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JOURNAL OF

MORAL
PHILOSOPHY

Journal of Moral Philosophy (2013)


DOI 10.1163/174552412X628850

brill.com/jmp

The Unromantic Rousseauian:


Scanlon on Justice, Value Coherence and
Freedom*
Waheed Hussain

Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania


whussain@wharton.upenn.edu

Abstract
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 Scanlons
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.
Keywords
Value pluralism, Social Freedom, Rousseau, Liberalism, Stability, Congruence

Justice is an important value, but there are other important values in political life, including liberty, equality, and community. Isaiah Berlin famously
argues that these values are incompatible with each other, and that politics
has an unavoidably tragic dimension because there is often no good way of
ordering the conflicting demands that these values make.1 As he says, [t]he
*I would like to thank the late G.A. Cohen (who is sorely missed), Rahul Kumar, Martin
ONeill, Mathias Risse, Leif Wenar, and two anonymous referees at the Journal of Moral
Philosophy for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I owe a special debt to
Tim Scanlon for so many illuminating discussions of these issues over the years.
1
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).
Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013

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world that we encounter in ordinary experience is one in which we are


faced with choices between ends equally ultimate, and claims equally absolute, the realization of some of which must inevitably involve the sacrifice
of others.2
Scanlons moral and political philosophy presents a compelling alternative to Berlins agonistic view of political life. For Scanlon, there is an underlying coherence between the demands of justice and the demands of other
political values, so Berlin is mistaken in thinking that the values of political
life are fundamentally at odds with each other. Moreover, Scanlon thinks
that justice has a certain priority among political values, so in most cases,
there is a good way of ordering the demands that these values make.
The contractualist view of the relation between political values is one of
the most attractive and compelling aspects of Scanlons political philosophy. But I will argue that his view is nonetheless mistaken in one impor
tantrespect: it does not attach the right significance to value coherence.
A socialist tradition of thought that begins with Rousseau and continues
through Marx takes value coherence to be closely linked with freedom.
Scanlons theory belongs to the Rousseauian tradition in that it asserts that
there is an underlying coherence between justice and other values. But it
departs from the tradition in that it rejects the idea that this coherence
enhances our freedom in a practically significant sense. For Scanlon, the
kind of freedom that matters in political life is mainly a function of the
circumstances in which people make decisions, not the relation between
values.
I will argue that the Rousseauian tradition is essentially right about the
significance of value coherence. When justice bears the right relation to
other values, this enhances our freedom in a practically significant sense,
and we should structure our institutions so as to improve this coherence.
I begin in sections1-4 by formulating Scanlons views about social justice
and its place in political life, and then turn to consider the question of freedom in the rest of the paper.
1.Justice and Mutual Recognition

The central normative concept in the assessment of social institutions,


for Scanlon, is the concept of a justified (or legitimate or defensible)
institution. A social institution is justified when it could be justified to each
Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, p. 168.

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person affected by it on grounds which that person could not reasonably


reject.3
The idea is that people have reason to want various things from their
institutions: they have reason to want their institutions to promote their
well-being, to treat them fairly, to give them certain forms of control over
their lives, and so on. The basic rationale for an institution shows how it
gives people the things that they have reason to want. To meet the reasonable rejection standard, however, the institution must be structured so that
its basic rationale is one that no one affected by the institution (or who may
be affected by it) could reasonably reject. In other words, the institution
must secure benefits that would make it unreasonable for anyone affected
by the institution to reject it, so long as they were committed (and believed
that others were also committed) to organizing the institution in a mutually acceptable way.
The concept of a justified institution is essentially a theoretical account
of social justice. Although social justice is sometimes understood narrowly
in terms of distributive justice, it can also be understood more broadly to
encompass the domain of political right or what we might call institutional right and wrong. When justice is understood this way, social
institutions can be just or unjust, not simply in virtue of the way that they
distribute the benefits of social cooperation, but also in virtue of the way
that they promote different facets of individual well-being, the grounds
on which they punish people, the protections they offer for basic rights,
and so on. The concept of a justified institution encompasses a very wide
range of grounds for criticizing institutions, and this range corresponds
most clearly to the broad notion of social justice as institutional right and
wrong.
Scanlons account of social justice is closely related to Rawls, but it is
worth noting a difference in their views about the nature of social justice.
On Rawls view, it is a defining characteristic of the principles of social justice that these principles have to play a certain role in social life.4 These
principles must serve as the most authoritative public standards that citizens and officials use to assess the basic structure of society. Rawls argues
that his two principles of justice are the most appropriate standards to play
this role, and therefore that societys basic institutions are just when they
3
T.M. Scanlon, The Significance of Choice, The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, volume 8, Sterling McMurrin (ed.) (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), p. 185.
4
See Rawls, A Theory of Justice, revised edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1999), p. 3-6.

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conform to these principles. Scanlons view is different from Rawls because


he does not take the principles of justice to have any defining role to play in
social life. In fact, he does not conceive of social justice in terms of principles at all. Social justice consists rather in the fact that societys basic institutions would pass the reasonable rejection test. Scanlon might, of course,
agree that people would have reasonable grounds for rejecting their basic
institutions if these were not publicly regulated by principles of the right
kind. But this does not mean that justice itself consists in conformity with
these principles. Conformity with these principles would be a requirement
of justice, but this requirement would follow as an implication of a theory
that makes no essential appeal to these principles.
Just institutions, on Scanlons view, are justified institutions, but what
makes justice important? Why should we care about the fact that our basic
institutions are just? For Scanlon, the normative appeal of social justice is
best understood in terms of the importance of standing in a certain kind of
relation with other people. He calls this relation one of mutual recognition.
This relation explains the normative appeal of the morality of right and
wrong in general, and it explains the normative appeal of social justice in
particular, understood as one part of this broader domain.5
A social institution is not just a set of habits, but a system of rules that
people are supposed to use in deciding what to do.6 Institutions define a
way of thinking and acting. When an institution is just, its rules define
a way of thinking and acting that no one affected by the institution (or possibly affected by it) could reasonably reject. This means that the rules are
sensitive to the fact that each individual has good reasons for wanting others to govern themselves in certain ways, and to the fact that each individual has the capacity to assess the justification for a certain mode of
governance. In conforming to the rules, participants stand in relations of
mutual recognition with all those affected because the rules define a mode
of self-governance that treats each individual as a moral person who matters in both of these ways.
I take it that institutional right and wrong is part of the broader domain of the morality
of right and wrong. It follows that we can understand the normative appeal of social justice
in light of what Scanlon says about the normative appeal of morality more generally.
My interpretation of Scanlons view is supported by the fact that he illustrates the intuitive
force of mutual recognition by appeal to an institutional example namely the reactions of
Americans in the 60s and 70s to the recognition that their institutions failed the test of justifiability. See T.M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1998), p. 163.
6
See Scanlon, The Significance of Choice, p. 214.
5

