Social Theory and Practice


published on January 3, 2020

Naima Chahboun

Ideal Theory and Action-Guidance
Why We Still Disagree

This article clarifies the disagreement concerning ideal theory’s action-guiding capacity through the unpacking of two underlying disagreements. The first concerns the threshold for action-guidance on the scales of empirical and normative determinacy; I argue that the dispute between critics and proponents of ideal theory is not about whether ideal principles offer some specific information, but about which information should count as action-guiding. The second concerns the task of normative principles; I argue that the different weight critics and proponents attribute to the risks associated with ideal theory may reflect diverging views on whether principles primarily generate or explain normative judgments.