Jean-Jacques Rousseau (cont’d from last term)
Monday January 7 , 2013
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (cont‟d from last term)
Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755).
2 kinds of inequality.
The state of nature.
The Social Contract (1762).
2 central themes in Rousseau‟s works:
First: Man is naturally good, but is corrupted by society.
Obsession with vanity, pride, etc. It is what permeated Paris at the time when he was
After diagnosing cause of inequality (social construct), the question is “what is the
Second: authority of state is compatible with individual as long as certain conditions are
made – the general will.
Requirements of the Social Contract
(1) Democracy (sort of) – endorses a democratic form of sovereignty, but not a
democratic form of government.
Not the democracy we often think of (representative democracy). Representative
democracy divides society. You are not free if you are living by what politicians decide.
For Rousseau (coming from a small town in Geneva), he thinks of democracy on a
small scale. Laws are made at popular assemblies, where smaller groups of people
decide what kind of legislation they should adopt.
All people should be the authors of the law, but not all people should be in charge of
administering the law.
Elected aristocracy – most upright, intelligent and politically experienced citizens govern
in the interests of everyone else and not of their own private interests.
Sovereign is the supreme authority, made up of all citizens.
(2) Ensure everyone identifies with the group as a whole:
Education for civic virtue.
Condones religious toleration, but requires people to subscribe to religion. 5 principles:
Benevolent deity, life after death, just will be rewarded/wicked punished.
Sanctity of the social contract; sectarian intolerance is prohibited.
Reduction of inequality.
Lawgiver shapes institutions that shape the people.
“Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”
For Rousseau, there are two important distinctions for liberty:
1 (1) Natural and civil [moral freedom].
Natural liberty: liberty to pursue what you want in the state of nature, and you are
constrained only by your own powers (Rousseauean account).
Natural liberty is what we are going to give up.
Civil liberty: true liberty/state of freedom Rousseau aspires to realize. Limited by the
(2) Negative and positive freedom. (Signifies bigger political debate). **
Duty Replaces Instinct
Wooton book, pg. 434.
In the state of nature, we are governed by this desire for self-preservation. Not engaging
in random acts of freedom.
Individuals in civil society are truly free. Democracy for Rousseau is a state of true
Moral freedom: obedience to a self-prescribed law is liberty.
20 century Oxford philosopher, Berlin, wrote two concepts of liberty. Berlin describes
two types of liberty:
Negative liberty: freedom as interference from state – John Stuart Mill.
Positive liberty: freedom as self-mastery, involves more than the absence of
Critics: opens the door to authoritarian measures.
What falls into the rights entailed by the account of negative liberty?
Critiques of Negative Liberty (Charles Taylor)
Taylor points to the example of traffic regulations, formed out of interference.
If we compare Canada and Afghanistan…
Canada may be more interfering than Afghanistan.
Is Afghanistan more free than Canada?
Inequality is not natural – it was socially created.
Rousseau is seen as one of the first to incorporate moral equality – citizens should all
be on an equal footing when it comes to determining what the law is.
Critiques large gaps of economic inequality.
People are unified together for the common good (general will).
Terminology used is the “total alienation” of your interests. Give up your own identity
itself for the good of the community.
E.g. the Borg (Star Trek).
Gives us a communal perspective that contrasts with individualistic accounts.
2 Critical Assessment
Biggest challenge: how does this transformation come about (replacing instinct with
duty)? The greater the shortcomings of the status quo, the harder the transformation.
Ideal legislator? What makes them special? How do we know that they are worthy of
being a legislator?
Raised against all democrats: concerns about majoritarianism.
Is the majority always right? Tyranny of the majority?
Rousseau wants you to conform to the “common good”/majority. You living under it are
How do you ensure limits of democracy so tyranny of democracy doesn‟t occur?
More of this will come up with Mill‟s “harm principle”.
Viability/attraction of the notion of positive freedom. Paradox of forcing people to be free
Many believe that policies pushed through totalitarian regimes align with Rousseau‟s
Uncharitable to call him a totalitarian. More accurate to say that there are authoritarian
elements in regards to civil religion, censorship, etc.
Sexual inequality. Rousseau‟s writings are a reflection of his time. Assumptions of
sexual inequality run throughout his writings.
Role of women is primarily about familial obligations – women are seen as naturally
passive and weak, they do not have the capacity needed to engage in politics.
Contrasts with Wollstonecraft and Mill.
Born in Dublin in 1729.
Became an MP for Bristol from 1774 to 1780.
