Practices and Principles: On the Methodological Turn in Political Theory

Philosophy Compass 10 (8):533-546 (2015)
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The question of what role social and political practices should play in the justification of normative principles has received renewed attention in post-millennium political philosophy. Several current debates express dissatisfaction with the methodology adopted in mainstream political theory, taking the form of a criticism of so-called ‘ideal theory’ from ‘non-ideal’ theory, of ‘practice-independent’ theory from ‘practice-dependent’ theory, and of ‘political moralism’ from ‘political realism’. While the problem of action-guidance lies at the heart of these concerns, the critics also share a number of methodological assumptions. Above all, their methodology is practice-dependent in the sense that an existing practice is assumed to put substantial limitations on the appropriate normative principles for regulating it. In other words, we cannot formulate and justify an appropriate principle without first understanding the practice this principle is supposed to govern. The aim of this paper is to map out and analyze the common denominators of these debates with regard to methodological commitments. We will investigate how this practice-dependent method may be understood and motivated. In particular, we point to challenges that must be met in order for the position to remain both distinct and attractive



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Author Profiles

Niklas Möller
Stockholm University
Eva Erman
Stockholm University

References found in this work

The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.

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