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Title: Enforcing respect : iberalism, perfectionism, and antidiscrimination law
Author: Shapiro, Matthew Abraham
ISNI:       0000 0004 2730 1866
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Can contemporary liberalism justify antidiscrimination law? The question seems impertinent until we consider contemporary liberalism’s commitment to limited government. Once we do, we realize that contemporary liberals may not complacently assume that their theories justify antidiscrimination law simply because discrimination based on race or sex is so obviously wrongful. Rather, they must scrutinize antidiscrimination law just as they do other regulation of individual conduct. Providing such scrutiny, this thesis argues that three of the most prominent contemporary liberal doctrines of political legitimacy—John Rawls’s “political liberalism,” an antiperfectionist version of the “harm principle,” and Joseph Raz’s “liberal perfectionism”—all fail to justify core applications of antidiscrimination law, applications that we intuitively consider perfectly legitimate. In light of this failure, contemporary liberalism faces a dilemma: it must jettison either its commitment to comprehensive, uniform antidiscrimination regimes or its antiperfectionism and overriding commitment to personal autonomy. This thesis argues for the latter course by providing an account of the wrongfulness of discrimination based on race or sex that condemns all instances of the conduct. According to this account, discrimination is wrong because acting on discriminatory intentions is wrong. More specifically, by taking another person’s race or sex as a reason to treat her less favorably than one would treat people of other races or the other sex, one fails to respect her as a person, to regard her as a being of ultimate value. Unlike contemporary liberal accounts, this account is fully perfectionist, since it defines discrimination in terms of the intentions of discriminators, and the intentions of discriminators in terms of their attitudes, which partly constitute their moral characters. So long as we remain committed to antidiscrimination law in its current form, we must attend to discriminators’ characters. And to attend to discriminators’ characters, we must be willing to espouse perfectionism.
Supervisor: Gardner, John ; Butt, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social justice ; Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Ethics and philosophy of law ; Practical ethics ; Human rights ; Legal philosophy ; Philosophy of law ; antidiscrimination law ; perfectionism ; liberalism