Liberal Perfectionism and Quong’s Internal Conception of Political Liberalism

Social Theory and Practice 43 (1):79-106 (2017)
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Debates between political liberals and liberal perfectionists have been reinvigorated by Jonathan Quong’s Liberalism Without Perfection. In this paper I argue that certain forms of perfectionism can rebut or evade Quong’s three central objections – that perfectionism is manipulative, paternalistic, and illegitimate. I then argue that perfectionists can defend an ‘internal conception’ of perfectionism, parallel in structure to Quong’s ’internal conception’ of political liberalism, but with a different conception of the justificatory constituency. None of Quong’s arguments show that his view should be preferred to this perfectionist internal conception. It can thus equally claim to achieve ‘justification to all reasonable citizens’.

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Paul Billingham
Oxford University


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