Hobbesian Political Liberalism: A Stability Approach to Pluralism, Conflict, and Accommodation

This project explores the normative relationship between political stability and liberal political principles and institutions. I argue in general that the constituent principles of political liberalism – e.g., equality, liberty, neutrality – can support political stability amid conditions of pluralism and disagreement. The argument draws significantly on Hobbes, both in the basic prioritization of stability and in adopting specific insights of Hobbes’s concerning the conflict-generating potential of pluralism and disagreement.

I demonstrate the utility of my account by applying it to the issue of religious liberty, and specifically to recent debates over whether individuals and institutions should be exempted from laws that contradict their religious beliefs. I push back against a widespread assumption (in both jurisprudence and philosophical literature) that exemptions are inherently undermining to the rule of law and therefore detrimental to stability. Instead, I argue that exemptions, within certain parameters, can help to ameliorate conflicts between citizens’ religious and political obligations that can alienate them from their political order and diminish their commitment to upholding it. I engage extensively with U.S. case law both to inform my normative argument and to illustrate the practical application of the parameters I defend.

PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLES:   (Copies available upon request.)

“Judicial Evaluation of Religious Belief and the Accessibility Requirement in Public Reason,” Law & Philosophy 35 (2016): 435-460.

“The Impartiality of Smith’s Spectator: The Problem of Parochialism and the Possibility of Social Critique,” European Journal of Political Theory (forthcoming, published online February 23, 2015).

“Federalism and the Catholic Principle of Subsidiarity,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 45 (2015): 526-551.

“The Globalization of Catholic Social Teaching,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought 12 (2015): 87-108.

“What Kind of World Lover? Thomas Merton on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Death-of-God Theology,” The Merton Annual 23 (2011): 197-211.