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Moral Philosophy and Politics

Editor-in-Chief: Schefczyk, Michael

Managing Editor: Schmidt-Petri, Christoph

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Relational Autonomy and Perfectionism

Natalie Stoljar
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Philosophy, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke St West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada
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Published Online: 2017-05-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2016-0038


Joseph Raz’s The Morality of Freedom (1986) is well known for defending both a perfectionist form of liberalism and an ‘externalist’ conception of autonomy. John Christman proposes that there is a logical connection between the two theses and argues that externalist accounts of autonomy should be rejected on the basis that they are perfectionist. Christman’s perfectionism argument contains two premises: (i) externalist theories of autonomy entail political perfectionism and (ii) political perfectionism is not defensible. I argue that neither premise is true. Externalist theories of autonomy do not entail political perfectionism. Further, even assuming for the sake of argument that premise (i) is true, premise (ii) is false. The strongest challenge to political perfectionism is that it is incompatible with the value of respect. I argue that those defending political perfectionism misconstrue what is required for respect. Once we see that respect is secured through features inherent in processes, the value of respect can be reconciled with political perfectionism. Political perfectionism is a defensible thesis and premise (ii) is false.

Keywords: autonomy; perfectionism; Raz


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-05-06

Published in Print: 2017-06-27

Citation Information: Moral Philosophy and Politics, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 27–41, ISSN (Online) 2194-5624, ISSN (Print) 2194-5616, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2016-0038.

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