Race, ideology, and ideal theory

Metaphilosophy 40 (2):237-259 (2009)


Abstract: Philosophers who have addressed the problems of enduring racial injustice have been suspicious of the role played by ideal theory in ethics and political philosophy generally, and in contemporary liberal political philosophy in particular. The theoretical marginalization of race in the work of Rawls has led some to charge that ideal theory is at the very least unhelpful in understanding one of the most significant forms of contemporary injustice, and is at worst ideological in the pejorative sense. To explore these concerns, I formulate five related criticisms of ideal theory and examine each as it would be applied to Rawls's political philosophy. My thesis is that the strongest criticisms—namely, that ideal theory is essentially ideological and cannot provide adequate grounds for justifying race-conscious, equality-securing measures—ultimately miss the mark. But other criticisms of ideal theory are more plausible, and most plausibly directed to an area of Rawls's thought often ignored in discussions of liberalism and race, namely, his account of citizenship and public reasoning.

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James Boettcher
Saint Joseph's University of Pennsylvania

References found in this work

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

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