Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Locke's Perfectionist Liberalism: An Articulation and Defense

Riley, Evan (2009) Locke's Perfectionist Liberalism: An Articulation and Defense. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (448kB) | Preview


Locke's view in the Two Treatises not only allows for but embraces interference with individuals on recognizably perfectionist grounds. It is plainly a form of perfectionism. Yet it is also an early paradigm of deontological liberalism for Locke sharply emphasizes the importance of moral duties to respect the basic rights of the sovereign individual. It is tempting to conclude that he is confusedly appealing to two opposed forms of moral and political theory, indeed to what we have come to see as two opposed forms of moral reasoning, viz. consequentialism on the one hand and deontology on the other. This temptation should be resisted. Perfectionism and deontology are not necessarily at odds with one another; some perfectionisms may coherently and productively also be deontological liberalisms. Locke's is one such view.Respecting the constraints associated with justice through the exercise of practical wisdom may be held to be a constitutive element in the good life. Such a view is coherent and appealing insofar as it makes intelligible the relation of justice to flourishing without inviting the worries about tyrannizing that plague consequentialist forms of moral theorizing. This is theoretically unambitious as it rules out robustly explaining the nature of moral rectitude by appeal to the idea of maximizing the good. Yet it is not trivializing.Locke's liberalism fundamentally calls for every human being to be brought into full practical reason and to be accorded a minimally decent scope for exercising that capacity in various productive ways in society with others.The dissertation culminates in a demonstration that Locke was correct to hold the kind of perfectionist liberal view that he did, rather than the standard libertarian view often still attributed to him. Standard libertarianism is especially vulnerable to a kind of collective self-defeat, for while perfectly respecting the relevant constraints of libertarian justice, the members of libertarian society may undermine the realization of one of their characteristic basic values. Such degeneration would be no accident; it is brought about through intentional actions fully morally legitimate on that conception. Locke was hence correct to defend his actual view rather than this alternative.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairThompson, Michael
Committee MemberBoxer, Karin
Committee MemberSetiya, Kieran
Committee MemberGoodhart, Michael
Committee MemberEngstrom, Stephen
Date: 29 January 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 5 December 2008
Approval Date: 29 January 2009
Submission Date: 13 December 2008
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hurka; moral literacy; Rawls; teleological; virtue
Other ID:, etd-12132008-140115
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:10
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:54


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item