“Toward an Augustinian Liberalism”

Weithman, P.J. “Toward an Augustinian Liberalism.” Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 8 (1991), pp. 461-80.  


“Concern with the vice of pride is often thought contrary to the spirit of liberalism. Among the virtues often ascribed to liberal political institutions is their encouragement of self-assertion and a sense of self-esteem. Moreover Judith Shklar has argued, in Ordinary Vices, that liberalism requires neglect of pride and of the other deadly sins of medieval Christianity. Instead, she argues, liberals properly concern themselves with restraining the vices that she, following Montaigne, dubs ordinary-cruelty, treachery, snobbery, and hypocrisy. In this paper I argue, on the contrary, that the vice of pride poses political problems in a liberal democracy. A properly Christian concern with checking the vice of pride, I argue, gives Christians reason to embrace political liberalism. More specifically, I argue that observing liberal constraints on political advocacy ameliorates some of the political problems to which pride gives rise. The liberalism that results has some claim to be called “Augustinian,” for Augustine thought pride the worst of the vices and thought its restraint the primary function of political authority.”