Title page for ETD etd-05122003-114336

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Sewell, Carolyn Marie
URN etd-05122003-114336
Title Respecting Citizens, Protecting Capabilities: the Role of the State in a Liberal Society
Degree Master of Arts
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
FitzPatrick, William J. Committee Chair
Baxley, Anne Margaret Committee Member
Miller, Harlan B. Committee Member
  • women's rights
  • religious freedom
  • political liberalism
  • human rights
  • capabilities approach
  • Nussbaum
Date of Defense 2003-05-07
Availability unrestricted
The free exercise of religion as a basic human right is considered essential by those who are concerned about protecting and maintaining each person?s capability to live a good life.

Unfortunately, in protecting this right the fundamental rights of women are often violated or overlooked. In order to grant religious freedom, liberal states often permit discriminatory and oppressive practices.

Martha Nussbaum maintains that a balance must be struck between the protection of individual rights and the protection of religious freedom. She suggests the liberal state should not take a stand on disputed non-political issues concerning the good. The state should adopt political liberalism, thereby refraining from espousing religious or other ?comprehensive? views such as the view that men and women are innate moral equals. By doing so, Nussbaum says the political liberal state shows full respect for its citizens, and protects their ability to lead a good life.

This thesis presents the argument that the liberal state need not, and should not, go as far as political liberalism in order to protect and show full respect for its citizens. Although the state should not pressure or force religious groups to change their doctrines to fall in line with liberal principles, the state may assert the truth of some non-political liberal values that are essential to maintaining the liberal political system. Political liberalism ties the hands of the liberal state, leaving it handicapped in its ability to protect individual rights, especially the rights of women and minorities.

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