From Moral Principles to Political Judgments: The Case for Pragmatic Idealism

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Pierre-Étienne Vandamme
De Gruyter


Political judgments usually combine a normative principle or intuition with an appreciation of empirical facts regarding the achievability of different options and their potential consequences. The interesting question dividing partisans of political idealism and realism is whether these kinds of consideration should be integrated into the normative principles themselves or considered apart. At first sight, if a theorist is concerned with guiding political judgments, non-ideal or realist theorizing (directly integrating such considerations) can seem more attractive. In this article, however, I argue that ideal theorizing might be considered valuable even by theorists moved by a pragmatic concern (guiding political judgments) because it is less exposed to conservatism. I nonetheless contend that the aim to guide action in the world as it is should not be abandoned. Therefore, I outline a four-step method for proceeding from abstract moral principles to concrete political judgments and apply it to a test case.