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Keywords:

  • Sidgwick;
  • Rawls;
  • realism;
  • legitimacy;
  • representation;
  • Hobbes

Abstract

In the study of politics, Cambridge is sometimes associated with a school of political philosophical “realism.” This article discusses what realism in political philosophy might mean, by examining first what might count as “unrealistic” political philosophy (looking at Sidgwick and Rawls), and then some recent attempts to identify a more realistic philosophical approach to politics. It argues that realistic political philosophy tends to emerge as a thin account of politics that falls between the stools of either more philosophical (i.e., more idealistic) or less philosophical (i.e., more historical) accounts. It illustrates this in relation to Sidgwick and also Hobbes, who is often held up as the quintessential realist in the history of political philosophy.