Commonly associated with conservatism.
Emphasis on tradition.
Past represents the wisdom and trial and error of humankind.
Describes himself as a practitioner – rather than sitting in an ivory tower, he immersed
himself in the political issues of his day.
Main component between Rousseau and Burke is the French Revolution.
Burke condemned the French Revolution.
However, Burke was in favour of the American Revolution.
3 Edmund Burke
1 Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Monday January 21 , 2013
Background, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), “The Personal is Political”,
and the politics of difference (Phillips).
Her life reflected the many challenges she faced as a woman.
Born in 1759 in London. Comes from a family that faced many challenges – father
allegedly had a drinking problem, and she leaves home quite early at the age of 19.
Her sister was also in a troubled relationship and Mary Wollstonecraft encouraged her
to leave the husband, which she did. She leaves the child with the husband who dies.
Helped run a school and taught young girls.
Published in 1790 a response to Burke titled Vindication of the Rights of Man. Was
published anonymously at first since women‟s voices were not credible. Shortly after it
was published, she announced that she had written the book.
Supporter of the French Revolution. Went with an American businessman and had to
pretend to be married in order to travel to France in 1792. They had a daughter, and he
left, and Wollstonecraft attempted suicide twice.
Met William Godwin, an accomplished political theorist. Proponent of philosophical
anarchism. Within the year they were married, they had a child, Mary Shelley, who
would go on to write Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft would die 11 days after giving birth.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
First central insight: debate of nature vs. nurture. Degree to which sexual differences
between males and females are the result of our biology, or to which degree it is a result
of social construction.
Nurture, not nature, is the cause of gender distinctions.
Family is considered a personal sphere that is distinct from political spheres. Important
political values (like equality) should apply to love, romance, and the family.
Marriage is a form of friendship; should be the ideal relationship of equality; entails a
free choice, equality and mutual respect.
The time she was writing does not reflect this.
What is her diagnosis of marriage in the way it existed in Great Britain?
Made for poor wives and dangerous mothers.
Moral Progress Requires a TRANSFORMATION of the Relationship Between Men and
Women (and the Family)
In the 19 century, women were expected to get married, and for most women, it was
an economic necessity. Females were excluded in education, the workplace, etc. There
were few respectable occupations for women, but for the most part, you were expected
to be married.
1 Economic dependency perpetuates the vulnerability of women. Women HAD to get
married to get any prestige or power – economic dependence on men.
She is a practitioner, involved in the education of children. She is well aware that the
education females received was different from the education males received.
Education shaped gender distinctions. Identities perpetuated through education.
Female training: values and aspirations implicated was the “art of pleasing” –
how to flirt, display outward obedience, external beauty, and always seeking
the attention of men (future husbands).
Male training: raised to be rational and independent.
Wollstonecraft wants us to look at the education system at this time and how it creates
alluring mistresses rather than affectionate wives and rational mothers.
The family could not be functional if women took this up.
Under this existing system, where women are told to fixate their attention on aesthetics,
they do not develop their rational potential. Patriarchal institutions make them trivial
creatures concerned with appearances and games.
Many of her concerns still manifest in our culture. E.g. dove evolution commercial,
Cosmopolitan magazine, etc.
“Wollstonecraft‟s dilemma” – Carol Pateman
Granting women the rights of humanity.
Fulfill duties of motherhood.
Women need to become fully human and their morality must be rooted in reason and
God rather than their relationships to their bodies.
Prevents women from exercising rationality. Social structures impede on woman‟s
ability to realize rationality.
Traditional marriage distracts women from two because they only care about the
affection of men. E.g. wet nurses.
For Wollstonecraft, maternal duties are both natural and moral. Breast feeding can unite
the family, and help the husband appreciate these values over his own sexual appetites.
Marriage as FRIENDSHIP
Produces stronger marriages and better people. If you want to transform society, you
can‟t just leave the family out of it. Must get to the root cause of inequality.
French Revolution is unjust because it is about the arbitrary power. The family also has
Women denied formal power in marriage end up tyrannizing children and servants.
If you had a virtuous family, children would grow up with equal parents which is
conducive to their own virtue to become good citizens. Has huge transformative
2 Marriage is an ideal friendship and is an intricate part in transforming society into
something more equal.
Romance and passion are themes that come up in Wollstonecraft‟s writings.
Wollstonecraft believes in bringing politics into the bedroom.
Not always consistent in things she wants to say in respect to a healthy, equal
She is concerned that if romantic love is taken too far, it can be too consuming and
undermine the parental duties.
