Realism in the ethics of immigration

Philosophy and Social Criticism 49 (8):950-974 (2023)
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The ethics of immigration is currently marked by a division between realists and idealists. The idealists generally focus on formulating morally ideal immigration policies. The realists, however, tend to dismiss these ideals as far-fetched and infeasible. In contrast to the idealists, the realists seek to resolve pressing practical issues relating to immigration, principally by advancing what they consider to be actionable policy recommendations. In this article, I take issue with this conception of realism. I begin by surveying the way in which it exemplifies what certain political theorists have recently called ‘problem-solving’ realism – a species of realism which they reject as incoherent. These theorists demonstrate that what counts as a ‘feasible’ solution is far harder to establish than most problem-solving realists would have us believe. Applying this general critique to the specific domain of immigration ethics turns out to radically undermine the notion of realism that prevails in this sphere of applied ethics. I conclude that we should therefore revise our conception of what constitutes a genuinely realist approach to the problem of immigration.

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James S. Pearson
University of Amsterdam

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Realism in Normative Political Theory.Enzo Rossi & Matt Sleat - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (10):689-701.
Philosophy and Real Politics.Raymond Geuss - 2008 - Princeton University Press.
On Nationality.David Miller - 1995 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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