[SydPhil] UOW seminar - Tues 30 April

David Neil dneil at uow.edu.au
Thu Apr 25 05:18:07 AEST 2013

UOW Philosophy Program Seminar

"Vulnerability, Justice, and Ideal Theory"

Dr. Margaret Meek Lange  (Macquarie University)

Tuesday 30 April, 4:30 pm

University of Wollongong, Building 19, Room 1064

All welcome  (enquiries: David Neil  dneil at uow.edu.au<mailto:dneil at uow.edu.au>)


John Rawls' A Theory of Justice makes a distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory that has had a tremendous influence on subsequent normative political philosophy.  A proliferation of recent articles has critically examined the distinction and the tradition of theorizing it inaugurated.  This paper first reviews this literature and the meaning and answer its articles give to the question "Is ideal theory worthwhile?" The second part of the paper introduces the efforts of feminist theorists to use the concept of vulnerability to scrutinize and reformulate existing theories of justice.  I argue that work on vulnerability can shed light on the worth of ideal theory.  In particular, if doing justice requires us to protect and empower the vulnerable, then this goal has consequences for the structure of a theory of justice.   I argue that centering justice on vulnerability rules out certain aspects of "ideal theory," such as an overly abstract model of the agents and the subject of justice.  However, I will also argue that a vulnerability-centered theory of justice may derive guidance for action in the present from the principles of justice for a perfectly just society, and in that sense it will endorse "ideal theory."
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