DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L070-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Perfectionism is a moral theory according to which certain states or activities of human beings, such as knowledge, achievement and artistic creation, are good apart from any pleasure or happiness they bring, and what is morally right is what most promotes these human ‘excellences’ or ‘perfections’. Some versions of perfectionism hold that the good consists, at bottom, in the development of properties central to human nature, so that if knowledge and achievement are good, it is because they realize aspects of human nature. With or without this view, perfectionisms can differ about what in particular is good, for example, about the relative merits of knowing and doing. The most plausible versions of perfectionism affirm both self-regarding duties to seek the excellences in one’s own life and other-regarding duties to promote them in other people. Some critics argue that the latter duties, when applied to political questions, are hostile to liberty and equality, but certain versions of perfectionism endorse liberty and equality. Perfectionist ideas can also figure in a pluralist morality where they are weighed against other, competing moral ideas.

    Citing this article:
    Hurka, Thomas. Perfectionism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L070-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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