‘Recover it From the Facts as We Know Them’

Practice-dependence’s Predecessors

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


In Andrea Sangiovanni’s words, practice-dependent theorists hold that “[t]he content, scope, and justification of a conception of [a given value] depends on the structure and form of the practices that the conception is intended to govern”. They have tended to present this as methodologically innovative, but here I point to the similarities between the methodological commitments of contemporary practice-dependent theorists and others, particularly P. F. Strawson in his Freedom and Resentment and Bernard Williams in general. I suggest that by looking at what Strawson and Williams did, we can add to the reasons for adopting one form or another of practice-dependence. The internal complexity of the practices we hope our principles will govern may require it. However, this defence of practice-dependence also puts pressure on self-identified practice-dependence theorists, suggesting that they need to do more work to justify the interpretations of the practices their theories rely on.

‘Recover it From the Facts as We Know Them’

Practice-dependence’s Predecessors

in Journal of Moral Philosophy




Andrea Sangiovanni (2008) ‘Justice and the Priority of Politics to Morality’ Journal of Political Philosophy 16 (2):137–164 pg. 138.


 See for example G. A. Cohen (2008) Rescuing Justice and Equality (Harvard University Press: Cambridge) pg. 7.


 See for example Miriam Ronzoni (2009) ‘The Global Order: A Case of Background Injustice? A Practice-Dependent Account’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 37 (3):229–256 and Laura Valentini (2011) ‘Global Justice and Practice-Dependence: Conventionalism Institutionalism Functionalism’ Journal of Political Philosophy 19 (4):399–418.


Andrea Sangiovanni (2007) ‘Global Justice Reciprocity and the State’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 35 (1):3–39 pg. 5 fn. 8: John Rawls (1971) A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press: Cambridge) pg. 29. Sangiovanni refers to that class of theories as ‘relational’ there but it is clear this is another term for what he elsewhere calls practice-dependence. Relational theories hold “that the practice-mediated relations in which individuals stand condition the content scope and justification of… principles” (Global Justice Reciprocity and the State pg. 5). I will substitute practice-dependent for any uses of this sense of relational.


Miriam Ronzoni‘Life is not a Camping Trip – On the Desirability of Cohenite Socialism,’ Politics Philosophy and Economics(11) 2:171–185.


P. F. Strawson (2008) ‘Freedom and Resentment’ in Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays P. F. Strawson (Routledge: London) 1–28 and Christopher Kutz (2000) Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).


J. L. Mackie‘Causes and Conditions,’ American Philosophical Quarterly(2) 4:245–264 pg. 245.


 See Cohen G. A. (2009) Why Not Socialism? (Princeton: Princeton University Press).


 See G. A. Cohen (2003) ‘Facts and Principles’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 31 (3):211–245. There has been much confusion about the content and significance of Cohen’s arguments in that paper. See Thomas Pogge (2008) ‘Cohen to the Rescue’ Ratio XXI (4):454–475 and Robert Jubb (2009) ‘Logical and Epistemic Foundationalism about Grounding: The Triviality of Facts and Principles’ Res Publica 15 (4): 337–353.


Bernard Williams (2001) ‘From Freedom to Liberty: The Construction of a Political Value’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 30 (1):3–26.


 See for example Bernard Williams (2011) Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Routledge: Abingdon) pp. 60–78 especially pp. 72–78.


William Galston (2010) 'Realism in Political Theory' European Journal of Political Theory 9 (4) 385–411 pg. 408.


 See his (2006) ‘The Legacy of Greek Philosophy’ in Bernard Williams ed. Miles Burnyeat The Sense of the Past pp. 3–48 pp. 36–46 especially pp. 43–44 for Williams on the differences between ancient Greek and contemporary Western moral thinking.


Robert Jubb‘Playing Kant at the Court of King Arthur,’ Political Studies (forthcoming) Early View doi: 10.1111/1467-9248.12132.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 15 15 10
Full Text Views 5 5 5
PDF Downloads 1 1 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0