SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Political Liberalism & The "Myth" of Anti-Perfectionism
(Ethics, English)

It could be said of the numerous, competing liberal theories which have been forwarded over the last century, that John Rawls' Political Liberalism has been, if not one of the most popular, certainly one of the most frequently debated. As part of the project of political liberalism, Rawls sought to set out an ideal conception of justice which should be, "so far as possible, independent of controversial philosophical and metaphysical doctrines". In forwarding this "purely political" liberalism, Rawls aimed to respond to some of the misapprehensions or criticisms that had followed since the publication of his seminal work, A Theory of Justice. In doing so, Rawls also aimed to address something which he deemed to be a major failure within the liberal tradition; that of not drawing a distinction between the political and the moral, and perfectionist and anti-perfectionist theories.

Here, liberal anti-perfectionism can be understood as the claim that it is impermissible for "the state to promote or discourage some activities, ideals, or ways of life on grounds relating to their inherent or intrinsic value, or on the basis of other metaphysical claims". This claim is something to which many contemporary liberal theorists might aspire to in the assent for a political grounding of liberalism or state neutrality in the face of reasonable pluralism. However, I will be calling this anti-perfectionism claim into question by scrutinising the political liberal's attempt to bifurcate between the political and the moral in the way alluded to above, and ultimately, I will posit that political liberalism might unavoidably collapse into some kind of perfectionism at the level of higher-order moral values. A corollary of this analysis will be my suggestion that we would do well to understand the political-moral distinction within liberal theory by a matter of degree rather than kind, and that once we understand political liberalism as being perfectionist in certain respects, then we can abandon the"_myth" of anti-perfectionist neutrality in lieu of refining the moral concepts underpinning such contemporary liberal theories.

Chair: Eva Bobst
Time: 15:20-15:50, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004

Pascal Mowla 
(The London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom)

I am an aspiring political philosopher of British-Iranian descent currently living in London and engaging in temporary work before my return to academic study. After an untraditional entry into the subject, I completed a conversion MA in Philosophy with distinction at Birkbeck, University of London in 2018. During my time at Birkbeck, my independent research honed in on the conflict between the liberal state's aim of providing a liberal education to all children and the cultural or religious groups who might conscientiously object to such an education. Since then, my areas of research interest within political philosophy and public policy have extended past multiculturalism, moral disagreement and tolerance to include; epistemic and distributive justice, procedural fairness and political epistemology.

_My desire in attending to such philosophical problems has arisen out of my aspiration to seek practical solutions to the socio-political problems which challenge us today. In this sense, I take note of Bernard William's statement that applied philosophy should perhaps aim at answering "what is the best form of society we can get to, starting from here?", rather than cultivating ideal responses to the less constrained question "what is the best form of society?". A corollary of this is my inclination to view my own study within Philosophy as continuous with political theory and policy, and I am now set to continue my philosophical development at The London School of Economics and Political Science come September 2019. Outside of academia I have worked with the Afghan and Central Asian Association as a voluntary Political Communications intern and I am also an active member of the Fabian society and contributing member of the Young Fabians.

Testability and Meaning deco