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Moral Basis - Lecture 1.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 243
Mark Brawley

Moral Basis. Lecture 1. What is ethics with respect to politics? What is the question? What is ethics/moral philosophy? What is the quick summary? Moral philosophy is a way to systematize our moral thinking What is the evidence? This is equivalent to asking a question of how should we live or what should we do. A nice way to remember this is that moral philosophy is largely concerned with the cultivation of the self. It is usually an inquiry into what we owe to ourselves. What is the conclusion? To begin this discussion, we must first draw on the difference between facts and values, description and normativity. The question of what the right thing to do is or how should we live is a fundamentally normative question, that is, it entails an ‘ought.’ However, normativity does not have to include morality. The two aren’t necessarily linked. Humans are hardwired with certain precepts of morality and the plurality of discussion can render this incoherent. Thus, to systemize this moral thinking is effectively the study of moral philosophy. What is question? What is political philosophy? What is distinctive about political philosophy? What is at tension with each other? What is the quick summary? Political philosophy answers the question of an individual’s relationship to society. Effectively, it is an inquiry into what we owe to others (duty). However the key aspect of political philosophy is the creation of a legitimate public order as well as a system of power. What is the evidence? It is a question of how should we live? How do we organize institutions around our collective lives? Is it a theocracy, monarchy, democracy? What is the conclusion? Since political philosophy is discourse regarding how to organize institutions, the fundamental question is whether the coercive apparatus of the state (ie. The threat of sanction from law) points in the same direction as morality of the citizen. This is the distinction between political philosophy and the moral realm. The coercive power of the state requires an added burden of justification. It is one thing to lay claim that doing something is morally wrong yet it is another to say that a sanction is justifie
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