SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Is Perfectionism a Reasonable Alternative to the Neutrality Thesis?
(Political Philosophy, English)

In contemporary political philosophy, many liberals claim that the state should remain neutral in their promotion of valuable conceptions of the good life. Some argue that this can be derived from the priority of a theory of the right, others within a neutral framework of reasonable disagreement in a pluralist society. But as these theories have been criticized by communitarians and libertarians on other grounds, there is also good reason to question the validity of the neutrality claim more generally. In theory, the turn towards a neutral political framework is quite new to the philosophical literature and in practice, it is hardly the case that liberal states are neutral in their treatment of competing conceptions of the good. Hence the question arises: is there a reasonable alternative to state neutrality?

I explore this question here. To do this, I venture into a political philosophy of perfectionism as a viable means of critique. But, as much has been written on the topic, I take an alternative route of exploration. This paper analyzes Joseph Chan's Confucian approach from Confucian Perfectionism: a political philosophy for modern times (2013) to enrich the current debate. To do this, I first disentangle the idea of neutrality 'within' the liberal paradigm to more deeply grasp the grounds of the general critique. I then dissect Chan's 'outside' perspective, a Confucian approach to ideal conditions and real world problems whilst questioning his innovation and recycling of ideas in my analysis. I evaluate the force of this account to justify a non-neutral political morality by reconstructing possible answers to the priority of the right and the neutrality principle to then look at the added value in general.

My main contention is that Chan's theory succeeds as a vehicle for moderate perfectionism, as it is innovative in harmonizing ideas from the entire philosophical spectrum, yet it does so by recycling Western conceptions of legitimacy, social practices and justice. This is problematic and I discuss this controversy in closing.

Chair: Alexander Christian
Time: 15:10-15:40, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.007

Maximilian Fenner 
(Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

Currently, I am a bachelor student of Philosophy and Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin. Previously, I was a student at Columbia University in New York where I studied for two years. I grew up between the United States and Germany. My main interests lie in normative ethics, political cosmopolitanism and democratic theory.

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