Terry Pratchett has died

by Henry on March 12, 2015

Fuck. Although we knew it was coming, and I am glad if he went out (as I am guessing) on his own terms. Guardian obituary here. I’m pretty sure that his books will continue to live, just as PG Wodehouse’s books have continued to live, although they were very different comic writers. Both were liberal in a small-l sense of the word, but Pratchett’s liberalism was very much more worldly. I’ll always have a particular fondness for the enlightened despot, Lord Vetinari and for the model of hydraulic Keynesianism in Making Money. And for the Ramtop Mountains, an antiquated technology joke that has long outlived its original meaning. And the constellation of the Small Boring Group of Faint Stars, which I bored my nine year old with the day before yesterday. And where Rincewind has seen his life flash before his eyes so many times that he can nap during the boring bits. And the gods’ celestial habitation – Dunmanifestin. And Wyrd Sisters, which is perfectly paced as a novel, with particular attention paid to the standing stone that refuses to be counted and the castle (if my memory is correct) designed by an architect who had heard of Gormenghast but didn’t have the budget. And I could keep on going, and going, and going, which is the point.

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.
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