(Please note: the main ideas of this paper are restated in revised/developed form in: "On actualist and fundamental public justification in political liberalism" and "Patterns of justification: on political liberalism and the primacy of public justification". Both papers are available from philpapers.) The paper suggests the deep view of Rawls-type public justification as promising, non-ideal theory variant of an internal conception of political liberalism. To this end, I demonstrate how the deep view integrates a range of ideas, views and commitments (...) at the core of political liberalism’s justification structure, including pro tanto justification, full justification, political values and their priority, justificatory neutrality, the role of reasonable comprehensive views, the nature public reasons, the wide view of public political culture, the role of overlapping consensus and political legitimacy, and not least, the status of reflective equilibrium and the Original Position. I then contrast the deep view with Quong’s ideal theory variant if the internal conception, and argue that we should prefer the deep view. Thus, the prospects of political liberalism depend not so much on whether we find ways to make ideal theory relevant for non-ideal purposes. Rather, it depends on whether political liberalism can devise a credible response to the problem of public dogma. (shrink)
I present two senses in which a political philosophy may be an ideal theory. They are not identified by Laura Valentini, in her much-cited paper. The paper is written as a pastiche of the writing style of the distinguished legal and political philosopher Joseph Raz, who recently passed away, with my notes at the foot of the page within square brackets.
There are some premise-by-premise reconstructions in political philosophy which are flawed, because they omit at least one premise or misword at least one premise. This paper focuses on a reconstruction by Richard Child. The original argument is by Andrea Sangiovanni and is about whether egalitarian values of distributive justice apply both within a state and globally. Child’s reconstruction has been reproduced in a paper by Ian Davis, who approves of it. But I point out five logical problems with the reconstruction.
I present a difficulty with evaluating analytic political philosophy based on a lack of data to compare achievements there with. For example, if a paradox was (or were) given to members of an elite university college for a day, how many solutions would they come up with?
Liberalism is often claimed to be at odds with feminism and critical race theory (CRT). This article argues, to the contrary, that Rawlsian liberalism supports the central commitments of both. Section 1 argues that Rawlsian liberalism supports intersectional feminism. Section 2 argues that the same is true of CRT. Section 3 then uses Young’s ‘Five Faces of Oppression’—a classic work widely utilized in feminism and CRT to understand and contest many varieties of oppression—to illustrate how Rawlsian liberalism supports diverse feminist (...) and CRT projects, and why it may be critical to achieve solidarity between feminism, CRT, and Rawlsian liberalism. Finally, Section 4 responds to five objections. (shrink)
In den vergangenen Jahren hat die Europäische Union (EU) wiederholt versucht, ihre Institutionen zu reformieren. Als der Entwurf für eine Europäische Verfassung und später der Vertrag von Lissabon ausgehandelt wurden, betraf einer der meistdiskutiertesten Streitpunkte die Frage, nach welcher Entscheidungsregel der EU-Ministerrat abstimmen sollte. Diese Frage ist eine genuin normative Frage. Deshalb sollten auch politische Philosophen und Ethiker etwas zu dieser Frage beitragen können. Im folgenden wollen wir uns dieser Herausforderung stellen und alternative Entscheidungsregeln für den EU-Ministerrat bewerten. Dabei erweisen (...) sich die Methoden der probablistische Modellierung und der Simulation sozialer Prozesse als unerlässlich.1 Damit wird deutlich, wie Simulationen auch innerhalb der angewandten politischen Philosophie als Methode eingesetzt werden können. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders Tommie Shelby's (2016) analysis of procreation in poor black communities. I identify three conceptual frames within which Shelby situates his analysis—feminization, choice-as-control, and moralization. I argue that these frames should be rejected on conceptual, empirical, and moral grounds. As I show, this framing engenders a flawed understanding of poor black women's procreative lives. I propose an alternative framework for reconceiving the relationship between poverty and procreative justice, one oriented around reproductive flourishing instead of reproductive responsibility. More generally, (...) the paper develops a methodological challenge for nonideal moral and political philosophy, especially concerning the obligations of the oppressed. Specifically, I argue that in the absence of descriptive and conceptual accountability, the "moral gaze" of the philosopher risks preserving, rather than destabilizing, oppressive ideologies. (shrink)
We give a brief overview of several recent strands of speech-act theory, and then survey some issues in social and political philosophy can be profitably understood in speech-act-theoretic terms. Our topics include the social contract, the law, the creation and reinforcement of social norms and practices, silencing, and freedom of speech.
