Reality and its dreams


Reality and its dreams

Raymond Geuss

Harvard University Press, 2016

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Includes bibliographical references and index



In Reality and Its Dreams, one of the most inventive voices in political philosophy and a trenchant critic of the field's dominant assumptions, challenges the "normative turn"-the idea that the right approach to politics is to start from thinking abstractly about our normative views and then, when they have been clarified and systematized, apply them to judging political structures, decisions, and events. Rather, Raymond Geuss claims, the study of politics should focus on the sphere of real politics, not least because normative judgments always arise from concrete configurations of power, including ideological power. It is possible to do this without succumbing to a numbing or toxic form of relativism or abandoning utopianism, if utopianism is understood as the impulse to think the impossible in politics, to articulate deep-seated desires that cannot be realized under current conditions, and to imagine how conditions that seem invariant can be changed. Geuss ranges widely, exploring past and present ideas about envy, love, satire, and evil in the work of figures as diverse as John Rawls, St. Augustine, Rabelais, and Russell Brand. His essays provide a bracing critique of ideas, too often unexamined, that shape and misshape our intellectual and political worlds.

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