It is tempting to hold that any proposed principle of social justice is defective if it demands too much of people, given their proclivities. A stronger view, one that many philosophers find attractive, has it that there is something about the concept of justice
that makes it the kind of thing that must be kept “down to earth,” and within our reach. A range of conceptual and methodological issues quickly emerge once we begin wondering whether this kind of deference to the realistic and feasible is warranted. The series of contemporary disputes characterized as the “ideal/non-ideal theory debate” fit this mold.
In his new book, Utopophobia: On the Limits (If Any) of Political Philosophy
(Princeton University Press, 2020), David Estlund
explores the question of whether proposed principles of justice are defective strictly in virtue of being unrealistic.