Realists in normative political theory aim to defend the importance of “distinctively political thought” as opposed to the applied ethics they believe characterizes much contemporary political theory and causes it to misunderstand and make mistakes about its subject matter. More conventional political theorists have attempted to respond to realism, including Jonathan Leader Maynard and Alex Worsnip, who have recently criticized five supposedly realist arguments for a distinctive political normativity. However, while Leader Maynard and Worsnip's arguments are themselves less decisive than (...) they suppose, the problem with their response may lay elsewhere. Their response supposes that more conventional political theory could, in principle, be defended at an abstract general level. This may not be possible though, given the difficulty of arriving at agreed interpretations of the concepts involved and the desiderata for a successful normative political theory. It also risks missing the point of realism, which is to use different forms of normative inquiry to explore questions which have not always been central to conventional normative political theory. Judith Shklar's excellent work on vices and the liberalism of fear nicely illustrates this problem. (shrink)
Do salient normative claims about politics require moral premises? Political moralists think they do, political realists think they do not. We defend the viability of realism in a two-pronged way. First, we show that a number of recent attacks on realism, as well as realist responses to those attacks, unduly conflate distinctively political normativity and non-moral political normativity. Second, we argue that Alex Worsnip and Jonathan Leader-Maynard’s recent attack on realist arguments for a distinctively political normativity depends on assuming moralism (...) as the default view, which places an excessive burden on the viability of realism, and so begs the question. Our discussion, though, does not address the relative merits of realism and moralism, so its upshot is relatively ecumenical: moralism need not be the view that all apt normative political judgments are moral judgments, and realism need not be the view that no apt normative political judgments are moral judgments. (shrink)
Self-determination is a central concept for political philosophers. For example, many have appealed to this concept to defend a right of states to restrict immigration. Because it is deeply embedded in our political structures, the principle possesses a kind of default authority and does not usually call for an elaborate defense. In this paper, I will argue that genealogical studies by Adom Getachew, Radhika Mongia, Nandita Sharma, and others help to challenge this default authority. Their counter-histories show that the principle (...) was used to justify, strengthen, and adapt imperial rule in the twentieth century. In particular, the idea that controlling a population's composition through regulating immigration is an essential aspect of self-determination emerged as a response to White anxieties about the migration of negatively racialized groups. Genealogies have not been adequately appreciated as a critical tool within the mainstream of political philosophy. I show that these genealogies have a critical role to play because they unsettle our uncritical attachment to the structures of the nation-state system and raise serious questions about the meaning and emancipatory force of the principle of self-determination. (shrink)
Principles of justice, David Estlund argues, cannot be falsified by people’s unwillingness to satisfy them. In his Utopophobia, Estlund rejects the view that justice must bend to human motivation to deliver practical implications for how institutions ought to function. In this paper, I argue that a substantive argument against such bending of justice principles must challenge the reasons for making these principles sensitive to motivational limitations. Estlund, however, provides no such challenge. His dispute with benders of justice is therefore a (...) verbal one over the true meaning of justice, which need not worry those with the intuition that justice should perform a function that requires bending. By focusing on John Rawls’s reasons for bending his justice principles, I point towards a substantive critique of bent justice. (shrink)
This paper outlines an empirically-grounded account of normative political legitimacy. The main idea is to give a normative edge to empirical measures of sociological legitimacy through a non-moralised form of ideology critique. A power structure’s responsiveness to the values of those subjected to its authority can be measured empirically and may be explanatory or predictive insofar as it tracks belief in legitimacy, but by itself it lacks normative purchase: it merely describes a preference alignment, and so tells us nothing about (...) whether the ruled have reason to support the rulers. I argue that we can close this gap by filtering the preferences of the ruled through a form of non-moralised epistemic ideology critique, itself grounded in an empirical account of how belief in legitimacy is formed. (shrink)
