Defence of ideal theory approaches to just choice
Drever, Andrew William
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One of the most common goals of political theory is to inform just choice; with ‘just choice’ referring to the class of practical, political decisions that result in society becoming more just. However, important questions can be asked about the best way political theory can perform this informing function. In this thesis I look to answer some of these questions through my defence of an ideal theory approach to just choice. This approach claims that ideals, that is, conceptions of the rules that would govern a fully just society, are necessary in order to arrive at just choices. I look to show the conditions ideal theory and ideals have to satisfy in order to perform this just choice informing role. In doing this this thesis underlabours for ideal theory by providing theoretical support for future substantive work in this area. This thesis proceeds as follows. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the structure of the thesis, the main areas of debate, and the implications of my research. Chapter 2 addresses the fundamental question discussed above, seeking to demonstrate that it is only when our choices are informed by ideals that we are consistently able to make just choices. Chapter 3 considers the distinction between short-term choice, which aims to make society immediately more similar to an ideal, and long-term choice, which aims to ultimately realise an ideal in full. I look to show the conditions that ideals have to satisfy in order to inform each type of just choice. Particularly important here are the feasibility conditions that have to be met by ideals that are to inform long-term choice. Chapter 4 considers a conundrum confronting those aiming to make just choices. All other things being equal long-term choice offers greater rewards than short-term choice does; however short-term choice is lower risk, requiring less investment of political resources such as time, labour, and money, and promising more likely returns on these investments. In this chapter I look to show the conditions that have to hold for it to be defensible to favour a long-term approach over a short-term approach. Chapter 5 considers whether the methods required of ideal theory, particularly the feasible ideal theory required of long-term choice, may be inherently contradictory. This is due to possible tensions between fact-sensitive and fact-insensitive aspects of the theorising process. In this chapter I look to show that this is not the case and that the ideal theory process is not contradictory. Chapter 6 summarises my key arguments and reflects on some of the main themes of this thesis.