The Problem of the Second Best: Conceptual Issues

Juha Räikkäa1

a1 University of Turku, [email protected]


In this article I shall undertake a preliminary exploration of the notion of second best. I shall follow a three-step strategy. First, I shall introduce some applications of the theorem of the second best in different fields of philosophy and social sciences. Secondly, I shall make several conceptual distinctions related to the theorem. I aim to show that there are certain theoretical results that are similar but not identical to the theorem of the second best, and that the notion of second best is often used quite loosely. Finally, I shall try to shed some light on the question of how the theorem is description-sensitive. The overall aim of the paper is to pay attention to the generality of the problem of the second best and stress the importance of the theorem in political theory in particular.