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Liberalism without Perfection$
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Jonathan Quong

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594870.001.0001

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The Argument from Autonomy

The Argument from Autonomy

(p.45) 2 The Argument from Autonomy
Liberalism without Perfection

Jonathan Quong

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Joseph Raz's autonomy-based version of the harm principle suffers from two serious problems. First, Raz's argument fails to yield a principled commitment to liberal toleration — it is instead contingent on certain empirical assumptions that should be irrelevant to a theory of liberal toleration. Second, the chapter shows that Raz's argument for the harm principle does not provide us with reasons to treat non-coercive state perfectionism differently than coercive perfectionism. Thus, if his harm principle precludes paternalistic coercion, it must also preclude the kinds of non-coercive perfectionist policies liberal perfectionists advocate. If successful, the objections in this chapter indicate that the value of autonomy cannot provide the foundation for liberal perfectionism in the way many contemporary perfectionists have assumed.

Keywords:   autonomy, coercion, comprehensive liberalism, harm principle, liberal perfectionism, manipulation, Raz, subsidies

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