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Perfectionism is one of the great moralities of the Western tradition. It holds that certain states of humans, such as knowledge, achievement, and friendship, are good apart from any pleasure they may bring, and that the morally right act is always the one that most promotes these states. Defined more narrowly, perfectionism identifies the human good by reference to human nature: if knowledge and achievement are good, it is because they realize aspects of human nature. This book gives an account of perfectionism, first in the narrower sense, analyzing its central concepts and defending a theory of human nature in which rationality plays a central role. It then uses this theory to construct an elaborate account of the intrinsic value of beliefs and actions that embody rationality, and applies this account to political questions about liberty and equality.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hurka's book is a clear formulation of perfectionism. It is historically informed and philosophically sophisticated. All readers will benefit."—Canadian Philosophical Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195101164
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/1996
  • Series: Oxford Ethics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 996,376
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Calgary
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
I The Perfectionist Idea
2 The Concept of Human Nature 9
2.1 Distinctiveness and Essence 10
2.2 Essence and Life 14
2.3 Nature: Objections 18
3 Accretions and Methods 23
3.1 Accretions 23
3.2 Perfectionist Naturalism 28
3.3 Defending Perfectionism 31
3.4 How Are Essences Known? 33
4 The Human Essence 37
4.1 The Aristotelian Theory: Physical Essence 37
4.2 The Aristotelian Theory: Rationality 39
4.3 The Aristotelian Theory: Objections 44
4.4 The Wrong Explanations? 48
II Aristotelian Perfectionism
5 The Basic Structure 55
5.1 Maximizing Consequentialism 55
5.2 Time- and Agent-Neutrality 60
5.3 The Asymmetry 64
5.4 Competition and Co-operation 66
6 Aggregation 69
6.1 Summing and Averaging 70
6.2 Maximax 75
6.3 Single-Peak Perfection 79
6.4 Conclusion 82
7 The Well-Rounded Life 84
7.1 Lexical and Constant Comparisons 85
7.2 Balancing 88
7.3 Dilettantism and Concentration 91
7.4 Many-Person Balancing? 97
8 Trying, Deserving, Succeeding 99
8.1 Number and Quality 99
8.2 Attempt 103
8.3 Deserving Attempt 105
8.4 Success and Deserved Success 108
8.5 The Best Units? 112
9 Unity and Complexity 114
9.1 Generality: Extent and Dominance 114
9.2 Generality: Elaborations 116
9.3 Top-to-Bottom Knowledge 119
9.4 The Unified Life 121
9.5 Complex, Difficult Activities 123
10 Politics, Co-operation, and Love 129
10.1 Political Action 129
10.2 Co-operation 132
10.3 Love and Friendship 134
10.4 Generality: Objections 137
10.5 Generality: The Tradition 141
III Perfectionism and Politics
11 Liberty 147
11.1 Autonomy as a Perfection 148
11.2 The Asymmetry Argument 152
11.3 Sexual Enforcement and Paternalism 156
11.4 Liberty versus Neutrality 158
12 Equality: Abilities and Marginal Utility 161
12.1 Deep Equality 161
12.2 Desert and Aggregation 163
12.3 Natural Abilities 165
12.4 Diminishing Marginal Utility 169
13 Equality: Co-operation and the Market 176
13.1 Arguments from Co-operation 176
13.2 Illustrations and Limitations 180
13.3 Property and Property-Freedom 183
13.4 Self-Reliance versus Dependence 185
14 Conclusion 190
Notes 193
Bibliography 209
Index 215
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