What Normative Facts Should Political Theory Be About? Philosophy of Science meets Political Liberalism

In David Sobel, Steven Wall & Peter Vallentyne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. New York, NY, USA: pp. 185-220 (2020)
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Abstract
Just as different sciences deal with different facts—say, physics versus biology—so we may ask a similar question about normative theories. Is normative political theory concerned with the same normative facts as moral theory or different ones? By developing an analogy with the sciences, we argue that the normative facts of political theory belong to a higher— more coarse-grained—level than those of moral theory. The latter are multiply realizable by the former: competing facts at the moral level can underpin the same facts at the political one. Consequently, some questions that moral theories answer are indeterminate at the political level. This proposal offers a novel interpretation of John Rawls’s idea that, in public reasoning, we should abstract away from comprehensive moral doctrines. We contrast our distinction between facts at different levels with the distinction between admissible and inadmissible evidence and discuss some implications for the practice of political theory.
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Archival date: 2020-05-25
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