Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A. in Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert B Westmoreland

Second Advisor

Steven C Skultety

Third Advisor

Christopher Green

School

University of Mississippi

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Friederich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty provides us with a theory of freedom, one that seeks to minimize coercion in the name of progress. The concept of progress is the grounding for Hayek’s entire theory. It ultimately provides the value of both liberty and those things which derive their value by preserving, promoting, and constituting liberty, such as rights and laws more generally. The problem is that progress is an ill-defined concept because Hayek’s descriptions of it are so vague that it cannot provide any satisfying explanation of why progress itself is desirable and, consequently, why we should promote liberty and rights. My solution to this problem is to present John Finnis’s theory of natural law (as given in Natural Law and Natural Rights) in order to provide explicit content to the idea of progress. Using natural law’s emphasis of basic goods such as life, knowledge, and sociability, I show why progress and its derivatives are, in fact, desirable. In particular, I focus on the problems this lack of grounding presents for rights and how natural law’s focus on practical reason can provide moral principles by which we can distinguish good rights from bad ones.

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