POLI 243 Lecture Notes - Consequentialism, Deontological Ethics, Theocracy

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15 Mar 2013
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
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
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 justified. Therefore,
a state must be legitimate and this requirement plus what is needed to form and constitute
power can be at tension.
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