Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier

Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):447-477 (2015)
Abstract
Recent methodological debates regarding the place of feasibility considerations in normative political theory are hindered for want of a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier. To address this shortfall, I present an analysis of feasibility that generalizes the economic concept of a production possibility frontier and then develop a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier using the familiar possible worlds technology. I then show that this model has significant methodological implications for political philosophy. On the Target View, a political ideal presents a long-term goal for morally progressive reform efforts and, thus, serves as an important reference point for our specification of normative political principles. I use the model to show that we can- not reasonably expect that adopting political ideals as long-term reform objectives will guide us toward the realization of morally optimal feasible states of affairs. I conclude by proposing that political philosophers turn their attention to the analysis of actual social failures rather than political ideals.
Keywords feasibility  ideal theory  political ideals
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267115000164
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References found in this work BETA
Ideal and Nonideal Theory.A. John Simmons - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (1):5-36.
Ideal Vs. Non-Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.
Utopophobia.David Estlund - 2014 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (2):113-134.
Human Nature and the Limits (If Any) of Political Philosophy.David Estlund - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (3):207-237.
Understanding Political Feasibility.Holly Lawford-Smith - 2013 - Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (3):243-259.

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Citations of this work BETA
The Feasibility Issue.Nicholas Southwood - forthcoming - Philosophy Compass:e12509.
"Actual" Does Not Imply "Feasible".Nicholas Southwood & David Wiens - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (11):3037-3060.

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