Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrew Jason Cohen

Second Advisor

Andrew Altman

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen


The notions of “ideal theory” and “nonideal theory” have become widely accepted in political philosophy. Recently, several philosophers’ have urged that ideal theory systematically produces practically irrelevant theories. Such philosophers argue that political philosophy ought move away from ideal theory in order to make the discipline more germane to the unjust real world. Call this tactic of eliminating ideal theory “Strategy.” In this paper, I argue that political philosophy would do well to abandon the ideal/nonideal distinction. Though the use of INID is widespread, philosophers do not have one uniform way of drawing the distinction; of the several common ways of drawing the distinction, none is categorical. As a consequence of this ambiguity, the role that INID plays in our political philosophical theorizing has become pernicious.