In the last two decades Anglophone political theory witnessed a renewed interest in social-scientific empirical findings—partly as a reaction against normative theorizing centred on the formulation of abstract, intuition-driven moral principles. This brief paper begins by showing how this turn has taken two distinct forms: (i) a non-ideal theoretical orientation, which seeks to balance the emphasis on moral principles with feasibility and urgency considerations, and (ii) a fact-centric orientation, which seeks to ground normative conclusions in empirical results. The core of (...) the paper then compares and contrast three variants of fact-centric political theory: normative behaviourism, grounded normative theory, and radical realism. The upshot: normative behaviourism achieves focus on observable behaviour at the cost of status quo bias, grounded normative theory achieves radicalism at the cost of endorsing an activist orientation to theorising, and radical realism combines a non-activist orientation with the potential for far-reaching critique of the status quo. (shrink)
We set out longtermist political philosophy as a research field by exploring the case for, and the implications of, ‘institutional longtermism’: the view that, when evaluating institutions, we should give significant weight to their very long-term effects. We begin by arguing that the standard case for longtermism may be more robust when applied to institutions than to individual actions or policies, both because institutions have large, broad, and long-term effects, and because institutional longtermism can plausibly sidestep various objections to individual (...) longtermism. We then address points of contact between longtermism and some central values of mainstream political philosophy, focusing on justice, equality, freedom, legitimacy, and democracy. While each value initially seems to conflict with institutional longtermism, we find that these conflicts are less clear-cut upon closer inspection, and that some political values might even provide independent support for institutional longtermism. We end with a grab bag of related questions that we lack space to explore here. (shrink)
This paper articulates and responds to a challenge to contemporary compatibilist views of free will. Despite the popularity and appeal of compatibilist theories, many are left with lingering doubts about compatibilism. This paper explains this doubt in terms of the absurdity challenge: because a compatibilist accepts that they do not have causal access to all the actual sufficient causal sources of their own agency, the compatibilist can find their own agency absurd. By taking a cue from political philosophy, this paper (...) argues that a non-ideal construction of the problem of free will allows compatibilists to overcome this existential-metaphysical challenge, and by doing so, perhaps adopt a metaphysically progressive picture of human agency. (shrink)
According to the standard story, there are two defensible theories of property rights: historical and institutional theories. The former says that you own something when you’ve received it via an unbroken chain of just transfers from its original appropriation. The latter says that you own something when you’ve been assigned it by just institutions. This standard story says that the historical theory throws up a barrier to redistributive economic policies while the institutional theory does not. In this paper, I argue (...) that the standard story is wrong in almost every detail. For a start, neither of these theories are defensible. Both generate absurd consequences when combined with our non-ideal circumstances. In actuality, no unbroken chains of just transfers stretch from original appropriation to what we now possess. And our actual institutions are very seriously unjust. So both theories imply that we actually own almost nothing. I revise these theories so that they avoid this absurd consequence. Yet, when we do this, their distributive implications flip. The institutional theory throws up serious barriers to redistribution while the historical theory tears them down. In our non-ideal circumstances, the distributive implications of these theories are the opposite of what is standardly presumed. (shrink)
State borders allocate access to basic goods, opportunities, rights, and protections along lines of nationality, race, and gender. However, the discriminatory effects of state borders rarely appear as an issue in the self-understanding of liberal-democratic societies and their political theorizing. In this paper, I explore how the category of nationality has been and continues to be used to exclude people who have been negatively racialized by European colonialism. I draw on a number of studies that reconstruct the colonial history of (...) states' claims to authority over people's movements and over the composition of their populations. The idea of territorial nationalities allowed nation-states, in particular those emerging from the settler colonies and metropoles of European empires, to continue practices of racial ordering without using explicit racial categories. With the help of these studies, I criticize liberal nationalists such as David Miller for appealing to the value of national identities to support a right of states to exclude would-be immigrants. I suggest that using genealogical and phenomenological methods allows us to undermine the default authority that is often accorded to the category of nationality. (shrink)
