From Political Philosophy to Messy Empirical Reality

In Trudie Knijn & Dorota Lepianka (eds.), Justice and Vulnerability in Europe. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 37-53 (2020)
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This chapter describes how philosophical theorizing about justice can be connected with empirical research in the social sciences. We begin by drawing on some received distinctions between ideal and non-ideal approaches to theorizing justice along several different dimensions, showing how non-ideal approaches are needed to address normative aspects of real-world problems and to provide practical guidance. We argue that there are advantages to a transitional approach to justice focusing on manifest injustices, including the fact that it enables us to set aside some reasonable disagreements about justice. The ‘bottom-up’ approach we advocate, for which we borrow Wolff’s term ‘real-world political philosophy’, is an empirically-informed normative analysis that attends to specific, identifiable injustices, and thus is partial, though not isolationist. We illustrate our approach by considering how different models of the nature of disability suggest different kinds of remedy for injustices faced by persons living with disabilities. We reflect on the nature and significance of vulnerabilities, and we assess the role of public opinion in normative theorizing, suggesting a particular significance for the opinions and experiences of marginalized groups. We finally reflect on the relevance of European legal and institutional frameworks for theorizing justice in Europe.



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Author Profiles

Miklós Zala
Central European University
Simon Rippon
Central European University
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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
The Idea of Justice.Amartya Kumar Sen - 2009 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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