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Law and Philosophy$
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Michael Freeman and Ross Harrison

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199237159

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199237159.001.0001

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The Attack on Liberalism

The Attack on Liberalism

Chapter:
(p.173) 10 The Attack on Liberalism
Source:
Law and Philosophy
Author(s):

Mark R Reiff (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199237159.003.0010

This chapter discusses the fundamental differences between liberalism and perfectionism, and defends liberalism against one of the most serious accusations that perfectionists make against it — the claim that liberalism leads to nihilism. This is an exercise in politectonics — the study of how families of political theories clash when we abstract out to their basic themes and fundamental presuppositions. The chapter examines how liberalism is supposed to lead to nihilism, addressing the two different strands of this particular perfectionist criticism. It attempts to rebut each strand of this attack, ignoring for the moment the strategy of using one to rebut the other. It then assumes that one of these strands of attack is true, and explores whether we really have as much to fear from nihilism as both the opponents of liberalism and its defenders tend to believe. Finally, the chapter assumes that nihilism is both coherent and unattractive, but challenges the assumption that perfectionism can produce anything better, for even if liberalism leads to nihilism, perfectionism leads to fanaticism, and fanaticism presents a far greater threat to international peace and individual well-being than nihilism ever could.

Keywords:   perfectionism, nihilism, politectonics

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