Perfectionists accept the traditional view of political authority. This view holds that is permissible in principle for the state to promote, actively and intentionally, the good of its members. Defenders of liberal versions of perfectionism argue that the ideal of personal autonomy is a key constituent of the good life, and that recognizing this fact makes it possible to reconcile the traditional understanding of political authority that perfectionists accept with the principled commitment to liberal government that liberals accept. On this view of politics autonomy is a perfection. This paper critically discusses the extent to which autonomy, understood as a perfectionist good, can support a principled commitment to limited government. It considers two important challenges to this claim, and it argues that a successful response to the first challenge-a challenge that concerns autonomy and authority-makes it harder to give an effective response to the second challenge-a challenge that concerns autonomy and coercion. After discussing these two challenges, the paper considers how we should think about the liberal perfectionist commitment to limited government in light of what we have learned about autonomy's standing as a perfectionist good.
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