The Perfectionist Imperative: A Kantian Proposal To Revitalize Civic Education
Henry, Bryan J
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Debates within political theory about the “neutrality” of the liberal state and the degree to which a vision of human flourishing is required to ensure liberal democracy’s “viability” have specific relevance to civic education. I agree with the perfectionist republican stance that an instrumental justification for cultivating rational autonomy and civic virtue is a half-measure that will fail to resolve the “viability” problem of liberalism and that what is needed is a perfectionist liberalism. I argue that the liberal state should endorse a perfectionist vision of human flourishing because civic education can only justify and hope to gain support for its promotion of “good citizenship” as a component of human flourishing more broadly conceived. I contend that Immanuel Kant’s conception of human flourishing of a rational, autonomous individual who nonetheless pursues self-perfection and the betterment of humanity is uniquely situated to revive liberal civic education on such perfectionist grounds.