
of liberal citizenship lies a fundamental challenge to liberalism itself.
Indeed, it is in confronting this challenge that Rawls, having thrown
off the comprehensive claims of Kantianism, continues to insist on
the priority of the right and the political conception of the person.
For if liberalism is to preserve its liberal character, it must protect as
sacrosanct a realm within which individuals freely pursue the good,
understood now not as their mere subjective preferences but as the
values and comprehensive doctrines that give their lives deepest mean-
ing. The ostensible aim of a liberal civic education is therefore to edu-
cate liberal citizens without transforming their comprehensive views
or imposing a “way of life.” To paraphrase a distinction from Aristo-
tle, liberalism must strive to create good citizens but not good human

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