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Theory and Practice: Nomos XXXVII

Ian Shapiro
Judith Wagner DeCew
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 501
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg3kb
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  • Book Info
    Theory and Practice
    Book Description:

    With 16 original essays all published here for the first time, Theory and Practice focuses on the relationship between philosophical tradition and everyday life in the Western tradition. In this comprehensive volume, Ian Shapiro and Judith Wagner DeCew have gathered contributions from some of the most influential thinkers of our generation including Cass Sunnstein, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Martha Nussbaum, Jeremy Waldron, and Kent Greenwalt. What are the relations between philosophical theories and everyday life? This question, as old as it is profound, is the central focus of Theory and Practice. The contributors include some of the most influential thinkers of our generation, among them Cass Sunnstein, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Martha Nessbaum, Jeremy Waldron, and Kent Greenwalt. In sixteen chapters--all published here for the first time - the authors examine major attempts to reconcile theory with practice in the Western tradition from Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle to Kant and Heidegger. Considerable attention is devoted to the role of theory in judicial decision-making, debates between defenders of the value of pure theory and those who argue for the priority of practice, the political implications of theory, practical problems such as global warming, and the theoretical commitments of practitioners from Karl Marx to Vaclav Havel. One of the most expansive volumes in the NOMOS series to date, Theory and Practice will be of interest to philosophers, lawyers, and social scientists from a wide range of disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-2787-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
    I.S.
  4. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)
    JUDITH WAGNER DECEW and IAN SHAPIRO

    Since time immemorial, students of philosophy, politics, and law have disagreed over the relations between theoretical principles and everyday practice. Some have stressed the value of theory, arguing that it should be pursued for its own merits and that it is difficult, impossible, or misleading to apply its ideals to the real and imperfect world. Others have championed the importance of focus on practical problems in daily life and have urged that theory is not worthwhile unless it sheds light on how to resolve actual conflicts or real-world problems.

    Aristotle and Kant made contributions to the discussion that are often...

  6. PART I: FOUNDATIONS OF THE DEBATE ON THEORY AND PRACTICE

    • 1 THE DECLINE AND REPUDIATION OF THE WHOLE: NOTES ON ARISTOTLE'S ENCLOSURE OF THE PRE-SOCRATIC WORLD
      (pp. 19-46)
      NORMA THOMPSON

      Much of political thought as we know it today exists within a universe designed by Aristotle, whose conception oftheoriaandpraxisis tied up with his notion of the best possible lives for human beings. As is well known, Aristotle found in the theoretical or contemplative life the possibilities for complete human happiness,¹ while for him the practical life of politics offered happiness of a “secondary” sort (NE1178a9). Even so, in his practical writings, Aristotle certainly sought to achieve an integrative conception of theory and practice; in his explication of thephronimos,for example, we confront the individual...

    • 2 KANT ON THEORY AND PRACTICE
      (pp. 47-78)
      JEFFRIE G. MURPHY

      Immanuel Kant’s 1793 essay “Theory and Practice” is his attempt to defend his own moral and political theory against the charge that it is simply an idle academic exercise that cannot be brought to bear upon the real world in any useful way.¹ He is concerned, in particular, to answer two charges—the charges that his theory is (1) motivationally unrealistic, involving an account of moral motivation that is at odds both with scientific psychology and with all plausible philosophical accounts of rational deliberation and (2) not usable in either the design or critique of actual social institutions. Following a...

  7. PART II: THE VALUE OF PURE THEORY

    • 3 HIGH THEORY, LOW THEORY, AND THE DEMANDS OF MORALITY
      (pp. 81-107)
      FRANCES M. KAMM

      My basic concern in this article is with the relation between theory and practice. More particularly I am concerned with high theory, with what I call “low” theory (sometimes the derivative of high theory), and with the actual (acted out) application of these in the real world. By high theory I mean ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, Ross’s theory of prima facie duties, contractarianism. By low theory I mean the theory of particular moral problems, such as whether affirmative action should be prohibited and what sort of rules of war there should be. (This is what some refer to...