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We often think of the requirements of social justice as constraints on our


pursuit of other substantively appealing social objectives, such as maintaining a cultural heritage or promoting technological innovation. But on
the contractualist view, the requirements of social justice are not merely
constraints. Living in relations of mutual recognition with others is a substantively appealing objective in its own right, so the requirements of justice are actually aspects of the positive value of a way of living with others.7
We might draw a helpful parallel here with friendship. Friendship is a way
of relating to others that has positive value, and we can see the requirements of this relationship the obligations of friendship not just as constraints on our conduct, but also as aspects of an intrinsically valuable
endeavor. Mutual recognition is less personal than friendship, but it is similar in that its requirements do not enter our lives in the way that coercive
legal restrictions typically do; they enter our lives rather as aspects of a
broader enterprise that is both natural and has a powerful positive appeal.8
2.The Relation between Justice and Other Values

Scanlons contractualism explains the normative appeal of social justice in


terms of the importance of standing in relations of mutual recognition with
others. One of the things that makes social justice distinctive, however, is
that it occupies a special position in political life: its demands have priority
over the demands of other values. Social arrangements may be attractive
because they promote cultural diversity or encourage achievement in the
arts and sciences, but if these arrangements violate the requirements of
justice, then the balance of reasons favors revising these institutions.
One model for the special place of justice in political life is the model of
an overriding value. If the distinctive appeal of justice consists in the importance of standing in relations of mutual recognition with others, then on
this model, justice would have priority because standing in these relations
is so important that the requirements of doing so would override the
demands of any other value in cases of conflict. Scanlons theory does not
understand the special position of social justice in this way. According to
the contractualist view, there may be cases in which the requirements of
Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, p. 162.
Scanlon, What 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.
7

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justice simply override the demands of other values. But the main reason
that the balance of reasons always favors doing what justice requires is that
there is a certain level of coherence between the requirements of justice
and the requirements of other values.
The coherence among political values has two sources.9 First, it stems
from the fact that there is a certain pressure within social justice to make
room for the demands of other values. Justice is, in this way, sensitive to the
demands that other values make. Second, the coherence stems from the
fact that other values are sensitive to the demands that justice makes.
Sometimes other values will actually require that we comply with the
demands of justice. Sometimes they will make demands that are best
understood to be qualified, in the sense that these demands are not meant
to take precedence over the requirements of justice. In some cases, a value
may be pursued in several ways, and some of these approaches will reinforce, or at least not challenge, the requirements of justice.10
A full defense of the contractualist view of the priority of justice would
consider each value in political life and show: (1) how justice makes room
for us to respond to a significant portion of the demands that this value
makes; (2) how this value, properly understood, requires that we comply
with the demands of social justice, or at least does not require that we violate these demands; and (3) if any tension remains, why the interests
and concerns embodied in the demands of justice imply that these
demands should take precedence. Obviously, this is a complicated project,
and is beyond the scope of this paper, but I want to consider two cases to
illustrate.
Consider first the case of science. Science, scientific inquiry and scientific knowledge are all important values.11 Their value consists in a wide
range of reasons, reasons that we have for taking certain courses of action
and forming certain attitudes. Some of these reasons are reasons that we
have as individuals, such as the reason that we have to develop our scientific talents (if we have any), to apply ourselves to important lines of
research, and to be good members of the research community. Some of
these are reasons that we have as members of a political community, such
as the reason that we have to support scientific research and to cultivate a
9
Here I draw on Scanlons account of the priority of the morality of right and wrong in
general. See What We Owe to Each Other, pp. 160-8.
10
See Scanlons discussion of friendship in What We Owe to Each Other, p. 165.
11
For Scanlons views about the value of science, see What We Owe to Each Other, pp. 90-4
and 166-7.

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widespread understanding of scientific theories and findings. To show that


justice occupies a privileged position in political life, we must show that the
requirements of justice are not overridden by the requirements of an
appropriate regard for science.
The first step is to show how justice is sensitive to the value of science.
For a social arrangement to be just, it must pass the reasonable rejection
test. As we have seen, people have reason to want to develop their scientific
talents, and become good researchers. They also have reason to want to
form beliefs about the natural world using the best possible methods,
which are generally the methods of science. These reasons, and others like
them, give people a basis for reasonably rejecting a wide range of social
arrangements, such as arrangements that would discourage scientific
inquiry or limit inquiry to protect some religious orthodoxy. It follows that
the requirements of justice are sensitive to the requirements of an appropriate regard for science, and fashioning a just system of social institutions
would require that we make room for people to respond to the value of science and scientific inquiry.
The second step is to show how science is sensitive to the demands
of social justice. Suppose that there is some scientifically discredited
doctrine young earth creationism, for instance that nonetheless seems
to be attractive to many people. Suppose that we are considering a policy
that would prevent religious believers from trying to spread the doctrine.
Although this policy violates the freedom of speech and religion, and is
therefore unjust, one might well think that we have good reason to adopt
the policy insofar as we take science seriously. How can we take science
seriously as a society and yet allow such an obviously unscientific pattern
of belief and argument to gain widespread adherence?
The contractualist answer is that a proper understanding of the value of
science should lead us to see that we can take science seriously without
wanting to constrain basic freedoms in this way. The value of science lies
not simply in the value of a certain set of beliefs, but also in the value of a
way of forming beliefs. Science is a form of open questioning, where the
methods of science themselves are open to challenge. Young earth creationists may have mistaken views and may use mistaken methods to
defend their views, but taking science seriously requires that we engage
and respond to these mistaken views and methods, and show clearly how
they do not support beliefs about the natural world. Understood in this
way, the requirements of a proper regard for science are in line with respect
for the basic liberties, and, in fact, offer independent support for respecting
these freedoms.

