Theorizing Justice for a Realistic Utopia: The Methodological Implications

  • Stephanie Rinaldi

Student thesis: Phd


Theorizing Justice for a Realistic Utopia: The Methodological ImplicationsMany political theorists agree that practical recommendations are a valuable attribute of a theory of justice. For some theorists, who I refer to as Realistic Utopians, this means that they should aim to develop principles of justice to govern the constituents of a moderately idealised society. In this thesis I establish the methodological implications of the Realistic Utopian approach and identify their unifying theme.The Realistic Utopian approach to developing principles of justice has received widespread support in the literature. Considering an idealised society allows theorists to pursue aspirational recommendations of justice, whilst the moderate nature of the idealisations ensures that those recommendations are in some sense practical. Their aim represents the idea that it is important to develop principles that describe how just we can possibly be. The popularity of this aim has resulted in many theorists adopting a broadly similar approach. It permits theorists to use idealisations in their deliberations, but requires these idealisations to be limited by feasibility constraints. In this thesis I explain the core commitment shared by all RU theorists, distinguish the RU approach to justice from alternative approaches, and then defend three additional methodological requirements that RU theorists must adopt. Each of these three additional methodological requirements is entailed by the shared core commitment to develop principles to govern a moderately idealised society, and each imposes more stringent requirements on the methodology than proponents of the view typically acknowledge. The first says that context forms a part of the grounds for some substantive principles of justice; the second requires that principles be stable for the right reasons; and the third that they be legitimately implementable. I do not claim that this list is exhaustive-there may be further methodological requirements that particular RU theorists choose to adopt in addition to those set out here. My claim is that the three requirements I identify impose restrictions on suitable methodologies for developing principles of justice that must be respected by any theorist who wants these principles to apply to a moderately idealised utopia.The idea that the grounds of justice should be sensitive to the views of those to whom the principles may eventually apply unifies these requirements. Although Realistic Utopian principles of justice are not designed to apply immediately, the methodology requires they be designed with a particular context in mind. Meeting this requirement via sensitivity to the views of those within the context allows theorists to meet all three methodological requirements simultaneously.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Child (Supervisor) & Miriam Ronzoni (Supervisor)

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