L’Imagination au Pouvoir: Comparing John Rawls’s Method of Ideal Theory with Iris Marion Young’s Method of Critical Theory

  • Alison M. Jaggar


This chapter compares the philosophical methods used respectively by John Rawls and Iris Marion Young. Rawls’s theory is ideal in several interrelated methodological respects: he emphasizes principle over practice; he relies on a fictional reasoning process; and his theory is designed for an imagined world that lacks many problematic aspects of the real world. Young’s method, which she characterizes as critical theory, is non-ideal in all the respects that Rawls’s method is ideal. Young emphasizes practice; she respects the reasoning of actual people; and she directly addresses existing injustices. If Young has been able to develop philosophical ideals of justice that are more comprehensive, relevant, and substantively acceptable than Rawls’s, I suggest that one reason may be the non-ideal aspects of her methodology. In the end, however, Young’s philosophical contributions cannot be attributed only to her method; they are also the product of her unique political passion and creative imagination.


Non-ideal theory Philosophical method Critical theory Rawls Iris Marion Young 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, UCB 232University of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA

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