Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eschewing Complacent Realism

Political philosopher David Estlund, on status-quo defenders' fear of Utopian thinking:
I haven’t settled whether perfect people would need laws, courts, police or other hallmarks of normal political conditions. I’ve mainly questioned why that question is supposed to matter. The point isn’t that political theory positively ought to assume moral perfection. It will pay at this point to remind ourselves of the polemical situation. A political theory gives an account of justice, authority, legitimacy or some other central normative political value, and is confronted by an objection on grounds of realism: we all know people won’t act in the ways this theory says that justice, or authority, or legitimacy depend upon. I have argued that it is an adequate reply to point out that the theory never said they would. It only said that there would be no justice or authority or legitimacy unless they did.
And so it pays to ask normative questions, that is, questions about how things ought to be. Read the rest of Estlund's article here.

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