Two Types of Liberal Perfectionism

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Abstract

Since the publication of J. Raz’s Morality of Freedom (Raz 1986), liberalismhas often been interpreted as a perfectionist political morality.1 The startingpoint of this analysis is the refusal, by Raz and other philosophers, of thedistinction between theories of the good and theories of justice. Accordingto these authors, liberalism as a theory of justice or, as it was later considered,as a “political doctrine,” faces many theoretical difficulties: the issueof neutrality, the problematic distinction between comprehensive moral doctrineand a merely political account of legitimacy, the vagueness of theconcept of “citizen,” the relationship between liberal and non-liberal moralcultures (see, e.g., Macedo 1990; Galston 1991; Mulhall-Swift 1993; White1997; Wall 1998; Sandel 1998). Perfectionist liberalism tries to overcome someof these difficulties by identifying an objective account of morality thatstands behind what we consider to be a liberal community.From the outset, it is necessary to define what I mean by a liberal perfectionistdoctrine. By “perfectionism” I mean a “teleological morality with anobjective theory of the human good” (Hurka 1993; 1998, 300). However, itis unclear how a form of perfectionism can be part of a liberal politicalmorality. Diverse moral doctrines identify different objective values that areoften conflicting, so it is necessary to explain which values are to beconsidered relevant in a liberal political morality. I consider as “objective”the value of autonomy of those who are perceived as right-holders or “freeand equal members of society.” This value is objective in that it makes apolitical claim “reasonable” and in that sense acceptable by free and equalmembers of society.2 However, I do not want to argue against a politicalinterpretation of liberalism in favour of a “comprehensive” version of it. Nordo I intend to argue that every possible form of liberalism is or should beconsidered “perfectionist.” My aim is more limited: It is to depict two differenttypes of liberal perfectionism and to bring to the fore their justificationsof coercive means.Provided that liberalism considers government to be justified insofar as itrespects the rights of its citizens, I will explain how such a regime could bejustified by a perfectionist doctrine of political morality. In particular, myanalysis will deal with the issue of justification of norms that allow people“to do wrong” to themselves.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)519-535
RivistaRatio Juris
Volume4
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2005

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