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Science provides a model for how a wide range of values might be reconciled with the priority of social justice, including the value of sports and the
arts; personal virtues, such as honesty and tolerance; as well as expressly
political values, such as the rule of law and democracy. However, not all
values are quite so easily reconciled with social justice, and it is worth considering a more difficult case.
3.Fraternity and Social Equality

Fraternity is an important political value. People stand in relations of fraternity when they have complimentary ends and take pleasure in the realization of each others aims and ambitions.12 When the members of a
community stand in relations of fraternity with each other, each person
sees his own success as contributing to the success of others and he sees the
success of others as contributing to his own success. No one has any particular reason to want others to fail in their projects, and no one has any
particular reason to think that others want him to fail in his.
Fraternity is an intrinsically valuable way for people to relate to each
other, and the value of this relation gives us reason to avoid certain sorts of
social arrangements.13 For example, imagine that society is organized into a
competition for high and low status positions. Some people will end up as
corporate executives and celebrities, while others will scrub toilets night
after night. People naturally strive after high status positions, but the only
way to achieve these positions under this arrangement is to push someone
else into a lower status position.14 People in this arrangement are set against
each other and lack fraternity. They have reason to fear the success of their
friends, coworkers even members of their family because of how this
12
See Rawls notion of a social union, A Theory of Justice, p. 458-61. For a somewhat different conception of fraternity, see Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 90-1. See also, Elizabeth
Anderson, The Ethical Limitations of the Market, Value in Ethics and Economics (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 158; and G.A. Cohens discussion of the socialist principle
of community in Why Not Socialism? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009),
pp. 34-45.
13
Scanlon emphasizes the importance of self-esteem, but notes that the value of social
equality can also be understood to flow from the value of fraternity. See Scanlon, The
Diversity of Objections to Inequality, The Difficulty of Tolerance (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2003), pp. 212-13.
14
See G.A. Cohens discussion of the socialist principle of community in Why Not
Socialism? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), pp. 34-45.

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might damage their social position. And they have reason to think that
their friends, coworkers and family members harbor similar fears about
their own success.15
On the contractualist view, social justice is like fraternity because it also
gives us reason to avoid certain forms of status competition. People have
reason to protect their sense of their own worth, and this gives them a basis
for reasonably rejecting social arrangements that create useless status distinctions.16 But there is an important difference here. On the contractualist
view, social justice would allow and likely require certain forms of social
inequality when these would serve an important public purpose and could
be allotted through a fair process.17 For example, if the possibility of an
endowed chair in medicine or a high-profile interview in The New Yorker
would serve to motivate researchers to make worthwhile advances in
medicine, then justice would likely require these status distinctions.
The two values seem to be at odds, then, when it comes to status competition.18 Social justice involves standing in one kind of relation with others,
namely the relation of mutual recognition. This relation requires certain
forms of social inequality. Fraternity, on the other hand, involves standing
in another kind of relation with others, but the requirements of this second
relation are not compatible with many of the status inequalities that justice
would require. We have, then, a tension between the requirements of two
different, intrinsically valuable ways of living with others. For the contractualist to show that justice has a privileged position in political life, he must
show that the requirements of fraternity are not fundamentally at odds
with the requirements of mutual recognition.
How might the contractualist approach the problem? One possibility
would be to argue that fraternity is a pluralistic value, and that there is at
least one form of fraternity whose demands are compatible with status
See Rawls notion of a social union, A Theory of Justice, p. 458-61.
See Scanlon, The Diversity of Objections to Inequality, p. 214-15.
17
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.
18
Here I am disagreeing with Scanlons treatment of social equality in The Diversity of
Objections to Inequality (see especially pp. 212-28). Scanlon treats social equality as if our
concern for it were mainly an aspect of our concern for social justice. But I argue that our
concern for social equality also has to do with a value that is distinct from social justice,
namely fraternity. (Scanlon notes the connection with fraternity, but does not address it. See
note 13 above.) G.A. Cohen also takes the view that fraternity (what he calls the socialist
principle of community) is a distinct value whose requirements may be in tension with
social justice. See Why Not Socialism?, pp. 34-45.
15

16

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10

competition. Rawls, for example, argues that players in a competitive game


may share the fundamental aim of having a good play of the game.
Achieving this goal involves each player following the rules, the teams
being evenly matched, and individuals displaying the various excellences
of the sport.19 When players share this goal, they stand in relations of fraternity because they can take pleasure in the realization of each others ends
insofar as this contributes to a good play of the game. If we think of society
along these lines, we could say that the members of a just society compete
with each other for high status positions, but they may nonetheless share
the aim of maintaining a just framework of social cooperation. If so, members would stand in relations of fraternity because each member could take
pleasure in the realization of other peoples ends insofar as the realization
of these ends contributed to maintaining a just social order.
The Rawlsian argument illustrates how the contractualist could show
that fraternity is not fundamentally at odds with mutual recognition. Some
forms of fraternity might not be compatible with status competition, but
since there is at least one form that is compatible, we can stand in relations
of mutual recognition without ignoring the demands of fraternity in
the process. It is an open question whether the Rawlsian argument is
convincing I myself am skeptical but at least it shows how the contractualist might address the challenge.
4.Institution-Sensitive Values

Lets say that a value is congruent with social justice when the value adds an
independent set of reasons to comply with the requirements of a just social
arrangement.20 On the contractualist view, the values of political life are
congruent with the requirements of social justice, at the most basic level,
because justice is sensitive to the requirements of these values and these
values are themselves sensitive to the requirements of justice. But on the
contractualist view, social institutions also play an important role in generating coherence among political values. Some values are institution sensitive in the sense that the requirements of these values can be shaped by
social institutions. This means that social institutions can increase or
decrease the level of coherence among political values by shaping the
requirements of these values in the right way.
See Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 461.
I take the term congruence from Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 350.

19

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Consider the case of friendship. Scanlon distinguishes between two


types of friendship, which I will call congruent friendship and noncongruent friendship.21 Each one involves a different set of normative
demands. Congruent friendship requires that friends show loyalty and special concern for each other, but it also requires that they treat each other as
moral persons who belong to the same moral order as everyone else. This
type of friendship demands that friends take care of each other, but it does
not demand that they lie, steal or otherwise violate the moral rights of third
parties in order to help each other. Non-congruent friendship, by contrast,
may require that friends do things for each other that involve violating the
moral rights of third parties.22 For example, this type of friendship may
require, in some cases, that we lie to the authorities in order to protect our
friends from punishment, even if the punishment in question is justified.
Scanlon observes that social conditions can determine which types of
friendship are available to us and therefore the extent to which there is a
conflict between the requirements of friendship and the requirements of
morality.
The degree to which there is a conflict between the morality of right and
wrong and the goods of personal relations depends greatly on the society in
which one lives. If no one in my society understands friendship as having the
moral content I have just described [i.e. the content of congruent friendship],
then a relationship with others on this footing is not available to me. If
everyone in my society sees the world as divided between them and us
then I really am faced with a choice between actual ties with my fellow
citizens and the requirements of morality grounded in an ideal of relations
with others that must remain purely ideal.23

