Posts by author:

Chris Bertram

A hypothesis about “ideal theory” and justice

by Chris Bertram on March 12, 2015

One of the most familiar and irritating moves in political philosophy is when a person says “oh, but my point was in ideal theory” as a response to some objection that references the grim and complicated real world. Not that I object in principle to ideal theory. But I do want to write this blog post to share a hypothesis about the ideal/non-ideal distinction and about why it has become more of a problem over time. The hypothesis is this: that in 1971 the gap between the ideal and the actual was a lot smaller than it is now. The world resembled Rawls’s ideal of the well-ordered society a lot more than it does now. Or at least, the North American bit of the world did.

Given that closer resemblance, people could do ideal theory without it looking like they were engaging in arcane hypotheses about a distant possible world. Political philosophy of the ideal variety looked a lot more relevant to what ought to happen.
[click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: Florence, La Specola

by Chris Bertram on March 8, 2015

18th-century wax model for medical training. An essential place to visit in Florence.

Sunday photoblogging: Baltimore, Cork.

by Chris Bertram on March 1, 2015

Sunday photoblogging: Liverpool bus

by Chris Bertram on February 22, 2015

Sunday photoblogging: unicorn

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2015

Most of the photos I post on Sundays are from a largish archive of old material, but this one was taken this very afternoon in the now-redundant church of St John in Bristol, which is build into the medieval city wall.

Sunday photoblogging: Southville reflections

by Chris Bertram on February 8, 2015

I’ve just gone through a big house move and we’re still in the unboxing phase (and I’m desperately catching up at work). As a result, I’ve not wandered round with a camera so far this year at all. But I’m looking forward to exploring the new area soon. But here’s a picture from nearby, that I shot a while ago.

Fire away in comments. Looking at the pattern of home and away fixtures, my money is on France if they can beat Ireland away next week. But, as usual, four teams could win it.

Sunday photoblogging: Rue de Vaugirard

by Chris Bertram on February 1, 2015

Sunday photoblogging: bike

by Chris Bertram on January 25, 2015

Sunday photoblogging: Alex sitting at the piano

by Chris Bertram on January 18, 2015

We’re in the middle of packing up before a house move this week, and there’s a lot to do after accumulating junk for 15 years. Here’s a picture from 2009 in what will soon be the old house, of my son Alex sitting at the piano. Taken with my 1932 Rolleiflex “Old” Standard.

Sunday photoblogging: Birdcage Walk

by Chris Bertram on January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo

by Chris Bertram on January 7, 2015

We don’t have all the facts about the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but it seems very likely that it was carried out by extreme Islamists as revenge for the magazine’s satirizing of Islam. I’m sure there will be a lot of comment over the next few days about the symbolic and principled aspects, the need to stand up for freedom of speech, and so on. I don’t dissent from that, but I’m finding it hard to see past the immediate horror of ten, eleven or more human beings, journalists, gunned down like that in a West European capital city. Awful.

The attack comes just after the Islamophobic marches in Germany by Pegida and the many reports of desperate refugees fleeing Syria in unseaworthy hulks. No doubt the Islamophobic parties, the Front National, UKIP and the rest will try to take advantage and ordinary Muslims will feel more isolated and threatened. We need to remember that most of the victims of extremists of this type have been everyday people who happen to be Muslims, we owe those victims our solidarity and to resist the voices who will try to shut them out. We can do that by affirming that citizenship and inclusion are for everyone, regardless of religion, and that we will help those fleeing from persecution by IS and the like.

Sunday photoblogging: 19th arrondissement

by Chris Bertram on January 4, 2015

Best political philosophy/theory papers, a decade later

by Chris Bertram on January 3, 2015

Back in 2004 I wrote a piece here asking for people to nominate the most significant political philosophy/theory papers of the previous ten years. On twitter, @sreddi_515 asks me whether there was ever a second round. Well no, but why not?

Last time I nominated five suggestions to kick us off, so why not again? Some of these papers I profoundly disagree with, but I think they are all worth the effort.

  • Charles Mills (2005). “‘Ideal Theory’ as Ideology”. Hypatia, 20(3).
  • Andrea Sangiovanni (2007). “Global Justice, Reciprocity, and the State. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 35(1).
  • Arash Abizadeh (2008). “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion”. Political Theory, 36(1),
  • Zofia Stemplowska, (2008). “What’s ideal about ideal theory?” Social Theory and Practice, 34(3).
  • David Estlund, (2011). “Human nature and the limits (If any) of political philosophy”. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 39(3).

Over to you….

Sunday photoblogging: North View houses

by Chris Bertram on December 28, 2014