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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 19, 2003

Environmental Philosophy as Social Philosophy

Jordy Rocheleau
Pages 103-121

Liberal Public Reason and the Legitimacy of Environmental Regulations
Toward a Deliberative Democratic Approach

There is a little explored tension between the regulations called for by environmentalists and the predominant liberal political theory. The latter says that laws are only legitimate when publicly defensible to all who must follow them and thus does not support the state adoption of particular values. Environmental concerns frequently fall under the category of particular values. I explore ways that liberalism does in fact support environmental regulations as furthering universal rights and justice within and between generations. However, some forms of environmental preservation are clearly government pursuits of particular values. I explore possible liberal justifications of publicly fostering environmental values and conclude by arguing for a deliberative democratic approach.

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