Social institutions play an important role in determining what sorts of


friendships are available in a society. Suppose that societys economic institutions are poorly designed and lead to extreme material scarcity. Extreme
scarcity tends to generate a culture of fierce loyalties, one in which noncongruent friendship is the standard form. (Think here of the bonds
between gang members or members of a tribe fighting for scarce resources.)
If people want to form friendships under these institutions, their only
options would be friendships that may make demands that conflict with
the requirements of morality and social justice. But suppose instead that
Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, p. 164-5. Scanlon does not use the terms congruent and non-congruent.
22
Scanlon does not deny that this other form of friendship is valuable. See What We Owe
to Each Other, 165.
23
Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, p. 166.
21

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societys economic institutions are well designed and lead to material


prosperity. Material prosperity tends to lead to a softening of social mores
and the spread of more moderate ideas about friendship and loyalty. So in
a prosperous society, people would have more opportunities to form congruent friendships, which in turn serve to ease the tension between the
requirements of friendship and the requirements of morality and social
justice.
Friendship is, in this way, an institution sensitive value. Different forms
of friendship make different demands, and institutions can shape the
requirements of friendship by determining which of these forms are available in society. Friendship is just one example of an institution sensitive
value I will consider the case of self-respect in section6. The central point
is that social institutions can increase or decrease the level of coherence
among values in political life by shaping the requirements of institution
sensitive values in the right way.
5.Social Institutions and Freedom

Up to this point, I have discussed the main features of Scanlons account of


value coherence. I want to turn now to its significance. Value coherence in
political life is important for many reasons, and I will argue that one of
these reasons has to do with freedom. The prospects for human freedom
are better when there is coherence among values than when there is not.
The first step in the argument is to show that an important form of
freedom call it inner freedom is sensitive to the way that we relate to our
institutions. Distinguish between two different ways that you could relate
to a law. Suppose that the law says that you should drive less than 65 mph.
One way that you could relate to the law is as a passive subject. If you do not
see the rationale behind driving less than 65 mph, then you will simply
regard the law as a limitation on your conduct, one that happens to be
backed by coercive sanctions. Another way that you could relate to the law,
however, is as an active participant. If the reasons for driving less than
65 mph are made clear to you the impact on overall safety and crash mortality, etc. you will come to regard the pattern of conduct set out in the law
as quite sensible. Insofar as you are a rational agent, the fact that you think
that this pattern is sensible will lead you to follow it. And even if the
sanctions for non-compliance were removed, you would continue to comply with the underlying requirement, because you think that this is a sensible way to behave.

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From the standpoint of inner freedom, it is better that we relate to the


law as active participants rather than passive subjects. When we relate as
passive subjects, our conformity with the law is imposed on us by outside
forces and we are forced to comply. But when we relate to the law as active
participants, conformity is not simply imposed on us. Since we regard the
underlying pattern of conduct to be sensible, our activities stem from our
own volition and they are a free expression of our own agency. We there
foreachieve an aspect of freedom when we relate to the law as active participants that we do not achieve when we relate to it as passive subjects.
A just system of social institutions will inevitably constrain the pursuit
of our self-interest, and insofar as it does so, it may seem that we must relate
to these arrangements as passive subjects. But Scanlons contractualism
implies another possibility. According to Scanlons theory, we have reason
to do many things in our lives, and one of these things is to stand in relations of mutual recognition with others. When our basic institutions pass
the reasonable rejection test, they define a pattern of thought and action
that is consistent with this ideal. It follows that we have good reason to
govern ourselves in the way that these institutions require. The fact that we
have this reason is important from the standpoint of inner freedom. When
a rational agent understands the appeal of mutual recognition and the way
that his institutions embody the requirements of this relation, he will want
to govern himself in the ways that these arrangements require. In so doing,
he transforms his relationship with these institutions: instead of relating to
them as a passive subject, he relates to them as an active participant.
The intrinsic normative appeal of social justice makes it possible for
rational agents to relate to just institutions as active agents. But the mere
fact that justice has this appeal is not enough. There are other values in
political life, and it is also important how these other values relate to social
justice. If these values are radically at odds with social justice, they will pull
the rational agent in different directions, preventing him from relating to
his institutions fully as an active participant. But when the various values of
political life are congruent (or at least consistent) with social justice, they
will not pull the rational agent in different directions, enabling him to relate
to his institutions fully as an active participant. Let me elaborate.
6.Coherence in the Self

At a basic level, I take it that our desires track the reasons that we have to do
various things. When we see that a certain consideration counts as a reason

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for doing X, we form a desire to do X. But willful conduct requires more


than just seeing that we have a reason to do X; it also requires that we make
up our minds about what to do.24
Making up your mind is a process in which your initial perceptions of
reasons evolve into a determinate conclusion about where the balance of
reasons lies. Very often this process is relatively straightforward because
some reasons are obviously more pressing than others. For example, if I am
watching American Idol and my daughter falls out of her high-chair, the
reasons that I have for taking care of her are obviously more important than
the reasons I have for continuing to watch the show. There is nothing special here that needs to happen in order for me to make up my mind about
what to do. Most cases are like this one in that we make up our minds without necessarily being consciously aware of the fact that this is what we are
doing.
But sometimes the process of making up our minds is more complicated. One kind of case involves different courses of action, where the
reasons that count in favor of each one are roughly balanced. If I am
considering two hotels, and they are both similar in terms of location,
comfort, and price, the reasons are roughly balanced. In cases such as
this, the process of making up our minds may involve making a choice.
The choice functions as a kind of tie-breaker, ensuring that I am able to
respond to the considerations that tell in favor of at least one of the two
alternatives.
Making up our minds is important because it is essential to our agency.
In cases where we fail to make up our minds, we may act in the minimal
sense that our bodily movements are caused by desires within us, but it
would be a mistake to say that these actions are expressive of our will.
In fact, our will has not been made determinate yet in the relevant respects.
To use Harry Frankfurts terminology, we are wanton with respect to the
desire and the action that issues from it, and so neither the desire nor the
action is expressive of our agency.
Imagine, for instance, that you have a job and you get an offer from
another firm. The consequences of the decision are complicated and
24
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).

