The Best and the Rest: Idealistic Thinking in a Non-Ideal World


Models of idealistic societies pervade the history of political thought from ancient times to the present. How can these models contribute to our thinking about political life in our non-ideal world? Not, as many political theorists have hoped, by performing a normative function -- by giving us reasons to accept particular political principles for the purpose of regulating our thought and behavior. Even still, idealistic models can sharpen our thinking about politics by performing a conceptual function -- by helping us clarify and interpret the concepts we use to describe and evaluate political behavior and institutions. These insights point to a more incisive and judicious approach to political inquiry, in which explanatory and normative modes of thought are tightly intertwined. (The manuscript is under review. I have uploaded the table of contents, chapters 1 and 2, and the bibliography. Chapter summaries are available from my website.)

Author's Profile

David Wiens
University of California, San Diego


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