What Good Is It? Unrealistic Political Theory and the Value of Intellectual Work

Analyse & Kritik 33 (2):395-416 (2011)
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Suppose justice depends on some very unlikely good behavior. In that case the true (or correct, or best) theory of justice might have no practical value. But then, what good would it be? I consider analogies with science and mathematics in order to test various ways of tying their the value of intellectual work to practice, though I argue that these fail. If their value, or that of some political theory, is not practical then what is good about them? As for political theory, I consider the question of what would even count as an answer to this question, and I conclude with the tentative proposal that it is valuable to come to understand something that is, itself, important.

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David Estlund
Brown University


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