Title: Rationality, Norms and Institutions: In Search of a Realistic Utopia
Authors: Engelen, Bart # ×
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: Slovak Academic Press
Series Title: Human Affairs vol:17 issue:1 pages:33-41
Abstract: The main goal of political philosophers is to search for a realistic utopia by taking individuals as
they are and institutions, rules and laws as they might be. Instead of trying to change either individuals
or institutions in order to improve society, this article argues that both strategies should be combined,
since there are causal connections running both ways. Because individuals ultimately devise and uphold
institutions, one should be optimistic about the possibilities of deliberately improving society through
institutional reforms. However, one should adequately model the influences that these reforms have on
individuals, their identities and their motivations. From the fact that individuals can actually turn into
egoists if they are treated as such, this article stresses the need to detect and maintain non-egoistic
motivations. Since informal norms, for example, motivate individuals to socially desirable action, it is
important to devise formal institutions that support rather than erode norm-guided behavior.
ISSN: 1210-3055
VABB publication type: VABB-1
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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