Neutrality and Excellence

In Without Trimmings: The Legal, Moral, and Political Philosophy of Matthew Kramer. Oxford, UK: pp. 271-296 (2022)
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In Liberalism with Excellence, Matthew Kramer makes an argument for how excellence may enter in into liberalism, despite liberalism’s strong commitment to neutrality. Kramer seeks to challenge not only the uncompromising rejection of this position by liberals such a Jonathan Quong, but also the so-called “blended” approach of “soft-perfectionist” scholars such as Joseph Raz and George Sher. In this essay, I do not so much challenge Kramer’s approach as offer an alternative for accomplishing the same thing. Under my proposal, certain forms of excellence and neutrality can both be accommodated as long as state support for the form of excellence at issue is proportional to the support for such a form of excellence within the relevant polity, competing forms of excellence are non-rivalrous, and no one is forced to embrace a form of excellence with which they disagree. My proposal is therefore not what Ronald Dworkin derogatively characterized as “a checkerboard solution.” Rather than allowing the state to support contrary moral positions at one and the same time, it is a solution that takes morally compatible but nevertheless competing conceptions of excellence seriously, and exhibits neutrality by giving them proportional rather than full support. This neither forces anyone to pursue the particular forms of excellence the state supports nor prevents them from pursuing some other form of excellence entirely or, if they wish, no form of excellence at all.



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Mark R. Reiff
University of California, Davis

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Hope in an Illiberal Age? [REVIEW]Mark R. Reiff - 2024 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 2024 (January):1-9.

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Proportionality, Winner-Take-All, and Distributive Justice.Mark R. Reiff - 2009 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8 (1):5-42.

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