Eyeing this book’s title, the skeptical reader may wonder if the author really believes three wrongs can make a right. While perfection in the philosophical sense intended means something slightly different than it does in everyday usage—mainly, the realization of objective moral goods by all human beings—the idea generally is as unpopular among philosophers as it is among almost everyone else. Perfectionism, it is believed, is an ambition in need of restraint, or medication, not encouragement. The state, too, must rank among the least admired concepts, especially if we are to judge by the words and deeds of the politicians we (in Britain and the United States, the national contexts of this book) routinely vote into office. It’s been decades, after all, since someone got elected for their explicit commitment to the state—indeed perhaps as long ago as the Victorians. Which somewhat obliquely recalls the kinds of misgivings most people have about the third element in my title. It is precisely the Victorian liberals’ earnest convictions about ideas like the state and moral perfection that make us moderns (as I label all the generations since about 1880) so wary of that political and moral culture created by Britons and Americans in the middle of the nineteenth century.
KeywordsDefend Clarification Reformer Briton
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