In defence of comprehensive liberalism

Colburn, B. (2012) In defence of comprehensive liberalism. Philosophy and Public Issues, 2, pp. 17-29.

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In Liberalism without Perfection Jonathan Quong defends a form of political liberalism; that is, a political philosophy that answers ‘no’ to both the following questions: 1. Must liberal political philosophy be based in some particular ideal of what constitutes a valuable or worthwhile human life, or other metaphysical beliefs? 2. Is it permissible for a liberal state to promote or discourage some activities, ideals, or ways of life on grounds relating to their inherent or intrinsic value, or on the basis of other metaphysical claims? In these remarks, I respond to Quong’s arguments against those of his rivals who answer ‘Yes’ to his first question by dint of their comprehensive commitment to an ideal of individual autonomy. One of these, which Quong calls ‘comprehensive antiperfectionism’, answers ‘Yes’ to Question 1 and ‘No’ to Question 2. The other, which answers ‘Yes’ to both, he calls (comprehensive) ‘liberal perfectionism’. Quong poses these positions a dilemma: they cannot consistently be both comprehensive (by retaining their commitment to autonomy) and liberal (by ruling out the sort of coercive interference in people’s choices which is beyond the liberal pale). I argue on the contrary that a comprehensive commitment to autonomy actually demands a general injunction against such coercive interference, because responsibility is an important component of the autonomous life, and coercion always undermines responsibility. So, Quong’s dilemma is unsuccessful.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Colburn, Professor Ben
Authors: Colburn, B.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
J Political Science > JC Political theory
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Philosophy and Public Issues
Publisher:Luiss University Press
ISSN (Online):2240-7987
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 Luiss University Press
First Published:First published in Philosophy and Public Issues 2:17-29
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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