    • 4 PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM AND MORAL THEORY
      (pp. 108-137)
      DAVID B. WONG

      Much contemporary moral theorizing revolves around a distinction between the personal and impersonal points of view. From the impersonal point of view one attaches equal weight to the interests of all persons, and when one takes that point of view, one acts on reasons that do not depend on one’s particular identity as an agent. For example, when one acts to relieve someone’s pain because any person in a position to relieve such a bad thing should do so, one is acting from the impersonal point of view. From the personal point of view one attaches greater weight to one’s...

    • 5 WHAT PLATO WOULD ALLOW
      (pp. 138-178)
      JEREMY WALDRON

      How do we teach political philosophy? What do we encourage our students to think a writer is doing when she (or more usually he) is laying out a theory of politics? What are we asking them to do as they read theRepublic, Leviathan,theSocial Contractor the other books that constitute the canon of Western political thought? How do we teach them to respond to writings by their contemporaries—particularly works which, like John Rawls’sA Theory of Justiceand Robert Nozick’sAnarchy, State, and Utopia,can be classified as normative theory, as attempts to articulate principles of...

  8. PART III: ARGUMENTS FOR THE PRIORITY OF PRACTICE

    • 6 “LAWYER FOR HUMANITY:” THEORY AND PRACTICE IN ANCIENT POLITICAL THOUGHT
      (pp. 181-215)
      MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM

      I begin with the death of Socrates—for this is the moment in relation to which, above all, the Greco-Roman philosophical tradition defines itself.¹ Here we see a philosophical teacher who was so far from being thought irrelevant to political life that the city judged it urgent to put him to death. Here we see a philosophical thinker who was so far from being indifferent to the conduct of affairs in the city that he put his life on the line to awaken it to self-examination.² At his trial he did not say, “Sorry boys, you have made a big...

    • 7 THE THEORETICAL IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICE
      (pp. 216-238)
      SUSAN J. BRISON

      In “What Plato Would Allow,” Jeremy Waldron argues that (1) we should not be doing political philosophy in a way that links it so closely to public policy pronouncements and (2) we should not be reading (and teaching) the canon as though it could speak to current policy debates.¹ I think he is wrong about both points. In this chapter, I argue that political theory is still not linked closely enough to practice. We need to examine the practical import of theoretical work and to acknowledge the dependence of theory on practice—not just in the testing and evaluating of...

    • 8 AVOIDABLE NECESSITY: GLOBAL WARMING, INTERNATIONAL FAIRNESS, AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
      (pp. 239-264)
      HENRY SHUE

      A wide international consensus of scientists is convinced that this planet faces serious danger from changes in temperature and other aspects of weather to which agricultural systems probably cannot adjust with the speed that would be necessary in order to avoid serious disruptions in food supplies for millions of vulnerable humans.¹ In order to reduce the magnitude of this danger, which is generally referred to as “global warming” (in spite of the fact that temperature is only one of its many aspects), it would be necessary to have comprehensive international cooperation, cooperation that might not need to be literally universal...

  9. PART IV: THEORY AND PRACTICE IN THE LAW

    • 9 ON LEGAL THEORY AND LEGAL PRACTICE
      (pp. 267-287)
      CASS R. SUNSTEIN

      Law is a normative enterprise; it is inevitably philosophical. For this reason, the distinction between legal theory and legal practice is at most one of degree. Certainly it can be shown that much legal practice takes theoretical issues for granted, but this does not mean that it is not pervaded by theoretical claims. On the other hand, there are real hazards for lawyers who use political philosophy to inform legal practice, especially when the philosophy is designed for a first-best world, or when it rests on assumptions that do not hold for us. Moreover, legal practice might seek to bracket...

    • 10 RELIGIOUS RESISTANCE TO THE KANTIAN SOVEREIGN
      (pp. 288-308)
      STEPHEN L. CARTER

      My topic—inspired by Jeffrie Murphy’s chapter—is how a Kantian sovereign, mindful of Kant’s disdain for the theory/practice distinction raised by his critics, should deal with the puzzling phenomenon of religious resistance. By religious resistance, I mean the decision by a religious community to struggle against the authority of the sovereign on the ground that on the particular issue in question, the community is required by its faith tradition to follow the very different commands of a separate, higher sovereign. This small but vital aspect of the problem of civil disobedience is insufficiently discussed in philosophical literature; it turns...

