The Interconnectedness of Law and Ethics - Normative Philosophical Consequences for the State and the Citizen

  • Pierik, R.H.M. (Researcher)
  • van Bijsterveld, S.C. (Researcher)
  • van den Brink, H.H.A. (Principal Investigator)
  • van der Burg, W. (Researcher)

Project: Research project

Project Details


If the traditional distinction between law and ethics can no longer be maintained, this also has implications for the normative points of departure of politics and law, and for visions of the citizen. Assuming such a distinction, an opposition is often created between legal moralism and liberalism around the question of whether or not legislation is the result of positive moralism. But if this distinction is removed, these positions and the basis for them will also have to be reconsidered.
In relation to the state and law, variants of (philosophical) political liberalism are the point of departure for most analyses. But in the light of the changes, we may ask whether for example a thesis of liberal neutrality is still conceptually tenable, let alone defensible in its content. How can new political and philosophical theories on the task of the state, society and the citizen be developed, which fit these new relationships? A critical reflection on neutrality of aim, to be understood as an ideal that can never entirely be achieved, will probably offer a way out.
The concept of neutrality of aim was originally formulated against the background of a civil society that was fairly homogenous in cultural and philosophical outlook. Given the growth of religious and ethical moralism and multiculturalism, dominant interpretations of neutrality of aim are becoming problematic. After all, now citizenship is seen far less than in the past as a social role and status of members of a 'well-organized society'. Macro-social developments such as individualization and tribalization have an influence on the relationship between individuals and law, ethics and politics. Whereas individualization appears to promote an instrumental relationship to law, ethics and politics, tribalization sometimes promotes a relationship between individuals and law, ethics and politics understood in terms of a 'clash of cultures'. Here, the question arises of the permeability of legal systems, moral and political systems and cultural systems in the context of new social relationships that have not yet been sufficiently conceptualized. The normative philosophical consequences of these developments for the relationship between state and citizens and between law and ethics have not yet been much elaborated. The research will address the extent to which the ideals of a pluralistic and multicultural society demand a new concept of citizenship, responsive legislation and responsive administration at the conceptual and the practical level. This involves special attention for the question of the extent to which the ideals of a constitutional state can address individual ideals and group ideals in the field of religion and ethics and cultural identity. The research will also address the extent to which moral visions of various different groups within society may be expected to be reflected in law.
The aim of this project is therefore to rethink the normative philosophical points of departure for the relationship between law and ethics and that between the state and the citizen. This will involve giving particular attention to the liberal tradition. How can legal philosophical liberalism be reformulated so that it gives good criteria for the role of the state and the citizen in moral questions? A leading assumption is that both in the field of constitutional state theory and in the field of individual ethics, a consideration of the underlying ideals will result in an improved theory of liberalism as a theory for the normative foundations of state and law.
Effective start/end date1/01/0031/12/04


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