Deliberative Perfectionism: Why We Can and Should Talk about the Good

Matteo Bonotti

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In contemporary political theory, perfectionists believe that the state should promote substantive conceptions of the good through its legislation. Supporters of neutrality, instead, claim that the state should refrain from doing so. In this article I analyse perfectionism in relation to Jürgen Habermas’ theory of discourse and deliberative politics (1996) and critique Habermas’ distinction between ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ discourses (1984, 1990). By relating Habermas’ theory to George Sher’s account of perfectionism (1997), I argue that we can establish the meta-ethical grounds for a model of deliberation encompassing ethical matters (that is, questions concerning the good life) not confined to the limits of specific communities. I conclude by arguing that ethical deliberation is not only feasible but also desirable. Given the fact of ethical pluralism, and in order to show respect towards their fellow citizens, political perfectionists ought to be ready to show how their ethical claims (which they want to see translated into state policy) relate to deeper meta-ethical human goals on which we can ideally find a consensus through deliberation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)637-653
    Number of pages17
    JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
    Issue number7
    Early online date13 Feb 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Deliberative Perfectionism: Why We Can and Should Talk about the Good'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this