Politics between Utopia and a Troubled World

Some interest in political philosophy is theoretical and deep: It engages general, perhaps to an extent abstract questions, and is for the most part indifferent to factual circumstances and turns of events. Another kind of interest in political philosophy is more involved: It is an attempt to reflect (normatively or otherwise) on momentous and consequential developments, and is as such heavily sensitive to political contingencies.

Some political philosophers are interested in both these broad projects, and some try to bridge the apparent gap between the two. In this spirit, it has become common to ask whether current events call for rethinking central themes of traditional political philosophy. Is the rise of “post-truth” a challenge to Millian support for free speech? Have we learned anything about the prospects of public deliberation? How optimistic should we be about institutional design keeping dangerous populist currents at bay? Has liberal democracy failed, and if so, what can be learned from it, and what can be done about it?

Also, a lot of attention has been given to methodological questions, questions that ask, among other things, about the relation between political philosophy and the real world: Whether we should be doing ideal or non-ideal theory, whether one of those has some kind of priority over the other, to what extent – if at all – political philosophy should be utopian (or, in the opposite direction perhaps, feasible), and so on.

In our discussions throughout the year we will be addressing some of these topics – trying to engage the real world while keeping the most fundamental issues and question in view (and also wondering about this very attempt).


The visiting professor for the project’s PhD workshop will be David Estlund. 
The project coordinator will be David Enoch.