Understanding Justice: How Political Experiments and Traditions Inform Theory
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMany theorists of justice aim to guide action. They attempt to describe what a society with just institutions and interpersonal relationships would look like. In this work, I pursue two principal tasks. Part I examines the epistemic limits that theorists and members of political societies face when trying to identify and articulate the demands of justice. I argue that action-guiding theorists of justice are in epistemic positions similar to those of economic central planners and political representatives in large, complex democracies. I also advance a challenge to so-called ideal theory and develop a positive vision of the important epistemic contributions made by justice theorists. Part II shows how experimental and traditional social practices yield insights into justice and even partly determine its demands. I consider the value of stable, non-oppressive political traditions with room and institutional support for moderate political experimentation (e.g., local policy experiments under federalism). Such traditions will, among other things, reliably generate insights into the demands of justice. The conclusion of this work is that providing a satisfactory answer to the question of what a just society would look like requires understanding the extent to which practice itself can provide an answer.
Degree ProgramGraduate College