Chapter

The Problem of Utopianism

Thomas Nagel

in Equality and Partiality

Published in print August 1995 | ISBN: 9780195098396
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199870059 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195098390.003.0003
The Problem of Utopianism

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The duality of standpoints makes its appearance in political theory with particular prominence as the root of an old and persistent problem – the problem of utopianism. A political ideal, however attractive it may be to contemplate, is utopian if reasonable individuals cannot be motivated to live by it. But a political system that is completely tied down to individual motives may fail to embody any ideal at all. The danger of utopianism comes from the political tendency, in pursuit of the ideal of moral equality, to put too much pressure on individual motives or even to attempt to transcend them entirely through an impersonal transformation of social individuals. A nonutopian solution requires a proper balance between these two elements, and that requires knowing what they are and how they interact.

Keywords: equality; motivation; rationality; utopia; utopianism

Chapter.  4227 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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