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Justice, Feasibility, and Social Science as it is

  • Emily McTernanEmail author
Article

Abstract

Political philosophy offers a range of utopian proposals, from open borders to global egalitarianism. Some object that these proposals ought to be constrained by what is feasible, while others insist that what justice demands does not depend on what we can bring about. Currently, this debate is mired in disputes over the fundamental nature of justice and the ultimate purpose of political philosophy. I take a different approach, proposing that we should consider which facts could fill out a feasibility requirement. This search for the facts requires requires looking to the social sciences, but I argue that it turns out that the social sciences will not provide us with findings that rule out, nor even count against, the kinds of proposals that political philosophers actually make, whether ideal or non-ideal. At the least, to deny this requires adopting deeply controversial commitments within the philosophy of social science. Thus, I conclude that a feasibility requirement has little practical use for political philosophers. Disputes over that requirement ought to be replaced by other, more fruitful ways for political philosophers to address both the findings of social science and the debates over non-ideal theory or political realism.

Keywords

Justice Feasibility Social science Fact-sensitivity Methodology in political philosophy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Research for this article was was completed under the ARC project DP120101507 on Political Normativity and the Feasibility Requirement. With thanks to Nicholas Southwood, Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Christopher Nathan, Albert Weale, Jeff Howard, and two anonymous referees for this journal for their written comments, and to audiences at the PPE seminar, Institute of Philosophy; Senior seminar, Philosophy Department, University of Glasgow; 10th Legal and Political Theory conference, Manchester; the Open University Philosophy day; and the Cherry Pickers workshop at UCL, for all their useful questions.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, UCLLondonUK

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