This article discusses the use of orthodox rational choice theory in the context of moral contractarianism. The article’s goals are threefold. First, the article clarifies the nature of moral contractarianism and corrects a fundamental misconception. Second, it responds to criticism that follows from this misconception. It shows that the criticism either misconstrues the nature of moral contractarianism or does not apply. Third, the article clarifies the limited role that formalization can play in the context of moral contractarianism. At best, such (...) formalization complements and, at worst, distracts from the true nature of the theory and, more generally, from the central role that the context of choice plays for the justification of moral principles in contractarian moral theory. (shrink)
“Ideal theorists” in contemporary liberal political theory argue that we can only arrive at a conception of what our most important political values require by reference to an imagined ideal state of affairs and that we must therefore, to some extent, engage in utopian thinking. Critical theorists, from Marx and the Frankfurt School, have traditionally been highly skeptical towards using idealizations in this way. This skepticism is mirrored by contemporary authors, such as Charles Mills. I argue that most of their (...) critical arguments make a principled case only against ahistorical, decontextualized projects of utopian idealization, but not against ideal theorizing as such. Critical theories do not need to reject ideal theorizing. On the contrary: The method of immanent critique that is specific to critical theory allows for a conception of an ideal state of affairs that emerges from its diagnosis of social contradictions. I conclude that critical theories can (and should) incorporate some aspects of ideal theorizing and its utopian reference to a better society. (shrink)
Eva Erman and Niklas Möller have recently presented a trenchant critique of my (2015) argument that ideal normative theories are uninformative for certain practical purposes. Their criticisms are largely correct. In this note, I develop the ideas behind my earlier argument in a way that circumvents their critique and explains more clearly why ideal theory is uninformative for certain purposes while leaving open the possibility that it might be informative for other purposes.
This article argues that Bernard Williams’ Critical Theory Principle (CTP) is in tension with his realist commitments, i.e., deriving political norms from practices that are inherent to political life. The Williamsian theory of legitimate state power is based on the central importance of the distinction between political rule and domination. Further, Williams supplements the normative force of his theory with the CTP, i.e., the principle that acceptance of a justification regarding power relations ought not to be created by the very (...) same coercive power. I contend that the CTP is an epistemic criterion of reflective (un)acceptability which is not strictly connected to the question of whether people are dominated or not. I show that there are cases of non-domination that fail the epistemic requirements of the CTP. (shrink)
This article challenges the association between realist methodology and ideals of legitimacy. Many who seek a more “realistic” or “political” approach to political theory replace the familiar orientation towards a state of justice with a structurally similar orientation towards a state of legitimacy. As a result, they fail to provide more reliable practical guidance, and wrongly displace radical demands. Rather than orienting action towards any state of affairs, I suggest that a more practically useful approach to political theory would directly (...) address judgments, by comparing the concrete possibilities for action faced by real political actors. (shrink)
In a 1978 lecture in Tokyo, Foucault drew a comparison between his own philosophical methodology and that of ‘Anglo-Saxon analytic philosophy’, claiming the label ‘analytic philosophy of politics’ for his own approach. This may seem like a somewhat surprising comparison given the gulf between contemporary analytic and continental philosophy, but I argue that it is a very productive one which indeed might help us reconsider this gulf. I proceed through a comparison between Foucault and the speech act theory of J. (...) L. Austin, one of the analytic philosophers Foucault had in mind in his Tokyo lecture. By focusing on the methodological commonalities between Foucault and Austin, this article identifies the core of a philosophical methodology that cuts across the analytic/continental divide in philosophy in general while constituting a powerful alternative to the methods applied by analytic political philosophers specifically. This approach, which I term ‘analytic critique’, is one that starts from a critical analysis of what happens in ordinary lived experience and theorizes ‘bottom-up’ in an avowedly politically engaged way – thereby challenging the conceptual and political aloofness of contemporary political philosophy in the liberal-Rawlsian tradition. Foucault’s appropriation of the label ‘analytic philosophy’, it is argued, ought to function as a call to more imaginative methodological-theoretical engagement across the traditional division between continental and analytic approaches. (shrink)
Many philosophers appeal to the “fallacy of approximation”, or “problem of second best”. However, despite the pervasiveness of such appeals, there has been only a single attempt to provide a systematic account of what the fallacy is. We identify the shortcomings of this account and propose a better one in its place. Our account not only captures all the contexts in which approximation-based reasoning occurs but also systematically explains the several different ways in which it can be in error.
