Prof. Pablo Gilabert Publishes "Perfectionism and Dignity"
Abstract: Perfectionism about well-being is, at a minimum, the view that people’s lives go well when, and because they realize their capacities. It is common to link perfectionism with an idea of human essence or nature, to yield the view that what constitutes people’s well-being is the development and exercise of characteristically human capacities. The first part of this paper considers the very serious problems associated with the idea of human nature or essence, and argues that perfectionism would be more plausible if it abandons reliance on it and focuses instead on the unfolding of some valuable capacities that need not be unique to, or shared by all human beings. This revised perfectionism is evaluative all the way down, pragmatic but not unprincipled, and holistic. In its second part, the paper articulates this account in terms of the dignitarian approach—the view that we have reason to organize our personal and social life in such a way that we respond appropriately to the valuable features of individuals that give rise to their dignity. Dignity is a non-conventional, normative status based on a diverse and disjunctive set of valuable capacities. The dignitarian approach helps develop, defend, and identify the implications of the revised perfectionism suggested in the previous part of the paper while also allowing us to make sense of the role of some generalizations that animated some of the plausibility of traditional perfectionism—and this without the pitfalls of reliance on an idea of human nature. On this paper’s proposed view—Dignitarian Perfectionism—human individuals’ well-being consists, at least in part, in developing and exercising the capacities at the basis of their dignity.
Pablo Gilabert is Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University.