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involve moving to another city, but the benefits are significant. In this
complex situation, you vacillate between staying at your current job
and taking the new job, sometimes concluding that the balance of
reasons favors one option and sometimes concluding that the balance of
reasons favors the other. Eventually, time runs out and you stay at your current job, but you never really make up your mind. Here it would be a mistake to say that you wanted to stay at your current job and therefore that
your conduct is a free expression of your agency. In fact, you never really
resolved yourself in the relevant way, so there is no definite position for
your conduct to express.
There are many circumstances in which it is difficult to make up your
mind. The most important circumstances for my purposes are those that
involve deep value conflict. Suppose that two different values are making
conflicting demands on you. The demands involved are extremely important, but they are important in different ways and are not easily compared.
For example, imagine that your wife needs a job very badly and she has
applied to your department. Through some failure of oversight, you find
yourself on the hiring committee. Here it seems that the demands of your
personal relationship with your wife are in conflict with the demands of
another value call it professionalism. Both of these values make important demands on you, but they are important in quite different ways and
are not easily compared. Making up your mind is difficult in this case
because there is nothing very definite to be said about where the balance of
reasons lies.
When considering a case like this, it is natural to think that we could
make up our minds by simply choosing to pursue one course of action or
the other. But it is important to distinguish the case of deep value conflict
from the case where the reasons for pursuing different courses of action
are roughly balanced. This is not like the case of similar hotels. In the
hiring case, the reasons for hiring your wife and the reasons for acting with
professional detachment are not balanced in such a way that what is
required is a tie-breaker. The reasons involved in this case are of different
kinds they stem from two different and significant forms of value so
there is no substantive tie here that needs to be broken. As such, there is no
obvious way that a simple choice could move you to a substantive conclusion about what to do.
Circumstances in which two or more important values make conflicting
but not easily comparable demands are hostile environments for making

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up your mind.25 It is difficult to come to a conclusion about where the balance of reasons lies, and it is not clear how inner movements such as
choices and decisions could resolve your will. Making up your mind is,
however, essential to free self-expression: without an inner resolution, your
conduct cannot be an expression of yourself because your self has not been
made determinate in the relevant respect. So cases of deep value conflict
are hostile terrain not only for making up your mind, but also for freedom.
7.Coherence in Political Life

We are now in a position to see why value coherence matters in political


life. If there were no coherence among values in political life, individuals in
a just society would find that different values would tell them to do different things. The requirements of mutual recognition would be at odds with
other important ideals, such as scientific inquiry, fraternity and friendship.
Insofar as they are rational, this misalignment in values would make it
impossible for individuals to make up their minds, and although they might
act in the ways required by their basic institutions, their conduct would not
be a free expression of their agency. But when the values of political life
cohere with each other, individuals in a just society would find that different values tell them to do the same thing. Instead of pulling them apart, the
different ideals of political life lead them to the same conclusion, which is
to act in the ways required by their basic institutions. The alignment of values would allow them to make up their minds thereby relate to their institutions as fully active participants.
The significance of the contractualist account of the relation between
political values should now be clearer. Part of what is at stake in this account
is a form of freedom. If the contractualist account is correct, then the various values in political life are not fundamentally at odds with each other,
and it is possible to design a just social order such that it makes demands
that are not only compatible with the demands of other values, but in fact
draw support from these values. This means that, insofar as they are rational, individuals in a just society would be able to make up their minds to
They involve something similar to what Frankfurt calls volitional necessity, or more
precisely, two volitional necessities that are in competition with each other. See Frankfurt,
The Importance of What We Care About in The Importance of What We Care About. See
also T.M. Scanlon, Reasons and Passions in Contours of Agency, Sarah Buss and Lee Overton
(eds.) (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002).
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live a life that conforms to the requirements of their basic institutions. The
social order would not only give each person what he could reasonably
insist on receiving, but it would also allow each person to take part in social
life as a fully active agent.
The connection between freedom and value coherence has, I would
argue, important practical implications. In What We Owe to Each Other,
Scanlon acknowledges that social institutions can decrease the tension
between social justice and other values, but he does not say that they
should be designed to do so.26 This reflects the fact that Scanlon does not
think that the connection between freedom and value coherence has practical implications. By contrast, I would argue that our institutions can and
should be designed to reduce the tension between social justice and other
values. Of course, reducing this tension might encourage compliance and
improve social stability. But my argument up to this point suggests another
reason: reducing this tension would enhance the freedom of agents in a just
society.
Here is an illustration. Suppose that we live under just social institutions. Maintaining just background conditions requires that we adopt various policies to address the inequalities that will emerge through market
competition. Some of these policies will require that people who have benefited from temporary inequalities of opportunity or other unjust background conditions give up their unfair gains. For example, if bankers and
CEOs amass enormous wealth because they take their salaries in stock
options, thereby maneuvering around the redistributive elements of the
tax code, we will have to adopt special measures to disperse these ill-gotten
gains in the right way.
Suppose, however, that our society is materialistic. By this I mean that
our system of social recognition is based on income, wealth, and material
lifestyle. People with lots of wealth get public admiration, while those with
little get ignored or pitied. In a culture such as this, policies that attempt
to reestablish just conditions will be threatening to the self-respect of
many citizens. Even relatively wealthy families today can feel overextended
in trying to maintain an appropriate house and keeping their children in
expensive private universities. In this climate, any significant redistributive
policies can seem threatening because they might require these families to
Rawls also does not say that institutions should be designed to increase coherence. The
argument in part three of Theory aims only to show that there would be enough coherence
in a well-ordered society regulated by justice as fairness to ensure stability over time.
26

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endure the shame of moving to a smaller house or taking their children out
of an elite school. A similar dynamic is likely to unfold in a just society with
a materialistic culture: even those who are relatively well off would find
that the sacrifices required to maintain a just society would involve very
real costs in terms of social status and self-esteem.
There is a misalignment of values in the society I have described. People
who benefit from unjust inequalities find that social justice requires
one thing, but self-respect requires another. So a just society with a materialistic culture would put many of its members in the difficult situation
where two important forms of value make conflicting demands. Over time,
this tension between the requirements of social justice and the requirements of self-respect will naturally give rise to a kind of alienation, and
instead of relating to societys basic institutions as active agents, many will
withdraw into wantonness and detachment.
We have a positive reason, then, to design our institutions so that they
give rise to a system of recognition that is congruent with social justice.
If market institutions tend to encourage materialistic patterns of recognition, an appropriate regard for freedom would require that we adopt policies that counteract this effect.27 Appropriate policies might include limits
on advertising and marketing, but they might also include some form of
mandatory public service to encourage non-materialistic patterns of social
recognition.28 The point of these measures would be to enhance social freedom by bringing the requirements of self-esteem more closely in line with
the requirements of social justice.
8.Inner Freedom and Outer Freedom

I have argued that value coherence in political life is important because it


enhances our freedom. Insofar as we are rational, value coherence would
lead us to participate in our basic political institutions as active agents
rather than passive subjects. Scanlon would agree with the claim that value
27
See G.A. Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defense (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1978), 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.
28
For public service, see J.J. Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland,
The Social Contract and other later political writings, Victor Gourevitch (ed.) (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 226-231, and Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice
(New York: Basic Books, 1983), p. 168-76.

