free_ex_religion

free_ex_religion - Free Exercise of Religion 1. What...

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Free Exercise of Religion 1. What distinguishes Mill’s argument from Bentham’s? Mill and Bentham both endorse the harm principle. Utilitarians, they both rest their moral liberalism on an appeal to consequences. But they offer different accounts of the benefits that flow from a more tolerant society. Bentham emphasizes that abridging liberty frustrates people—thus causing them pain—by restricting the extent to which they can pursue their de facto desires. In the absence of harm to other people, the imposition of those pains is unprofitable, therefore wrong. Mill has a more complex utilitarian analysis of the grounds for moral liberty. Without disputing Bentham’s point, he also makes two others: that abridging liberties can stifle the development and exercise of human powers: that is bad for the person who is stifled, and bad for others as well, who lose the example and provocation. And, more deeply, censorship and moralistic regulation can produce a "despotism of custom" (3.17). In the despotism of custom, people do not “choose what is customary, in preference to what suits their own inclination. It does not occur to them to have any inclination, except for what is customary” (3.6). The desire for self-development is a "tender plant." Stifle it, through suffocating conformity, and you may find people perfectly content in their confined conditions, without real opportunities for living better, self-governing lives. And that, too, is bad not simply for the individuals whose own lives are cramped, but for the society and for humanity generally. Mill, in Justice, Spring 2006—1
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short, is defending toleration not simply because—taking desires and aspirations as given, it is on balance bad—but because of the effects on people’s aspirations themselves. Mill defends a right to personal liberty, then, but the basis of the right lies in its contribution to aggregate human improvement. His defense is neither skeptical about the best way to live, nor a pragmatic case for keeping the peace, nor a form of Benthamite cost-benefit analysis, founded on quantitative hedonism. Nor is he saying: “it is your life, and you have a right to do with it as you please, and waste it if you want.” We ought to care about how good others’ lives are. But we best express that concern by ensuring their liberties, not by coercing them into being better. Once people are “capable of being improved by discussion,” protections of liberty are the surest path to human improvement. This is a profound and important argument, connecting personal freedom to aggregate human improvement. But it also appears to be missing something important. To see what it might be missing, I want to explore some issues about religious liberty, focusing in particular on what—in constitutional law—are called “free exercise exemptions.” 2. Establishment and Free Exercise . The first amendment to the American constitution contains two clauses that
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free_ex_religion - Free Exercise of Religion 1. What...

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