Claims therefore that neglected wives or widows make the best mothers.
Claims that “love, considered as an animal, cannot long feed on itself without expiring.”
Wollstonecraft: Nature vs. Nature?
Debate now is not about nature vs. nature. The debate now is that both nature and
nurture are at work in explaining what is going on.
The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner…
Patriarchy: subordination of females to males. How did it come into existence? Has it
Gerda Lerner wants to answer these questions and describe when patriarchy came to
Predates slavery. Slavery comes into existence after patriarchy is formally practiced.
Slavery becomes possible once you realize patriarchy works (part of the population that
will do things you want them to do without killing them).
Patriarchy was socially necessary.
Roots of Patriarchy: The Sexual Division of Labour
Women can give birth
Differences in vocal frequencies (testosterone, mate selection, convey
Men are generally taller and heavier.
Females have a longer life expectancy.
Strong maternal bond.
Male psyche of violence – males die at a higher rate.
Natural Selection has shaped our psyches as well as our bodies
3 Mary Wollstonecraft (cont’d) & Immanuel Kant
Monday January 28 , 2013
“The Personal is Political” by Susan Okin
Justice, gender and the family;
Highlights model that becomes prominent in feminism in 60s and 70s – idea that the
personal is political. Sharp division between public and private sphere.
Family seen as core, private sphere. Why ensure the state not incur in private realm?
One of the big debates was decriminalizing laws against homosexuality – what people
do in regards to sexuality with consenting adults is beyond state interference.
Feminists don‟t want to abolish idea of private sphere, but redraw boundaries. Family
that emerges as central institution – not only should state be involved, but that the state
define what the family is.
4 ways Okin believes the personal is political.
1) POWER exists in the family. Power is the defining element and
distinguishing feature of the political realm. Obvious cases where power can
exist. There are obvious cases of power such as physical abuse/rape. Okin
cites that people who witness episodes of abuse between lovers are less
likely to report the abuse as opposed to abuse between strangers. There are
more subtle ways such as who makes important family decisions in regards to
money and responsibilities. Is there an equal opportunity between members
of the family?
2) The domestic sphere is the result of political decisions. The family didn‟t
just emerge in some sort of vacuum – there‟s a history on how families came
into existence and it was shaped and determined by legal structures
(religion). Who had a say about the political arrangements when the family
was first created? story of male domination and inequality. Good example
3) Domestic life is where our early socialization takes place – shapes identity.
In a way, family has an educative role. Once we‟re talking about an institution
that has an educative role, then it is evident that we are talking about
something political. Historically, the kind of socialization that takes place, was
that the identities and values of males and females received were very
4) Division of labour within families can perpetuate psychological attributes
about a gender. Historically, it was the case that many people saw women as
much more emotional.
Not policing the family, she‟s simply pointing out that the family being a private sphere is
a myth. What kind of changes would bring about the end of gender inequality?
Politics of difference is a movement in 1990s to carve out distinctive way of looking at
politics which is different from liberal feminism.
Liberal feminists emphasize the similarities between males and females. Equalities
should be gender-neutral.
1 Politics of difference emphasizes the differences between the sexes, leading to the
emancipation of women. Mary Wallstonecraft, when she invokes similarities between
males and females.
Anne Phillips (The Politics of Presence) recognize the differences between males and
females. Leads to a different understanding of democracy.
Politics of Ideas
Liberal feminist argument leads to Phillips calls the politics of ideas – certain way of
understanding democracy. What is it?
Certain values and principles political parties stand for.
Democracy is about a competition of ideas and you vote for political parties that best
represent the ideas you think are important. What doesn‟t matter is who the people
espousing those ideas are. If you believe in conservative values, it doesn‟t matter if the
conservative party is all males or all females, you just care for the values.
Identity of politicians don‟t matter.
Critiques point out that on this view, …….
What politician represents rather than who they are.
Politics of Difference
Says that who does matter. If identity of politicians are shared in relevant respects, it
can lead to political process that is very exclusionary.
Politics of Presence
Wants to say that it does matter who is espousing these things. Her concern is about
the representation of women.
Politics of presence wants to say there is some value in identity. Males have a certain
way of looking at things than females, different skill sets.
Another way of looking at democracy.
One objection raised: slippery slope of the inclusion of races, religious identity, age,
Feminists believe is that gender inequalities have to be acknowledged and we must
look at ways of directing these issues. These inequalities aren‟t natural. We have
instituted a social structure that has perpetuated inequality.
