Political Justification

58 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2015 Last revised: 3 Nov 2016

See all articles by Matthew H. Kramer

Matthew H. Kramer

University of Cambridge; University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2015


The original version of this paper was an excerpt from an early draft of the opening chapter in my 2017 book "Liberalism with Excellence."

The new version of the paper is the whole of that chapter in its final form. (The chapter itself is entitled "Introduction: Toward the Redirection of a Longstanding Controversy".) Like the original version of this paper, the new version can be summarized as follows. Throughout the past several decades, the matter of political justification has been one of the central preoccupations of political philosophers in the English-speaking world and beyond. During that time, political philosophers have frequently clashed with one another over the question whether governments are morally required to remain neutral among reasonable conceptions of excellence or human flourishing. Whereas the numerous followers of John Rawls (and kindred philosophers such as Ronald Dworkin) have maintained that a requirement of neutrality is indeed incumbent on every system of governance, other philosophers -- often designated as "perfectionists" -- have argued against the existence of such a requirement. The present essay seeks to elucidate these debates, in which the nature of political justification has been so saliently at issue.

Keywords: justification, political justification, liberalism, John Rawls, neutrality, perfectionism, political philosophy, justice

JEL Classification: K04, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Kramer, Matthew H., Political Justification (April 1, 2015). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 12/2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2591455 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2591455

Matthew H. Kramer (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom
44-1223-336231 (Phone)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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