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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 41, 1998

Political Philosophy

Shuji Imamoto
Pages 120-125

The Concept of ‘Metaphysical Liberalism’
On the Philosophical Source of ‘Liberal Democracy’

There have been many discussions about ‘Liberalism’ in modern political philosophy. In this paper, I want to discuss the liberal principles of political philosophy on the metaphysical level. This includes the liberal mind, the liberal consciousness, and the liberal ethos, all of which are presupposed in our liberal behaviors, and in turn serve as fundamental principles in any multicultural society. I want to emphasize the liberal tendencies of self-criticism and of the critical way of thinking in European traditional metaphysics, such as Plato’s dialectics or Kant’s philosophy of criticism. The latter is also the logic of dialogue which produces an endless questioning of possible universal truths. I group these characteristics under the label ‘Metaphysical Liberalism’ and assess them from three standpoints: (1) critical agnosticism; (2) methodological falsificationism; and (3) pluralistic universalism. These three points enable us to remain self-conscious of the limitation of any kind of special theory or thought in order to prevent the emergence of any dogmatic belief-system. Such liberal attitudes that allow the realization of individual ideas and thoughts without any political coercion in turn sustain a democratic federalism that creates space for the expression of public opinion even while protecting such space. Such a situation, however, is possible only by educating ourselves in this metaphysical method.

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