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Monday, October 08, 2007

Realism & Moralism in Political Theory

I'm very enthusiastic about a paper that Bill Galston has posted to Yale's Legal Theory Workshop page.  It details an ongoing and important debate in political theory that is fundamentally methodological between those who "do" political theory through a form of moral and quasi-utopian reasoning and those who root themselves in real politics and dismiss moralism as misguided.  In the final analysis, I think the camps are drawn too starkly in the paper -- and I have trouble endorsing the characterizations of some thinkers.  But to the extent that it will encourage political theorists to figure out where on the continuum they fall in the methodological debate, I think the paper will aid substantive theorizing in the long run.

Posted by Ethan Leib on October 8, 2007 at 12:55 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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It does seem odd that he puts Rawls forth as the paradigm case of utopian theory. I mean, isn't the whole point of public reason that we can't expect to come to agreement even on the right? I don't really understand why people keep accusing Rawls of subordinating the political to the moral. My favorite objection to (post-Theory of Justice) Rawls is that he doesn't give enough weight to the priority of the moral! (Realism? Humbug.)

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Oct 10, 2007 7:21:01 PM

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