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CODE 104270
  • 6 cfu during the 1st year of 8465 METODOLOGIE FILOSOFICHE (LM-78) - GENOVA
    LANGUAGE Italian
  • SEMESTER 1° Semester


    This course aims to analyse and critically discuss the interplay between methodological assumptions and normative implications in contemporary political theories. At the intersection between theory, practice and political methodology, the course aims to assess the plausibility of practical and theoretical implications of the most relevant models in normative political theory.  



    Normative political theory deals with matters of justice that have a distinctively collective nature. At the intersection between different disciplines (political philosophy, political theory and ethics), normative political theory addresses both substantive topics (multiculturalism, pluralism, toleration, animal and environmental ethics, international justice), as well as methodological issues (public justification, realism and idealism in political theory, and so on). Normative political theory seeks to investigate practical problems employing the conceptual resources of political philosophy and/or of other disciplines.


    This course aims to provide students with the necessary conceptual tools to better understand the relation between methodological and normative issues in contemporary political theories. At the end of the course, students

    • will be aware of the relation between theory and practice,
    • will be able to discuss critically the practical implications of normative political theories, and
    • will be able to e balance competing demands of justification and application.


    The course will be delivered in presence. Non attending students will have the possibility to access the recordings upon request. Non attending students will have a specific reading list (see the section on the exam method) 


    The first section will consist of lectures in order to introduce the basic conceptual apparatus. The other section will include also seminars. Depending on the students’ availability, each section will be concluded by a seminar in which the students will present and critically discuss a possible solution to the problems raised by the course.




    The design of this course follows a “Problem Based Learning” (PBL) methodology. Specifically, it seeks to address the practical and theoretical problem of implementing the demands of justice. How could normative theories of justice improve their capacity to be put in practice? And, what can the role of political theories be? These questions inhabit the whole history of political philosophy, in particular the opposition between idealism and realism, and are still present in contemporary debates. These are the questions at the centre of the two modules of the course (40 hours 6CFU the first, 20 hours 3CFU, the second).

    The first module will be organized in different sub-sections, each of which will address the following questions:

    • Is there an inevitable divide between facts and principles? Can facts influence the justification of first principles of justice (see the Rawls-Cohen debate)?
    • Can we employ ideal theory or should we rely on non-ideal theory? What is the admissible level of (non-)ideality? (see the Rawls-Sen debate, Estlund’s “utopophobia”, and the relation between ideal theory and utopia)
    • Do facts constraint what we can morally demand of people?
    • Can feasibility limit the demands of justice? (see the debate between Southwood, Lawford-Smith, Gilabert and Wiens)

    For each sub-section, the students will be provided with a conceptual apparatus (for instance, concerning the merits and limits of realist or idealist approaches). At the end of all sub-sections there will be a student seminar.


    The second module of the course will guide students through different conceptions of meaningful political change. In this way, will be able to see how some fundamental normative distinctions (ideal vs. nonideal, realism vs. normativitism, feasibility vs. desirability) are translated into contemporary and traditional political philosophical debates. Specifically, the comparison between different theories will raise awareness of contemporary disputes about reformism, progressivism, and utopianism, the problem of political transformation between desirability and feasibility, and debates about political agency in unjust societies.


    Parts of the following texts (to be discussed during the course): 


    Besussi, A., Biale, E. (a cura di) (2010), Fatti e principi. Una disputa sulla giustizia, Roma, Aracne, 2010.

    Biale, E., Fumagalli, C. (2018), Per una filosofia politica progressista in Per cosa lottare. Le frontiere del progressismo, a cura di Biale e Fumagalli, Milano, Fondazione Feltrinelli.

    Burelli, C. (2020), Realtà, necessità, conflitto: il realismo in filosofia politica, Roma, Carocci

    Cohen, G.A. “Facts and principles” o estratti da Per la giustizia e l’eguaglianza

    Forst, R (2021) Normatività e potere. Per l’analisi degli ordini sociali di giustificazione, Milano, Mimesis. (passi scelti)

    Honneth, A. (2016) L’idea di socialismo, Milano, Feltrinelli. (passi scelti)

    Luxemburg, L. (2009), Riforma sociale o rivoluzione?, Prospettiva, Siena.

    Marx, K. (2007) Critica al programma di Gotha, Bolsena, Massari Editore

    Mill, J.S. (2008) ‘Chapters on Socialism’ in Principles of Political Economy and Chapters on Socialism, Oxford, Oxford University Press (passi scelti)

    Olin Wright, E. (2010) Envisioning real utopias, London, Verso

    Raekstad, R. e Saio Gradin, S. (2019) Prefigurative Politics: Building Tomorrow Today, Polity, Londra.

    Rawls, J. (2002) Giustizia come equità, Feltrinelli, Milano.

    Sen, A. (2006), “What do we want from a theory of justice?”, The journal of philosophy 103(5)

    Southwood, N. (2018), “The feasibility issue”, Philosophy compass 13

    Wiens, D. (2015), “Political ideals and the feasibility frontier”, Economics and philosophy 31

    Ypi, L. (2016) Stato e avanguardie cosmopolitiche, Roma-Bari, Laterza


    Possible topics for the short essay: 

    • Must political realism be conservative?
    • Compare the diverse types of moralism: critical, functionalist, contestualist 
    • Which facts must a normative political theory take into account?
    • Should a theory of justice include a feasibility requirement? And if so, how? 
    • Could factual issue limit what we ought to do?
    • Analyze how Rawls conceives the possibility of realizing his theory of justice
    • Outline and reconstruct Cohen's criticism of Rawls concerning facts and principles
    • What is the appropriate level of (non)ideality of a theory?
    • Do we need utopian political theory? 


    The reading list might change before the course begins. 


    Exam Board

    FEDERICO ZUOLO (President)


    VALERIA OTTONELLI (Substitute)





    Attending students

    - Short essay (3500words, to be handed in at least 1 week before) + oral examination discussing the essay 

    Non-attending students:

    Oral examination on the following titles from the reading list:

    - Cohen

    - Elster

    - Lawford-Smith

    - Raekstad-Saio Gradin

    - Ypi  

    Exam schedule

    Date Time Location Type Notes
    14/12/2022 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    18/01/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    01/02/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    10/05/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    24/05/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    07/06/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    05/07/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale
    05/09/2023 09:00 GENOVA Orale