Philosophy for Social Justice: The Debate Between Ideal v. Non-Ideal Theory

Presented with Chinatown Soup



How can we use ancient wisdom and philosophy to understand social justice?


Contemporary political philosophy is in the midst of a methodological debate, one that questions core tenants of the discipline. On the one side there are the ideal theorists who argue that justice and social progress can only occur once we have clear and defined principles and objectives in mind. Conversely, the non-ideal theorists criticize this method and argue that it is too detached from reality to help guide social progress or even worse that it may facilitate greater injustice.


This Olio will enter the debate by providing a brief historical overview in an attempt to explain why ideal theory has been the dominant view in political philosophy since its inception. Next, we will look at John Rawls (the most important political philosopher of the second half of 20th century) and explain his ideal theory. Afterwards, we will analyze contemporary criticisms of Rawls’ view, illustrating what the non-ideal theorists find problematic with the traditional approach.  Lastly, we can continue the debate amongst ourselves and see which view seems to provide the best hope for facilitating justice and social progress.

**Complimentary wine is included with your RSVP**




Location: Chinatown Soup

16B Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Chinatown Soup is a creative community advancing art, justice, historic preservation, and civic engagement in downtown New York.


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