Will Wilkison: How political idealism leads us astray
Philosophers who specialize in theorizing about perfect justice weren’t impressed with Sen’s argument. The problem, they noted, is that Sen’s “just go up” model will only get you to the peak of the mountain you’re already standing on.
It may be true that we don’t need to know where Everest is to know which way is up — that we don’t need to know what perfect justice looks like to recognize and address injustice. But why think we’re standing on a tall mountain, much less the tallest one?
That is why you need a theory of the ideally just society. You need it to tell you the relative height of different mountains, of different political arrangements — and to identify which political order is the best of all. The “just go up” rule risks stranding us at a “local optimum” of justice, lacking in moral ambition. But morality demands that we don’t stop short. We’re duty-bound to shoot for the best possible social order — the “global optimum.”
Gaus argues that Sen is more right than wrong. Once we understand what it really means to commit to the optimizing perspective of an ideal, we’ll see that “just go up” is better