Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David Reidy

Committee Members

John Hardwig, Richard Aquila, Robert Gorman


Philosophers usually seek for and justify moral and political orders by two methodologies. Rationalism claims that social organization of human beings should fit with human nature, and believes that a predefined conception of human nature, defined in terms of human capacities for the exercise of reason, can be established as the independent criterion for choosing and justifying the proper moral and political order. Institutionalism, on the other hand, believes that human nature is at least significantly shaped by the actual construction of moral and political orders by human beings, and by internalizing the social institutions in which they live, they create themselves.

In this essay, I argue that rationalism is not a good methodology because it does not reflect the correct relationship between human beings and their institutional life. I will develop a philosophical theory of institutionalism, and argue that an institutionalist justification of the ideal of liberal democracy will encourage a political development towards liberalization and democratization. I will also argue that Rawls‘s justification of liberal democracy is such an institutionalist justification, and although it might seem to suggest otherwise, it not only speaks to citizens of western democracies, but also speaks to all moral persons from all other societies.

The political development towards liberalization and democratization is a normative demand for any human society, if such a society strives to be a well-ordered society with long term legitimacy and stability. The exact degree of liberalization and democratization for any particular society will depend on the available means of communication and organization, but the normative demand for such a political development is present in every human society.

Institutionalism represents human freedom in human beings‘ creation and justification of social institutions, which are man-made rules and norms aimed at guaranteeing social order among interacting human agents. As a ―liberalism of freedom,‖ institutionalism is therefore committed to a highest ideal of human institution building: institutions of a society should be justified to, and be obeyed by, all the members of this society, so that such a society is a political autonomy.

In these terms, Rawls‘s justification of liberal democracy, although dependent on a public political culture of modern western democracies, is nevertheless not limited to this context. As an instantiation of institutionalism, Rawls‘s theory has a dimension of universalism. Ultimately, Rawls‘s justification of liberal democracy encourages every other human society on this earth to develop towards the ideal of liberal democracy.

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