More recently, with Susan Okin questioning public/private dichotomy.
Question what constitutes fair “representation”. Can women have equal voice if the
legislature is predominantly males?
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Topics: What is Enlightenment?, Kant‟s ethnics, are authority and autonomy
Born in East Prussia in 1724.
Autonomy and authority.
Recall distinction of the social contract; interest-based (Hobbes) and rights-based
(Locke, Rousseau, Kant is final proponent of this position). Idea of social contract
Link Kant with Hume, idea of reason vs. passions. Kantean is the opposite end of the
argument, arguing for reason.
Later on the course, we will contrast with utilitarianism.
What is Enlightenment?
Kant seen as pivotal catalyst in getting people to question tradition and look at things
through a new lens. New openness to subject matter they reflect upon and challenge.
Kant characterizes enlightenment as “man‟s emergence from his self-imposed
immaturity” (Wooton book pg. 522). Immaturity is the inability to make use of our
understanding without direction from another.
Power of authority: Milgram experiment.
Illustrate the power that authority can exert over people.
Psychology behind that experiment gives us reason to think that our
deference to authority for 50% of population is an innate part of our
Motto of the enlightenment is to “have courage to use your own reason!”
Enlightenment and Freedom
After outlining this idea of having courage to use your own reason, Kant is interested in
the condition that best allows us to exercise and facilitate in overcoming this immaturity.
Kant: “The public use of reason should always be free.”
Aspiration for toleration and freedom and recognizing the limits of freedom.
Conservative element in what Kant is arguing.
Public Use of Freedom
Versus private use of freedom is defined in terms of the audience you‟re trying to reach
when expressing what it is you‟re expressing. Whom are you trying to communicate to?
It is public when the audience is the world at large. Kant envisions a scholar writing a
book – it is intended to be for the world, and therefore, it should be free to say what it
wants. You would be impeding development of Enlightenment if you were to censor this.
Consider case about Galileo‟s scientific conjecture of the movement of planets.
Private use of reason concerns a particular office (clergy, civil servants) must obey the
orders that govern their roles. Member of the clergy, for example, must follow rules of
the institution they work for when preaching to their parish. Cannot bring in their own
3 Kant wants to distinguish these two things – you do have to follow the laws in your role
with the civil service, but when you‟re talking to society and the world at large, you
should be accorded freedom to express your views.
Lead to tension: transformative potential of Enlightenment can be constrained by private
use of reason justification.
Kant commends Frederick the Great‟s ranking of intellectual freedom above civil
freedom…stating “argue as much as you like about whatever you like, but obey!”
Links in with the theme about civil disobedience, why should we accept laws we think
are unjust, etc.
Criticism: you need some degree of civil freedom. Communication needs a medium.
Kant is too conservative. Think about civil rights obedience. Is civil obedience not an
effective way of expressing your views publicly?
Kant claims that we need communication that is both public as well as publicizable in
order for political progress to be realized.
Publicity: reach numbers of people.
Publicizability: idea that the message you communicate has to be capable for
others to interpret what it is you‟re saying. Has to be some precision.
Obstacles to progress monopoly of media, cultural misunderstandings, etc… Can
these be overcome?
The Maxims of “Public Sense”
“Think for yourself” – motto of the enlightenment. Always think consistently. Don‟t be led
by others, don‟t give into the social pressures to conform.
“To think from the standpoint of everyone else” – go beyond your own self-interest and
limited perspective (universal standpoint).
“Always think consistently” – treating like cases alike.
Group Polarization and Extremism
Likeminded groups will become more extreme.
Group polarization – limited argument pool.
4 Immanuel Kant (cont’d) & Georg Hegel
Monday February 4 , 2013
The Maxims of “Public Sense”
(1) Think for yourself – motto of the Enlightenment. Don‟t always defer to those of moral
expertise. Also caution against getting rid of expertise completely. Don‟t blindly follow
what you‟re told. Asch‟s Conformity Experiment exemplifies informational conformity,
which shows how a majority‟s decision may skew one‟s own judgment.
(2) To think from the standpoint of everyone else – go beyond your own self-interest
and limited perspective (universal standpoint). Group polarization and extremism –
when people have the same ideals debate certain issues, this will often lead to
extremism. The reason for this is called the “limited argument pool”. Having epistemic
diversity is crucial in avoiding extremism in any kind. Good argument for democracy.
(3) Always think consistently – derive on what the duty and justice is.
