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Religion and the Case Against Ancient Liberty: Benjamin Constant's Other Lectures

Bryan Garsten
Political Theory
Vol. 38, No. 1 (February 2010), pp. 4-33
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25655531
Page Count: 30
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Religion and the Case Against Ancient Liberty: Benjamin Constant's Other Lectures
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Abstract

Benjamin Constant's famous lecture comparing ancient and modern liberty can be better understood if it is read alongside a set of unpublished lectures on ancient religion that he delivered one year earlier. Those lectures suggest that Constant's commitment to modern liberty was based in part on his deep anxieties about religious freedom, and that he valued religious freedom because he thought the "religious sentiment" was an important manifestation of a natural human capacity for self-development. In putting religion and self-development at the heart of his vision, he tried to show that modern liberty could have a positive moral or spiritual purpose beyond merely assuring people freedom from interference in the pursuit of their interests.

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