Taking People As They Could Be: A defence of ideal political theory
Title: Taking People As They Could Be: A defence of ideal political theory
Author: EFTHYMIOU, Dimitris
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
The object of this thesis is to defend ideal political theory from a series of objections that question its theoretical and practical soundness. My preliminary thesis is that ideal political theory is theoretically as well as practically sufficient in terms of providing us with valid normative prescriptions. The first three chapters explore the nature of ideal political theory and provide a qualified defence of its theoretical force whereas the last three chapters are somewhat more practical and focus on whether and how ideal theory can inform political action. In chapter 1 I provide a critical overview of the most recent debates on the nature of ideal theory and show how these are related to meta-ethics. The aim of chapter 2 is to provide a preliminary defence of the necessity and sufficiency of ideal theory for normatively ranking alternative states of affairs as well as for helping us to decide what to practically do. The aim of chapter 3 is to defend the claim that mere incongruence between a theory and the nonideal circumstances of its application does not constitute an argument against its theoretical and practical soundness. In chapter 4 I argue that a fixation on political feasibility, from the part of contextualist political theorists, comes at the price of theoretical incoherence as well as suboptimal and arbitrary suggestions concerning political reforms. In chapter 5 I engage with the real-world problem of climate change and show how ideal political theory can practically serve as a guide for political action in nonideal circumstances. Finally, in chapter 6, I show in what ways the complex reality of partisan party politics and political pluralism is compatible with ideal political theory.
Defence date: 3 February 2012; Examining Board: Professor Peter Wagner, University of Barcelona and formerly EUI (Supervisor) ; Professor Martin Van Gelderen, EUI ; Professor Andrew Mason, University of Southampton ; Professor Glen Newey, Helsinki Collegium
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