Realism and Political Normativity

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25 (3):465-478 (2021)
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A prevailing understanding of realism, chiefly among its critics, casts realists as those who seek a ‘distinctively political normativity’, where this is interpreted as meaning nonmoral in kind. Moralists, on this account, are those who reject this and believe that political normativity remains moral. Critics have then focused much of their attention on demonstrating that the search for a nonmoral political normativity is doomed to fail which, if right, would then seem to fatally undermine the realist endeavour. This paper makes the case that casting the difference between realism and moralism in these terms is a mistake, one which overlooks the substantial body of realist work which is clear that it has no such aspirations to develop a nonmoral political normativity. The hope is that in drawing attention to this mistake a line can be drawn under these unhelpful debates, and we can move on to more fruitful constructive and critical discussions between realists and their critics.



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