Volume 43, No. 3 | Method in political theory

Nils Holtug | Method in Political Theory

The methodology of contemporary analytic political philosophy includes the following four elements: conceptual analysis, consistency/universalizability, rationales, and moral intuitions. These four elements are characterized and exemplified and the relations between them are scrutinized. It is argued that the four elements constitute legitimate methodological requirements in light of a wide range of theories about the epistemic and ontological status of political norms.

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen | Experimental Political Theory?

Contemporary, mainstream political theory assumes the view of method and justification embodied in Rawls’ idea of reflective equilibrium. An important feature thereof is that moral intuitions determine, in part, which normative principles are justified. This assumption has been challenged by so-called experimental philosophy. This research program explores intuitions using the techniques of empirical sciences, i.e. experiments and statistical analysis. In its most radical versions, it argues that intuitions have no evidential weight and, accordingly, that the idea of reflective equilibrium must be discarded. I argue that even if experimental philosophy justifies a local skepticism about certain intuitions – and for that reason constitutes a research program political theory can and should benefit from – it demonstrates neither that intuitions have no evidential role, nor that the idea of reflective equilibrium is flawed.

Sune Lægaard | Facts and Normative Political Theory

Normative political theory seeks to formulate and justify political principles. Principles are general claims about what reasons there are for setting society up in specific ways or what conditions the societal set-up should satisfy, e.g. to ensure justice or legitimacy. The question is what the relationship is between such normative claims and descriptive claims about facts. This is simultaneously the question about what the relationship is between normative political theory and empirical political science. 1) How and why does political theory involve general normative principles? 2) What degree of “realism” can and should one expect of political theory and what does it mean to say that a political theory is realistic? 3) In what way is realizability a relevant requirement on political theories? 4) Does the justification of political principles depend on facts or does any reference to facts in the justification of principles presuppose the existence of fact independent principles?

Søren Flinch Midtgaard | The Circumstances of Justice

The so-called ”circumstances of justice” is a classic theme in the theory of justice. The question is of substantial import in that an answer to it determines which states of affairs are to be regulated by principles of justice. It is also methodologically important in that it concerns a subset of social facts that may be important in our acceptance of certain principles of justice. It affects, for example, the degree to which a theory of justice should reflect or take its point of departure in existing practices. The central conceptions of the circumstances of justice are: (a) David Hume’s conception; (b) the basic structure (John Rawls); (c) the global basic structure (Thomas W. Pogge); (d) (feasible) social interaction (Charles R. Beitz I and II). Egalitarian liberal intuitions motivate an extension of the scope of justice, but there are strong countervailing reasons for restricting the application of the principles of justice to the domestic level.

Rasmus Sommer | Concepts and Ideals in Political Theory

I present two views concerning how theories of a range of important political concepts should be constructed and assessed. According to the first view, i.e. the integration approach, we should construct and assess proposed conceptions of political concepts in light of how they relate to and support other important political concepts. Only then will we be able to justify that these concepts in fact represent ideals that are worth pursuing. According to the second view discussed, i.e. the isolation approach, we should rather try to isolate different political concepts from each other so that we can clarify their contents in their purest form. I argue that the contest between the two approaches cannot be decided on purely linguistic or conceptual grounds; rather, we have to decide by examining which approach can be supported by the best substantive political-moral reasons, and I contend that these seem to favor the integration approach.

Holger Højlund | Integration through Partnering

Prevention and health promotion have come to occupy a rather central role in modern welfare societies. With empirical evidence from Danish municipalities the article discusses recent organizational trends such as multidisciplinarity and cross-sectoral involvement. Partnering is found to be a guiding principle in the prevention projects discussed. The article argues for project organization as a double-structure going together with traditional sector governance.

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