Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

William Dunaway, Ph.D.


Lauren Olin, Ph.D.

Eric Wiland, Ph.D.


In this paper, I explain political realist Raymond Geuss’ critique of John Rawls concerning his use of intuitions when developing a political philosophy. Rawls’ justice as fairness, due to its reliance on moral intuitions, fails to achieve the theory's purported aim and has the effect of affirming the status quo. I use Rawls’ idea of reflective equilibrium, where our theoretical principles are checked against our commitments until a satisfactory balance is reached, as an explanatory framework to discuss various forms of political philosophy. By adopting this framework, the disputes between various approaches to political philosophy are reducible to which initial judgments a theorist selects; the selection procedure decides which judgments will be considered during the deliberative process. I conclude with a defense of a new methodological approach which I call “realist nonideal theory”. By granting equal weight to moral and political realist commitments, a new type of theory can borrow desirable traits from each camp while avoiding their respective pitfalls.