Journal of Political Philosophy 27 (3):294-317 (2019)

Dana Howard
Ohio State University
John Rawls, among others, has argued that one of aims political philosophy is that it provides reasonable hope in the possibility of justice in the future. But what makes hope reasonable? What sorts of theories of justice are best suited to foster reasonable hope in us? To answer these questions, this paper investigates Rawls’s conception of reasonable hope and the kinds of unreasonableness Rawls sought to guard against with his account of a realistic utopia. Rawls's idea of reasonable hope goes beyond the weaker kind of “reconciliation” put forward by Rousseau’s account of a conjectural history that sketches a picture of how we could have developed into the kind of people and the kind of society where justice is possible. It is one thing to believe, with Rousseau, that our deep natures are not incompatible with the possibility of a just society. It is something further to harbor any hope for this in the future. I argue that this temporal aspect, which is built into what Kant and Rawls mean by reasonable hope, is useful approach to the practice of political philosophy. An approach that takes the need for reasonable hope seriously is one that moves political theorizing from a more passive framework of theoretical imagination toward a more active one that entails political anticipation.
Keywords John Rawls  Hope  ideal and non-ideal theory  Kant  Political Philosophy
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DOI 10.1111/jopp.12175
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