    • 11 ON REGULATING PRACTICES WITH THEORIES DRAWN FROM THEM: A CASE OF JUSTICE AS FAIRNESS
      (pp. 309-342)
      FRANK I. MICHELMAN

      There are such things as wide or pervasive social practices. (Think of constitutional democracy.) It seems we can approach them as stores of clues to reasons and the reasonable. From the empirical run of our own practice, we can try to distill a set of inner, mental grounds and sources of it: representations and worldviews, conceptions and beliefs, desires and ideals. We thus (insofar as we succeed) put on display our own reason, or at any rate a side of it, some way we have of being reasonable.

      Is this like catching your shadow? Can we really do it? Can...

  10. PART V: THE PUBLIC IMPLICATIONS OF THEORY

    • 12 PUBLIC PRACTICAL REASON: POLITICAL PRACTICE
      (pp. 345-385)
      GERALD J. POSTEMA

      In “Perpetual Peace,” Kant argues that no law can lay claim to justice unless it can withstand full public scrutiny. “All actions affecting the rights of other human beings are wrong,” he maintains, “if their maxim is not compatible with their being made public.”¹ This condition of legitimacy has its roots in a broader conception of public reason. Reason’s verdict, Kant insists, “is always simply the agreement of free citizens, of whom each one must be permitted to express, without let or hindrance, his objections or even his veto.”² This notion, while it bears Kant’s distinctive stamp, is one important...

    • 13 “TRUTH” OR CONSEQUENCES
      (pp. 386-400)
      KENT GREENAWALT

      The papers and comments at the Society’s meeting on Theory and Practice reminded me of a disquieting problem about scholarly sincerity. The problem concerns the responsibilities of theorists who believe that stating factual or normative “truths,” as they understand them, will probably have harmful effects. I outline the problem, focusing on one of its aspects, and comment briefly on possible resolutions. Finally, I suggest a connection between favored resolutions and the perceived status of normative judgments: namely, that people who believe normative judgments have some kind of objective status may in general be more likely than those who do not...

  11. PART VI: PRACTITIONERS AS THEORISTS

    • 14 THE END OF MORALITY? THEORY, PRACTICE, AND THE “REALISTIC OUTLOOK” OF KARL MARX
      (pp. 403-439)
      JOHN KANE

      With communism officially dead, whither Marxism? Must the legions of Marxist scholars now reclassify themselves as historians of ideas, or maybe hang up their stetsons and take to whittling on the porch? Or is there mileage left in the old warhorse yet, despite the sudden demise of its misbegotten progeny? It is quite likely that Marxist thought has penetrated intellectual discourse too deeply and too widely to be imagined as simply withering away, and in the field of political theory, particularly, there are reasons for thinking it may still have some relevance. Many of the questions which Marxism sought to...

    • 15 HEIDEGGER AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: THE THEORY OF HIS PRACTICE
      (pp. 440-463)
      STEVEN B. SMITH

      The study of the relation between theory and practice ceases to be a sterile academic enterprise and gains color when one examines a thinker’s ideas against his or her own political practice. When the thinker in question is, like Martin Heidegger, generally acknowledged as both one of the greatest philosophical minds of our age and a member of a political party responsible for some of the grossest barbarisms ever committed, the question gains not only life but a sense of real importance. That one of the greatest and most compelling philosophic minds of this century was also a Nazi raises...

    • 16 A PERFORMER OF POLITICAL THOUGHT: VÁCLAV HAVEL ON FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY
      (pp. 464-482)
      JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN

      The problem of human identity remains at the center of my thinking about human affairs. . . . All my plays in fact are variations on this theme, the disintegration of man’s oneness with himself and the loss of everything that gives human existence a meaningful order, continuity and its unique outline. . . . As you must have noticed from my letters, the importance of the notion of human responsibility has grown in my meditations. It has begun to appear, with increasing clarity, as that fundamental point from which all identity grows and by which it stands or falls;...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 483-488)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 489-489)