Utopophobia as a vocation: The professional ethics of ideal and nonideal political theory

Frazer, Michael L. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9797-3647 (2016) Utopophobia as a vocation: The professional ethics of ideal and nonideal political theory. Social Philosophy and Policy, 33 (1-2). pp. 175-192. ISSN 0265-0525

[thumbnail of Accepted manuscript]
PDF (Accepted manuscript) - Accepted Version
Download (401kB) | Preview


The debate between proponents of ideal and nonideal approaches to political philosophy has thus far been framed as a meta-level debate about normative theory. The argument of this essay will be that the ideal/nonideal debate can be helpfully reframed as a ground-level debate within normative theory. Specifically, it can be understood as a debate within the applied normative field of professional ethics, with the profession being examined that of political philosophy itself. If the community of academic political theorists and philosophers cannot help us navigate the problems we face in actual political life, they have not lived up to the moral demands of their vocation. A moderate form of what David Estlund decries as “utopophobia” is therefore an integral element of a proper professional ethic for political philosophers. The moderate utopophobe maintains that while devoting scarce time and resources to constructing utopias may sometimes be justifiable, it is never self-justifying. Utopianism is defensible only insofar as it can reasonably be expected to help inform or improve non-utopian political thinking.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: utopia,utopophobia,ideal theory,nonideal theory,david estlund,g. a. cohen,david miller
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
University of East Anglia > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Political, Social and International Studies
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2016 00:05
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 08:31
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/61730
DOI: 10.1017/S0265052516000327

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item