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coherence enhances our freedom, but reject the idea that this carries significant practical implications. He thinks that inner states such as coherence in the self may be important forms of freedom in general, but these
are not the forms of freedom that matter most in political life.
Scanlon distinguishes between two forms of freedom: one corresponds
to what I have been calling inner freedom, and the other I will refer to as
outer freedom. Scanlon associates inner freedom with responsibility as
attributability.29 An agent is responsible for an action in this sense when he
is properly subject to moral praise and blame for performing it. Among the
conditions that must be satisfied for an agent to be responsible for an action
in this sense is that he must perform the action freely, that is, the action
must issue from his own attitudes and these attitudes must themselves
express his own judgments.30 For example, in Frankfurts well-known case
of the willing addict, Scanlon takes the fact that the addict has made up his
mind to take the drug to be an important component of his being free in the
relevant sense: Since the action of the willing addict reflects his assessment of the relevant reasons, he acts freely in the sense required by [the]
notion of responsibility [as attributability].31
Outer freedom is connected with the value of choice.32 Among the
things that we have reason to want is the ability to shape our lives through
the exercise of choice under favorable circumstances. Favorable circumstances include having a variety of attractive options, having access to
relevant forms of information, having a secure environment for deliberation, and so on. Outer freedom consists in these favorable circumstances
of choice, and this is the aspect of freedom that Scanlon thinks is
relevant in assessing social institutions. As he says, one thing which
people may reasonably demand [] is the ability to shape their lives
and obligations through exercises of choice under reasonably favorable
conditions.
Moral principles or social institutions which deny such opportunities when
they could easily be provided or which force one to accept the consequences
29
See Scanlon, The Significance of Choice, Lecture 1; What We Owe to Each Other,
Chapter 5.
30
As Scanlon says, an agent is responsible for an action in [the attribution] sense, just in
case that action is correctly attributable to her, [so] responsibility of this kind is undermined
only by those forms of unfreedom that undermine this attributability (What We Owe to
Each Other, 291).
31
Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, 291.
32
See Scanlon, The Significance of Choice, Lecture II.

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of choice under extremely unfavorable conditions which could be improved


without great cost to others, are likely to be reasonably rejectable for that
reason. 33

On Scanlons view, then, inner freedom and outer freedom are both genuine forms of freedom, but they do not have the same moral significance.
Inner states such as a state of inner resolution are important in the attribution of actions to agents. But objective circumstances are what matter in
assessing social institutions. It follows that Scanlon would agree with my
claim that value coherence enhances freedom. Insofar as we are rational,
value coherence would lead us to participate in our basic institutions with
an attitude of inner resolution. But he would deny that this fact carries significant practical implications. If agents in a just society do not act from an
inner resolution, then we have grounds for withholding praise and blame
from them when they conform to the requirements of the social order. But
the fact that they do not act from an inner resolution does not, in itself, give
us grounds for criticizing societys basic institutions.
Scanlon is right that inner resolution is important in attributing actions
to agents for the purposes of assigning moral praise and blame. But the
central question here is whether inner resolution matters only from the
standpoint of attribution. If what I am calling inner freedom is important
only in the attribution of actions to agents, then we have no particular reason to organize society so as to encourage inner freedom. But if inner freedom is also relevant from the perspective of meeting the substantive
requirements of political morality, then we do have a reason to organize
society so as to encourage inner freedom.
I argue that inner freedom does, in fact, have an important role to play in
meeting the substantive requirements of political morality. Notice first
that motivation is significant from the moral point of view. When we
articulate the social and political ideal that our society should realize, one
question has to do with the structure of societys basic institutions and
practices. These general patterns of behavior should be just, which means,
I take it, that they should meet the requirements of the reasonable rejection test. But once we have determined what these patterns of behavior
should be, a further question arises about how people should be moved to
conform to these patterns. Should they treat compliance with their basic
institutions as a reason for action? Or would it be sufficient if they complied simply because they had an external incentive to do so? If they must
Scanlon, The Significance of Choice, 185.

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treat compliance as a reason for action, should they also endorse the underlying values embodied in these arrangements? If so, how pervasive does
their commitment to these values have to be?
We might say that political morality has two dimensions. The structural
dimension has to do with the proper ordering of societys basic institutions
and practices. The motivational dimension has to do with the internal
thoughts, attitudes, and orientations of those whose lives are to be guided
by these institutions and practices. Each dimension corresponds to a different aspect of what morality demands in political life.
In Rawls vision of a well-ordered society regulated by justice as fairness,
we have a good example of a social and political ideal that has both a structural and a motivational component.34 The structural component is that
societys basic institutions should be just, that is, they should conform to
the requirements of the two principles of justice. But the motivational
component says that citizens must regard these principles as the highestorder standards for assessing their basic institutions, and that they must be
moved by a normally effective desire to comply with an arrangement that
conforms to these principles. Citizens cannot comply with their institutions simply because they have an economic or legal incentive to do so;
they must act from an appropriate, shared sense of justice. To realize the
ideal of a well-ordered society regulated by justice as fairness, our institutions must have a certain structure, but we must also have and act from the
right kinds of motivations.
The motivational dimension of political morality figures even more
prominently in the work of Rousseau.35 The society of the general will is a
social and political ideal that we realize mainly in virtue of our motivational orientations. People have separate particular interests, but when
society realizes the ideal, members do not regard these particular interests
as reasons when deciding on what the laws should be or on whether they
should comply with the laws. In their role as citizens, members set their
personal interests aside and make decisions based only on the common
good of society. They take the fact that a law would advance each persons
interest in security, property, and liberty as a reason for adopting the law or
for complying with it once it has been enacted. This is not to deny, of course,
Rawls view is that the requirements of social justice correspond only to the structural
component of the ideal. The conditions of well-orderedness are background constraints on
an acceptable conception of justice, but not a substantive requirement of justice as such.
35
My reading of Rousseau here follows Joshua Cohen, Rousseau: A Free Community of
Equals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
34

