John Rawls provides an excellent truth-seeking account of social justice that is argued for at great length through ideal theory in A Theory of Justice. While Rawls pursues the aim of his project well, his political philosophy does less than we might reasonably hope in regards to recommending how societies can take his theory and use it to pursue justice within a society. This is not his aim, but political philosophers have the ability and sometimes the opportunity to help society define and implement a conception of justice.

Iris Marion Young’s Justice and the Politics of Difference seeks to further the implementation of justice using critical theory, but describes a circumstantial definition of the just society. The capacity to promote justice should inspire writings that helps define and realize justice, but one of these aims is usually missing or underscored.

My first chapter explains Rawls’s concepts allowing me to condense later argumentation, and my second chapter explores Young’s criticisms of Rawls while relating how the use of ideal and critical theory impacts their debate. These chapters also describe how the two theory approaches mainly seek to define or implement justice while narrowing their discussion of justice to primarily one of the aims listed previously. Chapter three discusses how non-ideal theory fits into this picture, and then describes what using both critical and ideal theory could look like. Finally, there is a brief conclusion chapter that summarizes the combined theory approach that I envision.


Riley, Evan





Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Brian A. Lock