Motivational Facts, Legitimacy, and the Justification of Political Ideals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Should facts about motivation play a role in the justification of political ideals? Many theorists argue that political ideals should be tailored to the limitations of human nature—‘taking people as they are’—while others maintain that facts about motivation should be excluded. This article offers a critical intervention in this debate: the important question is not so much whether people can motivate themselves, or whether they are capable of being motivated, but what social mechanisms would be required to motivate them, and whether these mechanisms are legitimate. Reframing the question of motivation as a political question of legitimacy, I argue that if people could only be motivated to act through illegitimate use of power, the ideal in question cannot be fully justified.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRes Publica
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Feasibility
  • Legitimacy
  • Methodology of political theory
  • Motivation
  • Normative constraints
  • Political realism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Law


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