Beyond Neutrality: Perfectionism and Politics

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Many people, including many contemporary philosophers, believe that the state has no business trying to improve people's characters or elevating their tastes or preventing them from living degraded lives. They believe that governments should remain absolutely neutral when it comes to the consideration of competing conceptions of the good. One fundamental aim of George Sher's book is to show that this view is indefensible. A second complementary aim is to articulate a conception of the good that is worthy of promotion by the state. The first part of the book analyzes attempts to ground the neutrality thesis in the value of autonomy, respect for autonomy, the dangers of a nonneutral state, and skepticism about the good. The second part defends an objective conception of the good which remains sensitive to some of the considerations that make subjectivism attractive. According to this conception, the elements of a good life include (but are not exhausted by) knowledge, excellence, certain preferred modes of interaction among persons, and various familiar virtues. Lucidly written and structured, this book represents a major contribution to contemporary political theory.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Sher is consitently deliberate, judicious, and fair to the positions he discusses, avoiding overstatement of his case or the use of contrived arguments." D.J. Maletz, Choice

"...Sher's book offers a useful contribution to debate..." David Kahane, Philosophy in Review

"...Beyond Neutrality will surely direct future debate over the priority of the right. It is also a good book for an advanced course on the legal enforcement of morality." Chris Naticchia, The Philosophical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521570688
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/13/1997
  • Pages: 265
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The principle of neutrality 20
3 Autonomy and neutrality (1) 45
4 Autonomy and neutrality (2) 72
5 Prophylactic neutrality 106
6 Knowing about the good 140
7 Three grades of social involvement 156
8 Against subjectivism 176
9 Perfectionism: A theory 199
10 Conclusion 245
Index 249
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