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The foundation and nature of contemporary liberalism

This thesis aims to define the foundation and nature of contemporary liberalism. Chapter 1 will provide an overview of different interpretations of what liberalism is, followed by a general definition of liberalism as a political doctrine with four distinct features: importance of liberty, centrality of persons, commitment to ethical pluralism, and suspicious attitude towards state power. Chapter 2 will propose that the foundation of liberalism thus conceived is an understanding of persons as free and equal. Persons being free means that there is no normative authority over persons in politics except the one which is properly justified; this is the justification thesis. Persons being equal means that there is no normative authority over persons in ethics. This implies a committed openness to pluralism, since there is no normative position from which to adjudicate. Chapters 3 and 4 will establish that we have good reasons to believe persons are free and equal - or at least that we have reason to treat them as such. In Chapter 5 I present the idea of perfectionism and distinguish perfectionist liberalisms from political liberalisms, as well as considering some ways in which one might make the case for perfectionist liberalism. Finally in Chapter 6 I bring the discussion to a close, first by looking at some objections to perfectionism found in the literature, and then demonstrating that if we take the idea of persons as free and equal as a foundation of liberalism, then we cannot be perfectionist, since these two notions are in conflict with one another. More specifically a perfectionist approach to liberalism cannot meet the justification thesis and cannot be open to ethical pluralism. The thesis provides a comprehensive view of liberalism and its foundation and thus helps to settle an important debate within contemporary liberalism between perfectionism and anti-perfectionism.
Date January 2015
CreatorsVolberg, Mats
PublisherUniversity of York
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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