Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Kok-Chor Tan


The purpose of this dissertation is to articulate the proper aims and limits of political philosophy by expanding upon John Rawls’s idea of a realistic utopia and applying it to various debates in contemporary political philosophy. First, I defend the importance of ideal theory in constructing a theory of justice and respond to various critics, such as Amartya Sen and others, who argue that ideal theory is neither necessary nor sufficient for our work to advance justice in society. Second, I argue that empirical facts must be included in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice, contrary to theorists such as G.A. Cohen who argues that political theorizing should proceed independently of such facts. Finally, I conclude with some reflecting thoughts on the importance of articulating a conception of justice that avoids hopelessly utopian ideals. In doing so, I defend the vision of a realistically utopian society as one that both answers our most fundamental interests and also provides us with the best chance of realizing justice in the world.

Included in

Philosophy Commons