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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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Disagreement and Asymmetry

Disagreement and Asymmetry

(p.192) 7 Disagreement and Asymmetry
Liberalism without Perfection

Jonathan Quong

Oxford University Press

Reasonable people, critics of political liberalism point out, disagree about justice every bit as much as they do about the good life, so why does political liberalism permit the state to enforce controversial conceptions of justice when it will not allow the state to act on the basis of controversial conceptions of the good? The author calls this the asymmetry objection, and this chapter shows how political liberals can rebut the objection. There are, the author shows, at least two kinds of disagreements that can occur between reasonable people: justificatory and foundational. The former disagreements are framed by common premises or assumptions, whereas the latter disagreements go ‘all the way down’. With this distinction in hand, the author shows why political liberalism's asymmetric treatment of disagreements about justice and disagreements about the good is defensible and desirable.

Keywords:   asymmetry, good life, justification, liberal legitimacy, perfectionism, political liberalism, public reason, Rawls

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