Liberty, Equality, and Plurality

Edited by Larry May, Christine Sistare, and Jonathan Schonsheck

Liberty and equality are often thought of as inseparable ideals; yet what furthers one often diminishes the other, as is seen when colleges seek to enact "hate speech codes" that abridge free expression in the interest of protecting minorities. This collection of orginial articles presents arguments in the ongoing debate among social and political philosophers regarding the nature and relationship of liberty and equality and considers their potential conflict in a pluralistic society.

Liberty, Equality, and Plurality offers new approaches to a set of longstanding concerns in social ethics and legal theory by addressing issues of conceptualization, of institutional and legal structure, and of practical application to multicultural cases. The first group of articles considers the compatibility of liberty and equality and includes discussion of issues such as the redistribution of wealth and the relationship of freedom to responsibility. The second section examines the application of law and the limits of liberty, using an applied ethics approach to discuss cases dealing with taxation and poverty, freedom of speech, and medical choices like assisted suicide. The final section looks at equality and the clash of cultures by discussing issues like tolerance, hate speech, and the nexus of religious freedom and medical refusal.

“Readers will conclude Liberty, Equality, and Plurality with a deeper appreciation of the moral and political complexities and perplexities of supporting liberty and equality, and in this sense the book is a worthwhile addition to the scholarship dealing with modern liberal political issues.


The contributors are all renowned specialists in social and legal philosophy, jurisprudence, and political science, and represent a wide range of socio-political and jurisprudential perspectives. By interweaving the Lockean and Rousseauian strands of democratic thought, they seek ways by which we might arrive at a just society.

About the Author

Larry May, professor of philosophy at Washington University, is the author of Sharing Responsibility and The Socially Responsive Self. Christine Sistare, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Muhlenberg College Center for Ethics, is the author of Responsibility and Criminal Liability and the editor of Punishment: Social Control and Coercion. Jonathan Schonsheck is professor of philosophy at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York, and author of On Criminalization.