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How Should Liberal Perfectionists Justify the State?

  • Chris Mills EMAIL logo


Liberal institutions should respect citizens as autonomous agents. But what does this mandate require and how should it shape the demands of liberal legitimacy? I trace the contemporary disagreement between liberal perfectionist and anti-perfectionist accounts of legitimacy back to this requirement to respect the autonomy of citizens in order to weigh up how well each approach fulfils this mandate. I argue that further reflection over the nature of respect for the value of personal autonomy gives liberals reason to favour moderate forms of perfectionism and be sceptical of criticisms of perfectionism grounded in concerns over respect.


The author would like to thank audiences at the MANCEPT Workshops in Public Reason (2015) and Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy (2016), at the University of Manchester, as well as the audience at Autonomy and The Morality of Freedom: A Conference in Honour of Joseph Raz, at the University of Graz (2016). Particular thanks is owed to Joel Anderson, Paul Billingham, Richard Child, John Christman, Ben Colburn, Tim Fowler, Maud Gauthier-Chung, Andrew Lister, Kian Mintz-Woo, Joseph Raz, Anthony Taylor, Thomas Sinclair, Natalie Stoljar, and three anonymous referees for their helpful comments.


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Published Online: 2017-05-13
Published in Print: 2017-06-27

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