Communicating the Importance of Justice Theory Effectively


A common issue for philosophy students is explaining how what they study has relevance in the real world. It is doubly hard to communicate the importance of political philosophy because many people view politics as unimportant in everyday life, in addition to thinking that philosophy is impractical. One way to get someone more engaged in politics to explain how their everyday interests, i.e., insurance costs, taxes, energy and water infrastructure, etc., are tied up in politics and the ideologies/philosophical worldviews underlying the valid political positions in America. However, this strategy takes a long time and will make you, the person explaining, come across as a know-it-all. Also, it’s too aggressive and puts the onus on the listener to care rather than inviting them to care or making them want to care. The way to invite people to care about political philosophy in general and my work specifically and to convey its real-world applicability that I advocate for is to briefly explain and critique the general methodology of Platonic/Western political philosophy.

The dominant methodology is fundamentally idealistic which means that the conclusions are reached by abstraction from an ideal starting position. They are derived following a logical path from a hypothetical starting point that is meant to be representative of good practices. This method is meant to arrive at objective and reasonable principles by which to normatively influence behaviors and institutions. These objective and ideal principles pull their authority from their disconnect from politics and supposed objective/idealistic positioning. By ignoring the real-world influences on thought, this methodology allows for theorists to presuppose political ideas without any self-reflection. Thus, their conclusions conform to an implicitly accepted political ideology rather than the strictures of objectivity that philosophers belive their work to do. This means that the political institutions in place now conform to the interests of the classes who were able to be politically active during the construction of Liberalism during the Englightenment, but offer themselves as beneficial to all. So, it is in everyone’s interest to take stock of the world around them and consider where they fall into the order of things.

In terms of the future, the audiences outside of political theory that I will need to interact with are most likely psychologists, sociologists, and public officials. Psychology, sociology, and philosophy are historically and practically linked in various areas of philosophical inquiry. For me, the most important link is in epistemology. To write justice theory precisely, it is essential to understand how people understand the world around them. Sociology aids in this endeavor by clarifying how people interact socially. Both of these fields emphasize a realistic philosophical methodology, which will be beneficial when attempting to apply political philosophy to politics. I’m sure that there will be cross-disciplinary research and work opportunities in the future than just these few examples, but these are the primary areas I see myself working with now.

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