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that institutions are an important part of the ideal for example, the ideal
of a society of the general will requires that we make laws through a democratic legislative process. But the structural aspects of Rousseaus ideal
derive in large part from the motivational aspects. If democratic political
procedures are important in realizing the ideal, this is mainly because these
procedures help to cultivate a disposition in members to give the common
good an appropriately regulative position in their decision-making.36
Thinking about Rawls theory and Rousseaus theory helps to clarify the
intuition that political morality has a genuine motivational dimension. For
my purposes, the most important feature of the motivational dimension of
political morality is the requirement that the social order should be an
expression of an inner resolution in citizens. Insofar as we are rational
agents, our desires stem from our initial judgments of what we have reason
to do. We make up our minds by resolving disagreements among these
judgments and reaching a determinate conclusion about how to act. Other
things being equal, morality requires that people should comply with their
social order (at least in part) because the order appeals to their rational
capacities. If a social order meets the structural requirements of political
morality, but is sustained entirely by forces that bypass or suppress our
rational nature, it would be morally defective in virtue of this fact.
To illustrate, imagine that our basic institutions pass the reasonable
rejection test, but that they make demands on us that are at odds with the
requirements of other important political values, such as fraternity. Under
these conditions, we find ourselves pulled in different directions. Our rational responsiveness to the value of mutual recognition leads us to want to
comply with our basic institutions, while our rational responsiveness to the
value of fraternity leads us to want not to comply. The conflict gives rise to
an inner struggle to reach a determinate conclusion about what to do. In
this case, however, there is no right answer; rational deliberation will not
lead us to a determinate conclusion. It follows that compliance with the
arrangement could not stem simply from the expression of our rational
nature; some mechanism must intervene to bypass or suppress our rational
nature to generate compliance.
An ideology is one possibility. Compliance with our basic institutions
may be the product of a system of ideas that exaggerates the importance of
mutual recognition and minimizes the importance of fraternity. By altering
our views about the requirements of these values, the ideology would move
See Joshua Cohen, Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals, pp.145-64.

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us to comply with our basic institutions. But the social order that results
would be morally defective. The ideology distorts our responses to the genuine requirements of the underlying values, and therefore disfigures our
rational nature. A social order should be held together because of the way
that it appeals to our rational nature, not because of the way that it suppresses it. So the social order in this case would be morally defective, even
if it were structurally adequate.
Another possibility is instinctive deference to authority. When mutual
recognition and fraternity are at odds, our rational responsiveness pulls us
in different directions, and this gives rise to an inner struggle. Since there
is no right answer, compliance can only come about if some mecha
nismbypasses our rational faculties and determines our conduct directly.
Instinctive deference to authority can play this role. As we struggle to
decide what to do, instinctive deference to politicians, pundits, journalists,
celebrities, and other authority figures may lead us to relax and go along
with the prevailing views in society. In this case, we would be left with contradictory judgments about how to act that never resolve themselves. Our
conduct would not be determined by a conclusive judgment about what to
do. Once again, the social order would be based on a subversion of our
rational nature, and so it would be motivationally defective, even if it were
structurally adequate.
My view of political motivation has a certain affinity with Rousseaus
view. Citizens in an ideal community, on Rousseaus view, should participate in their basic institutions wholeheartedly, that is, without having to
suppress some part of themselves in the process. For Rousseau, the danger
is that in a society of the general will, citizens will have to suppress their
self-love in order to allow for the advancement of common interests.37 As
I see it, Rousseau takes an overly narrow view of the threat to wholeheartedness. The danger is not simply that our institutions may require that
we make sacrifices in terms of our personal self-interest that are difficult
to make. The danger is rather that our institutions will require that we
forego the pursuit of important objectives that are appropriately attractive
to our rational nature. Among these objectives, some will relate to our personal self-interest, but others such as the pursuit of various artistic, cultural and religious goals may not. The importance of wholeheartedness is
best understood not simply in terms of our self-love, but in terms of our
37
Rawls addresses a similar problem in terms of what he calls the strains of commitment. See A Theory of Justice, p. 153-4.

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rational nature more generally. The social and political ideal for society
requires (among other things) that rational agents should be at home in
the social order, able to participate wholeheartedly, without having to
ignore, suppress, or otherwise fail to express some aspect of their rational
nature.
Returning to Scanlon, the basic problem with his view is not with his
conception of freedom itself, but with his conception of the value of freedom. For Scanlon, what is important in political life is mainly ensuring that
institutions and practices conform to the requirements of the reasonable
rejection test. But political morality has a genuine motivational dimension.
It matters from the moral point of view how the members of a society are
moved to play their respective roles in the social order. One motivational
requirement of political morality is that people should be moved to participate in ways that are consistent with the full expression of their rational
nature. Inner freedom has practical implications, then, because the members of a society must achieve inner freedom with respect to their basic
institutions in order to meet the motivational requirements of political
morality.
One advantage of my view is that it can account for an important intuition about value coherence. I take it that we regard the possibility of value
coherence to be a good thing we welcome the idea that fraternity, friendship, and self-respect may be congruent with social justice. My view
accounts for this intuition. Coherence among values means that we can
stand in relations of mutual recognition with each other without disfiguring our rational nature. It is possible, in other words, to have just institutions while also meeting the demand that the social order should be an
expression of our rational capacities. On Scanlons view, however, it is
harder to see why we should welcome the fact of value coherence. Since
inner freedom is important only from the standpoint of attributing actions
to agents, we have no particular reason to welcome the fact that values
cohere. Coherence is just one configuration among many that we may see
in the realm of values. This configuration is not, in one sense, a mere coincidence since we can explain why values cohere by tracing the internal
relations between them. But in another sense, coherence is a mere coincidence because nothing in particular speaks in favor of this configuration
over any of the other possibilities.
Nothing I have said here is meant to deny that outer freedom is also
important in the substantive assessment of our conduct in political life.
Scanlon rightly points out that we can reasonably reject institutional
arrangements that fail to put us in the proper circumstances to shape

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our lives through our choices. The issue here is not a choice between inner
freedom or outer freedom, but rather a choice between two different views
of the moral significance of inner freedom.
9.Objections