Kant and Rousseau have a common theme of moral obligation derived from laws that
Rousseau believes that autonomy is realized when we act in accordance with the
For Kant, it is more about developing a fundamental moral principle. We can derive just
by thinking rationally what the demands of morality are. Doesn‟t require people to get
together and have legislature procedures that Rousseau details.
For the Kantean, morality is both UNIVERSAL and CATEGORICAL.
Very stringent, universal account of what morality is.
Kant‟s ethics vs. Hume
For Hume, what was important was the passions, having empathy and sympathy with
other people, identifying with the public interests and reason had a secondary role to
For Hume, reason does not dictate our ultimate ends. Reason has a purely instrumental
role to play.
Kantean account is the exact opposite. Moral requirements are the requirements of
reason. Moral agents possess the ability to constrain their passions and behave
What Kant wants to give us is an account of morality that requires you to detach
yourself from those empirically contingent attributes to possess. Can‟t be based on
desires/passions because these could be immoral.
What we find with the Kantean approach to morality is that it is a duty-based account of
morality. Articulating sense of duty will give us a good grasp on the demands of
Kantean ethics seen as a 3 branch of the 3 main traditions of secular ethics (virtue
ethics and consequentialism).
1 Kant‟s Duty-Based Ethics
Language we find in Kantean tradition arises from the “CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE”.
“Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will to be a universal
What would be the rule/maxim that is guiding your moral actions in a
Another formulation: “act so that you always treat humanity as an end and never as a
Both Rousseau and Kant have given a potential strategy for resolving the tension
between autonomy and authority. Are they compatible? Both Kant and Rousseau seem
to suggest that they are.
Interesting contemporary analysis by Robert Wolff says no – In Defense of Anarchism.
Wolff discusses a dilemma between autonomy and authority – are you morally bound to
If you believe in autonomy (obey laws you yourself make), it isn‟t sympathetic with
authority (surrender your own judgment). The state is constantly telling you to do things.
Wolff considers 3 possible solutions and how autonomy is affected in each:
(1) Unanimous direct democracy;
In principle, this would be the only system that Wolff believes can reconcile
authority and autonomy.
Every individual person has a veto.
Unfeasible system. Focusing on the unanimity component, if there‟s one
person who objects the legislation, the legislation would be void. Can lead to
a very inefficient system.
Direct component also inefficient because we would spend our lives being
full-time politicians, deciding on every single issue. Society wouldn‟t be able
to produce anything because of this.
Even though in principle, it would be reconciled, it is impossible.
(2) Representative democracy.
Doesn‟t require the direct component of a direct democracy. This gets around
some of the inefficiencies from the first proposal.
Once we start going with this, we have watered down autonomy.
o Politicians may not always deliver what they promise.
o All politicians may be inept in the eyes of some. If those political parties
don‟t match up with what you want, you‟re forced to choose from a
limited menu of options.
According to Wolff, representative democracy doesn‟t allow us autonomy.
(3) Majoritarian democracy.
We hold an election based on majority wins – will of the majority, which fits
into the large degree of what Rousseau argues for the general will.
2 Wolff argues for the account of minority. The minority are still compelled to
accept the will of somebody else so they cannot be truly autonomous.
Wolff believes none of these systems vindicate authority. We are thus left with the
(1) Embrace philosophical anarchism and treat all governments as non-legitimate. Wolff
endorses this option. The challenge for the democrat is to formulate a response to that
(2) Give up the commitment to moral autonomy.
Message of Freedom and Enlightenment… still with us
Kant: “have courage to use your own reason!”
Cultural productions of freedom in a Kantean sense still resonates today. E.g. Bob
Marley‟s redemption song.
Georg Hegel (1770-1831)
Topics: the “ethical life” thesis; freedom; the institutions of modern social life: the family,
civil society and the state; private property?; history (will be covered later when we start
Born in Prussia, originally studied religion, was a tutor, but then became a professor of
philosophy. Died from cholera outbreak.
Philosophy of Right published in 1821.
Importance of Hegel: rebirth in the last 2 decades with scholarship on Hegel.
(1) Theory of history influenced Marx. Often studied as a primer for understanding Marx.
(2) Revival of interest in the 1990s was part of a larger movement of backlash against
liberalism and the individualistic ideals they promote (communitarianism).
Hegel: The Conventional Reading
Conventional reading of Hegel is to say that he is a conservative in the sense that we
should just accept whatever there is as being what there ought to be. Not the
conservatism of Burke, though there is a small overlap, but this interpretation says that
you cannot transcend your own society and norms. Hegel doesn‟t think it is possible to
step outside the ethical norms of our society.
