Ideal Theory and the Theory of Second Best

[Working paper] Philosophers occasionally invoke Lipsey and Lancaster's "general theory of second best" to challenge the ideal guidance view, the view that ideal political principles can provide normative guidelines for our efforts to address injustice amidst unfavorable circumstances. Roughly, the theorem says: if certain conditions are met, then what we should do in nonideal circumstances does not necessarily approximate what we should do in ideal circumstances. But extant challenges to the ideal guidance view are based on mistaken interpretations of the theorem's antecedent condition. I show that, once we understand the antecedent condition correctly, the theory of second best does not present as tough a challenge to the ideal guidance view as is typically believed.
Keywords second best  ideal theory
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