Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

The Relevance of Ideal Justice

2011 (33) Issue 2
Guest-Editors: Lukas Meyer / Pranay Sanklecha


Whether and how normative theorising can be relevant for guiding people’s actions is one of the classical questions of moral and political philosophy. Platon’s dialogues Politeia, Politikos and Nomoi provide fascinating discussions on the topic. Recently normative theorists have investigated some aspects of these questions under the title of ideal and non-ideal theorising—relying on a distinction that Rawls introduced in A Theory of Justice (1971) and made use of in his The Law of Peo...

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Table of Contents

Title: Ideal Justice and Rational Dissent. A Critique of Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice
Author: Wilfried Hinsch
Page: 371-386

Abstract: In The Idea of Justice Amartya Sen criticises ’transcendental institutionalism’ for entertaining notions of ’ideal justice’ that are neither necessary nor sufficient for the advancement of justice in the real world. Sen argues in favor of a ’realization-focused’ and ’comparative’ understanding of justice that he associates with the names of Adam Smith, Marx, and J. S. Mill. Conceptions of ideal justice, Sen believes, are useless since in practice we do not need them to advance justice. And they are ’infeasible’ because all conceptions of ideal justice can be reasonably rejected for one reason or other. I shall address both complaints in turn and maintain that Sen’s rigid contraposition of ideal and comparative justice is overstated. It will also be discussed how the institutional focus of ’transcendental institutionalism’ links up with the need for an ideal conception of justice. Finally, some implications of rational dissent about justice and two common strategies to deal with it will be discussed.

Title: Comment on Wilfried Hinsch: Ideal Justice and Rational Dissent: A Critique of Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice
Author: Mathias Thaler
Page: 387-393

Title: What Good Is It? Unrealistic Political Theory and the Value of Intellectual Work
Author: David Estlund
Page: 395-416

Abstract: Suppose justice depends on some very unlikely good behavior. In that case the true (or correct, or best) theory of justice might have no practical value. But then, what good would it be? I consider analogies with science and mathematics in order to test various ways of tying their the value of intellectual work to practice, though I argue that these fail. If their value, or that of some political theory, is not practical then what is good about them? As for political theory, I consider the question of what would even count as an answer to this question, and I conclude with the tentative proposal that it is valuable to come to understand something that is, itself, important.

Title: Comment on David Estlund: What Good Is it? Unrealistic Political Theory and the Value of Intellectual Work
Author: Nora Kreft
Page: 417-421

Title: Justice, Peace and Compromise
Author: Véronique Zanetti
Page: 423-439

Abstract: Compromises are arrived at when, in spite of the efforts of those participating to mediate and defend their position in a rationally acceptable manner, each remains with his judgment while, at the same time, a decision must be made without further delay. What this means is that the parties agree to an option about which they are not, in their heart of hearts, entirely convinced. This article examines the notion of moral compromise, concentrating thereby on the case of political praxis. It asks whether, in view of the complexity and multiplicity of morally relevant decisions encountered in a pluralist society, it is at all realistic to expect much else from political institutions than what Rawls dismissively refers to as a modus vivendi and whether a conception of justice that is true or reasonable only given the reasonable pluralism of comprehensive doctrines is still a conception of justice, and not simply a compromise between the contending doctrines.

Title: Comment on Véronique Zanetti: On Moral Compromise
Author: Tim Waligore
Page: 441-448

Title: Individual Expectations and Climate Justice
Author: Lukas Meyer / Pranay Sanklecha
Page: 449-471

Abstract: Many people living in highly industrialised countries and elsewhere emit greenhouse gases at a certain high level as a by-product of their activities, and they expect to be able to continue to emit at that level. This level is far above the just per capita level. We investigate whether that expectation is legitimate and permissible. We argue that the expectation is epistemically legitimate. Given certain assumptions, we can also think of it as politically legitimate. Also, the expectation is shown to be morally permissible but with major qualifications. The interpretation of the significance of the expectation is compatible with the understanding that historical emissions should count in terms of fairly distributing the benefits of emission-generating activities over people’s lifetimes but constrains the way in which we may collectively respond to climate change.

Title: Comment on Lukas Meyer and Pranay Sanklecha: Individual Expectations and Climate Justice
Author: Julian Culp
Page: 473-476

Title: Stepping in for the Polluters? Climate Justice under Partial Compliance
Author: Sabine Hohl / Dominic Roser
Page: 477-500

Abstract: Not all countries do their fair share in the effort of preventing dangerous climate change. This presents those who are willing to do their part with the question whether they should ’take up the slack’ and try to compensate for the non-compliers’ failure to reduce emissions. There is a pro tanto reason for doing so given the human rights violations associated with dangerous climate change. The article focuses on fending off two objections against a duty to take up the slack: that it is unfair and ineffective. We grant that it is unfair if some have to step in for others but argue that this does not amount to a decisive objection under conditions of partial compliance. With regard to the charge of emission reductions being ineffective, we argue that the empirical case for this claim is missing and that even if it were not, there still remains the option of taking up the slack in other forms.

Title: Comment on Sabine Hohl and Dominic Roser: Stepping in for the Polluters? Climate Justice under Partial Compliance
Author: Thomas Pölzler
Page: 501-508

Title: Comment on Anton Leist: Comment on Anton Leist. Potentials of Cooperation (Analyse & Kritik 01/2011)
Author: Gebhard Kirchgässner
Page: 509-516

Abstract: I first discuss two aspects of a social order and cooperation which might be of high relevance: the problem of a spontaneous emerging of a social order, and the relation between exchange and cooperation. In doing so, I also discuss the role of production in separating areas of cooperation from those of competition. Second, I look more closely at the motivations for cooperative behaviour. It is argued that of the four kinds of motivation mentioned by Leist only two, self-interest and altruism, are really necessary to explain cooperation.