On Peter Simpson on “Illiberal Liberalism”

Published Date: May 10, 2017 | Topics: Philosophy, Politics and Current Affairs, Reviews and Commentaries

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Abstract

Is “liberalism,” as the term is used by leading contemporary self-described liberals such as the late John Rawls and the late Ronald Dworkin, and as put into practice by the contemporary left in western democratic nations, inherently illiberal? Peter Simpson argues cogently that it is. “Anti-perfectionist” or “neutralist” liberalism—liberalism that purports strictly to limit the scope for lawmaking on the basis of what makes for or detracts from a valuable and morally worthy way of life—ends up compromising important and honorable freedoms by absolutizing a radical, and radically partial, conception of freedom itself, one that leaves no room for consideration of the truth concerning these matters or renders their truth irrelevant (or relevant only in highly biased, partial, and tendentious ways) to questions of law and policy related to issues of profound human and moral significance, such as abortion, marriage and sexual morality, and assisted suicide and euthanasia.

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