The Separateness of Persons and Liberal Theory

Matt Zwolinski

University of San Diego

Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 147-165, June 2008

The fact that persons are separate in some descriptive sense is relatively uncontroversial. But one of the distinctive ideas of contemporary liberal political philosophy is that the descriptive fact of our separateness is normatively momentous. John Rawls and Robert Nozick both take the separateness of persons to provide a foundation for their rejection of utilitarianism and for their own positive political theories. So why do their respective versions of liberalism look so different? This paper claims that the difference is based in Rawls' and Nozick's differing understandings of the morally significant aspects of personhood, and argues that respect for separateness is a value better suited to defend Nozickian libertarianism than Rawlsian liberalism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: Separateness of Persons, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Liberalism, Libertarianism, Egalitarianism, Respect, Utilitarianism, Contractarianism

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: February 26, 2008 ; Last revised: July 25, 2010

Suggested Citation

Zwolinski, Matt, The Separateness of Persons and Liberal Theory. Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 147-165, June 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1097402

Contact Information

Matt Zwolinski (Contact Author)
University of San Diego ( email )
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-4094 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 3,668
Downloads: 959
Download Rank: 16,503