Political theorists study the attributes of desirable social-moral states of affairs. Schaefer (forthcoming) aims to show that "static political theory" of this kind rests on shaky foundations. His argument revolves around an application of an abstruse mathematical theorem -- Kakutani's fixed point theorem -- to the social-moral domain. We show that Schaefer has misunderstood the implications of this theorem for political theory. Theorists who wish to study the attributes of social-moral states of affairs should carry on, safe in the knowledge (...) that Kakutani's theorem poses no threat to this enterprise. (shrink)
I present and argue for a novel function-based account of feasibility - what I call the "Fitting Deliberation Account" - according to which whether an (individual or collective) action counts as feasible is a matter of whether it possesses those features that are required to make it a fitting object of practical reason or deliberation about what to do.
Can the existence of a social practice justify practical authority? A medieval debate between hierocrats and caesaropapists may help to illuminate this question. Focusing mainly on Marsilius of Padua, with reference to John of Paris, this article suggests that caesaropapists can be read as developing a 'practice conception' of the structure and scope of ecclesiastical authority. Because it brings the conflict over authority to a new battleground, the practice conception supplies caesaropapists with a source of dialectical leverage over hierocratic doctrine. (...) The paper explores the strengths and limitations of this methodological approach and links it to debates in contemporary political thought. (shrink)
Violence seems to be such that, once it has set in, it is hard to extract. Getting rid of violence appears to require violence. It reproduces only itself. Peace appears but a sheep exposed to predators. If the world were to abruptly become peaceful, it would only await the next Thrasymachus to reimpose tyranny. This sticky nature of violence and how to cope with it are the most potent themes of this much-needed work. It provides a fair though critical overview (...) of the subject of politics and violence through history. Violence and Political Theory examines a judicious selection of political thinkers, from Hobbes and Locke to Gandhi and Ruddick, on their notions of the role of violence in political life. (shrink)
This essay focuses on the approach to the study of political and legal phenomena that can be defined “critical realism” and with its apparent paradox. By “critical realism” I understand a way of looking at political and legal phenomena that combines a blunt analysis of social reality with a transformative, non-resigned critical attitude towards the status quo. I argue that this is the approach that inspired Danilo Zolo’s lifelong reflections on politics and law. The same approach, moreover, is in my (...) opinion shared by authors such as Raymond Geuss and Bernard Williams, who, since the beginning of the new millennium, have contributed to re-shape the international debate on the methods of political philosophy. Inherent in this approach is a paradox that can be encapsulated in the following two questions. First, if the theoretical analysis should not start from ideals and principles, but must instead take as point of departure the social and political situation in which we are inescapably entangled (both central assumptions of the critical realism), how is it possible to gain the distance necessary for criticisms? Second, if we cannot transcend our societal reality and cannot therefore rely on external and objective values, on which basis is it possible to suggest “better” alternatives to the status quo? The mentioned authors could not explain convincingly, in my opinion, how these two questions can be answered. However, and this is the central claim of the article, the paradox is not unresolvable. The two questions mentioned above can be answered, so my argument, by recurring, respectively, to the negativism characteristic of Judith Shklar’s approach to political and legal theory and to the concept of “immanent critique” as understood by Rahel Jaeggi. Shklar convincingly shows that the critique of the status quo can be made not notwithstanding the blunt analysis of social reality, but exactly in reason of it. In order to recognise abuses of power and injustices, so her argument, we do not need an ideal theory of justice or of the perfect state. On the contrary, nothing better than history and the analysis of contemporary social reality can show us that injustices and abuses of power are a recurring and ever possible characteristics of politics. Jaeggi’s concept on immanent critique, moreover, indicates how it is possible to build an alternative to the criticized situation that is not anchored on transcendent principles and yet can plausibly explain why the suggested alternative is “better” than the status quo. Finally, I argue that both Shklars’ negativism and Jaeggi’s concept of immanent critique operate implicitly in Zolo’s approach, but that they, having not being made explicit, could not develop their whole potential. (shrink)
What kinds of feasibility restrictions should be taken into account in practically relevant political philosophy? David Estlund argues that “ought” does not imply “can will,” and, hence, that we should be very cautious regarding the inclusion of motivational restrictions in political philosophy. As Nicholas Southwood and David Wiens point out, however, Estlund’s position clashes with the requirement that “ought” implies “feasible.” The present article argues that even though we must accept that “ought” implies “feasible,” this does not settle the question (...) regarding the adequate set of feasibility restrictions to be included in applied normative thinking. Instead, we need to distinguish different kinds of normative theory that require different sets of feasibility restrictions. For this, the article provides a taxonomy of feasibility restrictions and a preliminary discussion of the adequate set of feasibility restrictions for different kinds of normative theory. (shrink)
Recently, philosophers have investigated the emergence and evolution of the social contract. Yet extant work is limited as it focuses on the use of simple behavioral norms in rather rigid strategic settings. Drawing on axiomatic bargaining theory, we explore the dynamics of more sophisticated norms capable of guiding behavior in a wide range of scenarios. Overall, our investigation suggests the utilitarian bargaining solution has a privileged status as it has certain stability properties other social arrangements lack.