I have argued that inner freedom is an important political value. A social


arrangement should be held together by the right kind of motivation, and
the correct pattern of motivation involves a rationally motivated inner resolution to comply. I want to turn now to three objections to my view.
One traditional objection has to do with adaptive preferences. Imagine
that we impose a system of institutions on a population. They initially
resist, but when faced with the certainty of the arrangement and its enforcement, they adapt psychologically and form an inner resolution to comply. If
inner freedom is a political value, then it seems that we should welcome
this development, since people are now active participants in the social
order. But the situation is clearly not morally superior in virtue of the adaptation, so critics will argue we can see that inner freedom is not, in fact,
a political value.
The problem with this objection is that it does not take into account an
important feature of my view, namely that inner freedom requires a rationally motivated inner resolution to comply. As I noted in the last section,
people may be motivated to comply with a certain arrangement because of
an ideology that exaggerates the importance of certain values and minimizes the importance of others. This would not satisfy the requirements of
political morality because it would involve a subversion of our rational faculties. In much the same way, if people simply adapt to the reality of their
basic institutions, forming an inner resolution to comply with these
arrangements, despite the fact that they do not have good reason to do so,
this would also constitute a subversion of their rational capacities. Inner
freedom requires not only that we form an inner resolution to comply, but
also that this inner resolution is responsive to the objective fact that we have
good reason to comply.
A different objection might be leveled by more radical liberals. Phi
losophers such as Isaiah Berlin might accept that my argument has some
force against a moderate like Scanlon, who accepts the possibility of value
coherence. But they might argue that it has no force against their position
because they reject the possibility of value coherence altogether. The
requirements of different political values are fundamentally at odds with

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each other, so there is very little that social institutions can do to ease the
conflict among these values.
There are two things to say here. First, if deep value pluralism is true, this
does not mean that inner freedom is not a political value; it only means that
inner freedom is a value that is closed off to us because political morality is
structured in such a way that we cannot achieve it. Second, it is far from
obvious that deep value pluralism is true. I agree with Scanlons general
approach to value coherence, and my account of his position was meant in
part to show why deep value pluralism is implausible. Examples such as
that of justice and scientific inquiry illustrate how different political values
are internally related to each other. Examples such as that of friendship and
self-respect illustrate how social institutions can affect the tension between
different values. And examples such as that of fraternity show how some
values can be satisfied in more than one way. All of these examples serve to
show why fundamental incompatibility is implausible. In any event, demonstrating the truth of deep value pluralism would require an argument
that roughly parallels the argument that Scanlon describes, proceeding on
a case by case basis to show how certain types of relationships hold between
different political values. It is up to Berlin-style liberals to show that their
more extreme position is true.
Finally, some may object that inner freedom requires a uniformity of
opinion in society that could only be sustained through massive coercion.
People naturally gravitate to a wide range of different views about value
under free institutions, so it would require extensive coercive efforts to
ensure that people form views that are compatible in the right way with the
requirements of social justice. Inner freedom may be a political value, but
the pursuit of this value is a dangerous and threatening political project.
Several points are in order here. First, social institutions do not foster
inner freedom, on my view, by forcing people to form certain attitudes.
Social institutions foster inner freedom by structuring social circumstances
so that the requirements of various political values are actually congruent
(or at least consistent) with social justice. Rational agents in these circumstances will naturally form an inner resolution to comply. The best way
to foster value coherence is to expand peoples opportunities to satisfy
the requirements of other values in ways that are compatible with the
requirements of social justice. For example, most market societies today
are dominated by a system of social recognition that revolves around material lifestyle. This narrow basis for public recognition creates a conflict
between the demands of self-respect and the demands of social justice. We
could reduce this tension by reducing the economic pressures that narrow

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the bases of public recognition. This could be done by directing market


competition away from excessive reliance on advertising and marketing.
Another way would be to encourage other patterns of recognition in society, such as those revolving around achievements in the arts and sciences,
sports, public service and other endeavors. Neither of these proposals
involves an exceptional use of coercive power. In each case, coercive measures are necessary to maintain pathways to self-respect that are com
patible with social justice but would otherwise be choked off by market
competition.
I would add that liberals such as Berlin tend to dramatize the coercive
implications of greater concern for value coherence. But their laissez-faire
attitude has coercive implications as well. If the requirements of other
political values turn out to be deeply at odds with the requirements of
social justice in our society and we choose to do nothing, then rational
agents will constantly be pulled in the direction of violating the laws. The
prison population will swell as we systematically ignore the fact that our
public culture has evolved in ways that force people to choose between the
requirements of social justice and the requirements of basic self-respect.
A laissez-faire attitude may thus force us to use much more coercion
simply to maintain just institutions. It is an open question, as I see it,
whether the coercive implications of maintaining value coherence are
actually greater than the coercive implications of doing nothing. An appalling rate of incarceration may be the price that we pay for the liberals highminded indifference.
10.Conclusion

Scanlon thinks that outer freedom is what matters in assessing social institutions, not inner freedom. This commitment puts him in the company of
traditional liberal theorists, such as J.S. Mill, Isaiah Berlin, and Joseph Raz.
But Scanlons political philosophy also incorporates important elements of
the Rousseauian tradition. For example, he rejects the agonistic view of
political life; he thinks that justice is a substantive value; he thinks that justice coheres in important ways with other political values; and he thinks
that freedom has a genuine inner dimension (even if this is not what matters in assessing social institutions). Taking these various commitments
together, we might say that Scanlon is a Rousseauian liberal. Like Rawls, he
attempts to reconcile a commitment to liberal freedoms with important
elements of the Rousseauian tradition.

28

W. Hussain / Journal of Moral Philosophy (2013)


DOI 10.1163/174552412X628850

In this paper, I have argued for a position that is more Rousseauian and
less liberal than Scanlons. Liberal freedoms are indeed important, but
inner freedom is also a genuine political value. Inner freedom is a value that
figures not only in the attribution of actions to agents, but also in the substantive assessment of their conduct. This is clearest when we consider that
political morality is sensitive to the character of the motivational states
that lead us to comply with our basic institutions. A social order held
together by an ideology or an instinctive deference to authority would be
morally defective in virtue of these facts. Political morality requires that
compliance should flow from a rationally motivated inner resolution to
comply. The importance of inner freedom in this sense gives us reason to
welcome the fact that our institutions can bring the requirements of different political values into harmony with each other. And the importance of
inner freedom also gives us reason to structure our social and political institutions so that they deepen this harmony.