Liberalism without Perfection

Quite a few political philosophers in recent years have favored a view called liberal perfectionism. According to this view, liberal political morality is characterized by a commitment to helping individuals lead autonomous lives and making other valuable choices. In “Liberalism without Perfection”, published in 2010, Jonathan Quong rejects the perfectionist view and offers an alternative account of liberal political morality. Quong argues that the liberal state should be engaged neither in determining what constitutes a valuable or worthwhile life nor in trying to make sure that individuals live up to such an ideal. Instead, it should remain neutral on the issue of the good life, and restrict itself to establishing the fair terms within which individuals can pursue their own beliefs about what gives value to their lives. His book thus defends a position known as political liberalism.
This one-day conference, organized by the Cambridge Forum for Legal & Political Philosophy, will evaluate Quong’s contribution to contemporary debates over the future of liberalism.  It will bring together six prominent political philosophers, plus Quong himself, to assess the strengths and shortcomings of Quong’s book.  The book will be an excellent point of departure for broader ruminations on the nature of liberalism and perfectionism. The six panelists are as follows:  *Dr Jules Holroyd (Nottingham)
*Professor Matthew Kramer (Cambridge)
*Professor Susan Mendus (York)
*Professor Veronique Munoz-Darde (University College London/California-Berkeley)
*Professor Hillel Steiner (Manchester)
*Dr Zofia Stemplowska (Oxford)
The conference will be open to everyone with no registration fee.  A charge of 12 pounds will be imposed for anyone who orders lunch, but otherwise attendance at the conference will be free of charge.  The six friendly critics of Quong’s book will be divided into three panels of two people each.  After the two papers for each panel have been presented, Quong will have an opportunity to reply; each session will then conclude with an ample question-and-answer period for the audience.  The first session will begin in the mid-morning (around 10:30am), and the conference will close in the early evening (around 6:00pm).  All the substantive sessions of the conference as well as lunch will take place at Churchill College, Cambridge. If you wish to register for the conference, you should please notify Matthew Kramer ( through e-mail.  You should please indicate whether you wish to order lunch, which can be purchased either with a cheque or with a credit card. Although there is no specially reserved accommodation for the conference participants, rooms — with or without en-suite facilities — will be available at bed-and-breakfast rates at Churchill College.  If you wish to book a room, of if you wish to inquire about the rates and availability, you should please make contact with Churchill College’s Accommodation Officer, Ms Kelly Bridge (
The following organizations have provided generous financial support for the conference: Aristotelian Society; Cambridge Forum for Legal & Political Philosophy; Churchill College, Cambridge; Manchester Centre for Political Theory; Mind Association; Oxford University Press; Society for Applied Philosophy. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS CONFERENCE IS NOW FULLY BOOKED.  WE HAVE BEGUN A WAITING LIST (ON WHICH THERE ARE CURRENTLY ABOUT 20 PEOPLE).