Facts, Principles, and (Real) Politics

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (2):505-520 (2016)
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Abstract

Should our factual understanding of the world influence our normative theorising about it? G.A. Cohen has argued that our ultimate normative principles should not be constrained by facts. Many others have defended or are committed to various versions or subsets of that claim. In this paper I dispute those positions by arguing that, in order to resist the conclusion that ultimate normative principles rest on facts about possibility or conceivability, one has to embrace an unsatisfactory account of how principles generate normative political judgments. So political theorists have to choose between principles ostensibly unbiased by our current understanding of human motivation and political reality, or principles capable of reliably generating political judgments. I conclude with wider methodological observations in defence of the latter option, and so of a return to political philosophy’s traditional blend of normative and descriptive elements.

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Enzo Rossi
University of Amsterdam

Citations of this work

Realism in Normative Political Theory.Enzo Rossi & Matt Sleat - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (10):689-701.
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The radical realist critique of Rawls: a reconstruction and response.Paul Raekstad - 2024 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 27 (2):183-205.
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References found in this work

The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.

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