1. This book is aimed to discuss systematically liberal-perfectionist theory, offering a critical reading of some liberal theories with perfectionist elements, such as Hurka and Raz. The former is tackled in several places, while we devote a whole chapter (chap. 2) to Raz’s perfectionism because of its importance in contemporary debate on perfectionism. Raz, as other contemporary liberal theorists such as Griffin, Dworkin and Finnis, tries to overcome Rawls’s ‘thin theory of the good’, taken as a weak point of liberal theory. 2. The most meaningful aspect of this inquiry derives from the proposal of a particular perfectionist theory, defined agency goods perfectionism or good character perfectionism (chapters 1, 4). This theory means to preserve the critical potential which characterizes perfectionism against subjectivist conceptions of wellbeing but also to respect the liberal requirement of the ‘agent’s endorsement’: any value contributes to the agent’s wellbeing only if she accepts it. It is an attempt to offer guide-lines for individual conduct, starting from the modern presupposition of an agent who freely decides the goals to pursue in her own life. The main feature of agency goods is that of being modes of choosing, such as courage, generosity, justice, temperance, etc., through which we choose in basic spheres of human experience. We hold that only these modes of choosing can be promoted by the state, while goals remain exclusive domain of the agent. 3. Agency goods perfectionism derives from an interpretation of Aristotle’s ethics, especially the concepts of eudaimonia and the virtues (chap. 3). These are interpreted as a ‘regulative ideal of the good life’ rather than as a substantial theory. The virtues and the supreme good (eudaimonia) are called to regulate the individual pursuit of valuable goals which remain within the agent’s subjective domain. This interpretation of Aristotle’s ethics lends itself to a parallel with Kant’s ethics, an author that liberals often align in opposition to Aristotle. Notwithstanding this traditional reading, we can count on a relevant exegetical literature to which we refer to found such a parallel. Kant is qualified as a perfectionist on the grounds of a reading of his concept of the supreme good (the good will) and of the ‘duties of virtue’ that are partly directed to the agent’s perfection. The ‘non deontological’ interpretation of Kant’s ethics draws a parallel between his main claims and Aristotle’s, though keeping their specific differences, and is founded on a reading of Kant’s ethical works beyond the Groundwork. 4. The leading thread of this thesis – agency goods perfectionism, grounded on a parallel interpretation of Aristotle’s and Kant’s ethics – takes on a new ally in the second part devoted to political theory: the republican claim on the importance of political participation for ‘good citizenship’. We hold that ‘citizenship’ is the key concept of a political theory which brings the member of a political community close to her political institutions. We try to sketch a political figure which takes from republicanism a concern for the well-functioning of political institutions and the common good and from perfectionism a concern for the good life of citizens as a part of the agent’s good life. Civic perfectionism emphasizes the exercise of civic virtues as political dimensions of agency goods. In this perspective the good citizen cannot just live in a just political community a la Rawls but has to be concerned with the good life of his fellow-citizens. The ideas of freedom and equality, public duties and civic virtues are re-formulated along this interpretation in chapter 5. Finally in chapter 6, we try to draw some applicative consequence of civic perfectionism in areas where public intervention is usually controversial, such as education, sexual morality and multiculturalism.
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