Liberal and republican conceptions of freedom differ as to whether freedom consists in noninterference or non-domination. Pettit defends the republican non-domination conception on the grounds that one can be unfree without being interfered with if one is dominated, and that one can be interfered with yet free if not dominated. I show that these claims mistake the scope of actual interference. In particular, I show that cases said to involve unfreedom without interference do involve interference, and that cases said to (...) involve freedom despite interference— in particular, cases involving government regulations—are cases in which some interference is outweighed by protection from even greater interference. The liberal noninterference conception of freedom, therefore, can account for what Pettit claims can only be accounted for by freedom as non-domination. (shrink)
[Comment] I am sympathetic to Avner de Shalit’s position that a political philosophy should incorporate public values, but I see their role differently. Philosophers of science standardly distinguish between values being introduced in the context of discovery (inputs into the investigation or arguments) and in the context of justification (acceptance or rejection of substantive claims in light of the arguments or investigation). I argue that de Shalit is wrong to put the public values in the context of discovery; with respect (...) to normative theories (such as political theories), the values should be introduced in the context of justification. [Open access]. (shrink)
In addition to authoring the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of Citizen (1791), for which she is generally known today, Olympe de Gouges devoted several writings to denouncing slavery. In this article, I present the contents of these works by placing them in the context of both the Parisian debate and the situation in the colonies. Furthermore, I highlight the theoretical contribution of these writings with respect to the specific situation of slavery and, more generally, with respect to (...) the question of the universality of human rights. For this purpose, I analyse de Gouges’ reflection on women’s rights and compare her position with that of classical social contract theorists. I conclude by highlighting how de Gouges’ position still provides an effective critique of the pitfalls of a self-proclaimed objective and universal Reason. (shrink)
Kitcher has proposed an ideal-theory account—well-ordered science (WOS)— of the collective good that science’s research agenda should promote. Against criticism regarding WOS’s action-guidance, Kitcher has advised critics not to confuse substantive ideals and the ways to arrive at them, and he has defended WOS as a necessary and useful ideal for science policy. I provide a distinction between two types of ideal-theories that helps clarifying WOS’s elusive nature. I use this distinction to argue that the action-guidance problem that WOS faces (...) remains even under the aims/means distinction, because the WOS’s failure is more basic than critics have suggested. (shrink)
L’anno appena trascorso è stato dimenticabile (per ovvie ragioni) e i filosofi politici hanno una ragione in più per dimenticarlo data la prematura scomparsa di Gerald Gaus. Tuttavia, essi potrebbero forse trovare una qualche consolazione nel fatto che il 2020 ha visto la pubblicazione di due notevoli opere dedicate alla loro disciplina. Non mi riferisco a due notevoli opere di filosofia politica – quelle spesso non mancano – ma a due opere sulla filosofia politica: Utopohobia: On the Limits (if any) (...) of Political Philosophy, di David Estlund e What is Political Philosophy?, di Charles Larmore. Ci sarebbe molto da dire su entrambi questi volumi. Quello di Estlund, soprattutto, apre un grande ventaglio di questioni interessanti ed è ricco di spunti di grande originalità, solo parzialmente abbozzati nei saggi che il volume riprende e sviluppa. Tuttavia, lo spazio a disposizione è limitato e impone una scelta. Ho optato per questa: dopo aver offerto una sintesi criminalmente breve del nucleo argomentativo dei due volumi (sezione 2), li metterò in dialogo. Cercherò, in altre parole, di usare alcune risorse offerte dall’uno per interrogare e problematizzare alcuni aspetti centrali dell’altro. Per quanto riguarda Larmore, l’aspetto che discuterò è il primato che egli assegna al disaccordo e al problema della legittimità in filosofia politica: un punto che interrogherò a partire da alcune critiche. (shrink)
