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Against Ideal Guidance

The prevailing wisdom among political philosophers claims that political ideals provide normative guidance for unjust and otherwise nonideal circumstances. This article has two objectives. The first is to develop a model of the logical relationship of moral evaluative considerations to feasibility considerations in the justification of normative political principles. The second is to use this model to demonstrate that political ideals are uninformative for the task of specifying the normative principles we should aim to satisfy amidst unjust or otherwise nonideal circumstances. The argument implies that social scientists have an essential contribution to make to the normative theoretical enterprise.