Cicero's Legacy and the Story of Modern Liberty

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Date

2017

Authors

Hawley, Michael Collins

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Gillespie, Michael A
Grant, Ruth

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Abstract

There is a widespread belief among scholars that liberalism and republicanism are two alternative traditions, that the ideal of liberty for individuals to freely order their own lives and ideal of liberty for political communities to govern themselves developed in tension with each other. The deeply influential historical account that undergirds this view has provided reasons for believing that the two ideals are not only historical rivals, but conceptually incompatible—and that reconciliation between the two is always synthetic and a matter of compromise.

I challenge this account by arguing that both of these traditions derive from Cicero and that they can be reconciled on a Ciceronian foundation. I argue that Cicero—not Machiavelli—ought to be considered the central figure in the republican tradition and classical source for liberalism as well. I show that Cicero offers a theory of politics according to which republican self-government and the freedom and security of individuals are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing. In other words, Cicero articulates a vision the blends that liberal and republican ideals of freedom into one coherent whole. I then illustrate how this ideal lies at the core of John Locke’s early articulation of natural rights. And finally, I demonstrate that the American Founding constitutes the culmination of this Ciceronian tradition of liberal republicanism.

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Hawley, Michael Collins (2017). Cicero's Legacy and the Story of Modern Liberty. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14546.

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