in: Philosophy and public affairs, Volume 38, Issue 1, p. 5-36
ISSN: 0048-3915 (print), 1088-4963 (electronic)
The author provides a "rational reconstruction" of philosopher John Rawls's position on the relationship between the content of ideal and nonideal theory. According to Rawls, political philosophers should first be concerned with the ideal theory of justice and not secondary nonideal theories, such as those of civil disobedience and of international duties. The author advances that nonideal theory is meant to cover societies that have never been able to achieve just institutions, whether for historical or cultural reasons; under these conditions, nonideal theory advocates for transitions to more ideal stages of societal development. The author believes that his discussion is more thorough and more helpful than any other previous discussion of Rawlsian ideal and nonideal theory, such as those contained in works by George Shaw and Liam Murphy. The article explains why the Rawlsian position should be favored over competing approaches to the ideal-nonideal distinction. Adapted from the source document.