Lipsey and Lancaster's "general theory of second best" is widely thought to have significant implications for applied theorizing about the institutions and policies that most effectively implement abstract normative principles. It is also widely thought to have little significance for theorizing about which abstract normative principles we ought to implement. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, I show how the second-best theorem can be extended to myriad domains beyond applied normative theorizing, and in particular to more abstract theorizing about the normative (...) principles we should aim to implement. I start by separating the mathematical model used to prove the second-best theorem from its familiar economic interpretation. I then develop an alternative normative-theoretic interpretation of the model, which yields a novel second best theorem for idealistic normative theory. My method for developing this interpretation provides a template for developing additional interpretations that can extend the reach of the second-best theorem beyond normative theoretical domains. I also show how, within any domain, the implications of the second-best theorem are more specific than is typically thought. I conclude with some brief remarks on the value of mathematical models for conceptual exploration. (shrink)
This chapter describes how philosophical theorizing about justice can be connected with empirical research in the social sciences. We begin by drawing on some received distinctions between ideal and non-ideal approaches to theorizing justice along several different dimensions, showing how non-ideal approaches are needed to address normative aspects of real-world problems and to provide practical guidance. We argue that there are advantages to a transitional approach to justice focusing on manifest injustices, including the fact that it enables us to set (...) aside some reasonable disagreements about justice. The ‘bottom-up’ approach we advocate, for which we borrow Wolff’s term ‘real-world political philosophy’, is an empirically-informed normative analysis that attends to specific, identifiable injustices, and thus is partial, though not isolationist. We illustrate our approach by considering how different models of the nature of disability suggest different kinds of remedy for injustices faced by persons living with disabilities. We reflect on the nature and significance of vulnerabilities, and we assess the role of public opinion in normative theorizing, suggesting a particular significance for the opinions and experiences of marginalized groups. We finally reflect on the relevance of European legal and institutional frameworks for theorizing justice in Europe. (shrink)
Proponents of political liberalism standardly assume that the citizens of an ideal liberal society would be overwhelmingly reasonable. I argue that this assumption violates political liberalism's own constraints of realism—constraints that are necessary to frame the central problem that political liberalism aims to solve, that is, the problem of reasonable pluralism. To be consistent with these constraints, political liberalism must recognize that, as with reasonable pluralism, widespread support for unreasonable moral and political views is an inevitable feature of any liberal (...) society. I call this the fact of unreasonable pluralism. This fact threatens Rawlsian political liberalism's account of stability because an overlapping consensus cannot stably order a society pervaded by unreasonable views. My argument also raises questions about the coherence of Rawls's conception of ideal theory. (shrink)
Based on three recently published books on climate justice, this article reviews the field of climate ethics in light of developments of international climate politics. The central problem addressed is how idealised normative theories can be relevant to the political process of negotiating a just distribution of the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change. I distinguish three possible responses, that is, three kinds of non-ideal theories of climate justice: focused on (1) the injustice of some agents not doing their (...) part; (2) the policy process and aiming to be realistic; and (3) grievances related to the transition to a clean-energy economy. The methodological discussion underpinning each response is innovative and should be of interest more generally, even though it is still underdeveloped. The practical upshot, however, is unclear: even non-ideal climate justice may be too disconnected from the fast-moving and messy climate circus. (shrink)
Students often have difficulty connecting theoretical and text-based scholarship to the real world. When teaching in Asia, this disconnection is exacerbated by the European/American focus of many canonical texts, whereas students' own experiences are primarily Asian. However, in my discipline of political philosophy, this problem receives little recognition nor is it comprehensively addressed. In this paper, I propose that the problem must be taken seriously, and I share my own experiences with a novel pedagogical strategy which might offer a possible (...) path forward. Recent scholarship has championed an active learning approach, where students engage in their own research, and deliver outward-facing products that have a meaning and purpose beyond the confines of the student-professor relationship. In this spirit, I have put into practice a strategy of course design, where active learning is used to overcome students' disconnection with the course content. In particular, as a major component of course assessment, students are required to write an 'opinion piece', which is then showcased on a public website. The opinion piece must address a real-world issue which the student himself or herself selects and deems important; furthermore, it must build on the theoretical tools of the course and be written in a style which makes it accessible to a wider audience. I discuss the implementation of this strategy in two political philosophy courses, including strategies to avoid 'dumbing down' and ‘diluting’ the process of critical thinking. While no formal analysis of impact of the strategy on learning outcomes has been conducted, an anonymous pedagogical survey has yielded an overwhelmingly positive response for students' self-reported perceptions of the curricular innovations. (shrink)
Amartya Sen argues that Rawls’s theory is not only unnecessary in the pursuit of justice, but it may even be an impediment to justice in so far as it has discouraged more useful work. Against what he considers the dominance of transcendental theory, Sen calls for a more realistic and practical ‘comparative’ theory of justice. Sen’s negative point has been widely discussed, but here I develop a reconstruction of Sen’s positive theory (a combination of Adam Smith’s Impartial Spectator, Social Choice (...) Theory, and the Capabilities Approach) in order to evaluate it on its own terms. I find that the theory is technocratic, despite Sen’s insistence to the contrary. (shrink)
ABSTRACTBrian Epstein’s The Ant Trap is a praiseworthy addition to literature on social ontology and the philosophy of social sciences. Its central aim is to challenge received views about the social world – views with which social scientists and philosophers have aimed to answer questions about the nature of social science and about those things that social sciences aim to model and explain, like social facts, objects and phenomena. The received views that Epstein critiques deal with these issues in an (...) overly people-centered manner. After all, even though social facts and phenomena clearly involve individual people arranged in certain ways, we must still spell out how people are involved in social facts and phenomena. There are many metaphysical questions about social properties, relations, dependence, constitution, causation, and facts that cannot be answered just be looking at individual people alone. In order to answer questions about how one social entity depends for its existence on another, we need different metaphysical tools. Epstein thus holds that social ontological explanations would greatly benefit from making use of the theoretical toolkit that contemporary analytical metaphysics has to offer. He focuses specifically on two metaphysical instruments: grounding and anchoring. This paper examines Epstein’s understanding and use of these tools. I contend that Epstein is exactly right to say that contemporary metaphysics contains many theoretical instruments that can be fruitfully applied to social ontological analyses. However, I am unconvinced that Epstein’s tools achieve what they set out to do. In particular, I will address two issues: How is grounding for Epstein meant to work? Is anchoring distinct from grounding, and a relation that we need in social ontology? (shrink)
John Rawls claims that public reasoning is the reasoning of ‘equal citizens who as a corporate body impose rules on one another backed by sanctions of state power’. Drawing on an amended version of Michael Bratman’s theory of shared intentions, I flesh out this claim by developing the ‘civic people’ account of public reason. Citizens realize ‘full’ political autonomy as members of a civic people. Full political autonomy, though, cannot be realised by citizens in societies governed by a ‘constrained proceduralist’ (...) account of democratic self-government, or the ‘convergence’ account of public justification formulated recently by Gerald Gaus and Kevin Vallier. (shrink)
The work of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze frequently gave rise to a practice of philosophy as a form of critical problematization. Critical problematization both resonates between their thought and is also generative for contemporary philosophy in their wake. To examine critical problematization in each, a shared theme of inquiry provides a useful focal point. Foucault and Deleuze each deployed critical problematization in the context of studies of sexuality, a site of excited contestation that remains as crucial for us today (...) as it was for them four decades ago. Foucault’s well-known History of Sexuality, Volume 1 and Deleuze’s little-discussed text Coldness and Cruelty thus provide us with exemplary instances of the critical problematization of sexuality. An examination of these two texts, and their broader resonance, illuminates the potential of Foucauldian genealogy and Deleuzian symptomatology as methods for critical problematization today. It is argued that they provide compelling alternatives to modern critical moods that would want to interpret sexuality through a series of oppositions. (shrink)