“To comprehend what is is the task of philosophy, for what is is reason. As far
as the individual is concerned, each individual is in any case a child of his
time; thus philosophy, too, is its own time comprehended in thoughts. It is just
as foolish to imagine that any philosophy can transcend its contemporary
world as that an individual can overleap his own time or leap over Rhodes. If
his theory does indeed transcend his own time, if it builds itself a world as it
ought to be, then it certainly has an existence, but only within his opinions – a
3 pliant medium in which the imagination can construct anything it pleases”
Philosophy of Right.
Philosophy is articulating what there already is.
The “ethical life” thesis
Taken to be the core elements of the Hegelian account in political theory.
Ethical life thesis maintains that norms consist in nothing other than the duties and
virtues embedded in the central institutions of modern social life.
These institutions are the family, civil society, and the state.
Different way of looking at morality from Kant. There are pros and cons to this thesis.
What ought I ought to? (Appeal of the ethical life thesis)
What Hegel wants to argue is the answer is to look to the traditions and institutions of
your society – what do those prescribe?
What duties do you have to your family? How do you work within this institution to
balance responsibilities and leisure/self-interests.
These institutions provide you with reason. You‟re a moral agent who‟s embedded to
these relationships – they come with identities and moral responsibilities. For a lot of the
proponents, it resonates into what would be plausible.
Empty Formalism Objection (against Kant)
Kant wants you to detach yourself from passions and desires and look at what reason
wants you to do. Hegel argues that once you detach away from all these things, there‟s
Revival of Hegel in 1990s, communitarianism position, was sympathetic to his account
of what it means to be a human being.
(1) What if duties conflict? Which should we follow?
(2) Most cited objection to Hegel is that what if these institutions are immoral? (Sexist,
racist, etc.) Legitimizing immoral attitudes. Merely reaffirms the status quo and all its
injustice. Justice is usually a critic of institutions.
Against the Conventional Reading
Textual support for reaching beyond the conventional reading.
(1) Hegel actually supported a number of reforms in Prussia during this period. Some of
those reforms failed. He adopted a critical perspective.
Supported that all citizens, not just hereditary nobles, should be eligible for
the civil service.
Supported public criminal trials.
Trial by jury.
If Hegel is suggesting that there are shortcomings in the Prussian state in the time he is
writing, he is inconsistent with his writings. So he favoured some moderate reform.
4 (2) His account of freedom. If we make sense of what he argues, it has to be the case
that Hegel has much more to offer than to justify the status quo.
Different from common understanding.
Hegel‟s conception of freedom: “Free agent is one who limits himself, but in this other is
What we can see in other elements in Hegel‟s writings, is that he identifies two
conditions. When these two conditions are met, then freedom is real.
(1) Subjective element
(2) Objective element
An agent is free “with himself” in some action or relationship and therefore is fully free, if
and only if:
(1) The agent has both reflected on the determination in question and found
some subjective satisfaction in performing it. You‟re doing something because
you actually want to do it; resonates with some desire or passions. It registers
with something in your psychology.
(2) The content of the determination and the disposition that motivates the
agent to pursue the determination are both prescribed by reason. You‟re
doing what reason prescribes.
Under what circumstances would subjective and objective conditions align?
This distinctive account of freedom is known as RATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION.
Different from contract theory;
Locke: what form of government would free and equal people consent to.
Hegel: social institutions play a vital role in shaping us as free and rational
5 Jeremy Bentham
Freedom as rational self-determination
Different from contract theory:
Locke: What form of government would free and equal people consent to
Hegel: social institutions play a vital role in shaping us as free and rational individuals
Rousseau: Can compel someone to be free rational self telling you what is right and
BUT, Very counter-intuitive and doesn‟t match up with our intuitions about liberty,
empirical self/rational self not satisfied, cant deal with the problem of wrong doing and
What is required? * (Hegel)
The institutions of modern social life:
1. The family
2. Civil society
3. The state
Traditional view: Duties of marriage Hegel‟s view is monogamous), parenthood, etc.….
Promote sense of love, trust, etc.…
The family is important for sentiment and affection
Obvious concern: feminist objections
Civil society/state distinction: not the way we usually think of the distinction (e.g.
voluntary and authoritative spheres)
Civil Society (Hegel): the domain in which individuals and groups have as their end
and object the “particular”, and relate only indirectly and unconsciously to the “universal”
(Universal is an unintended consequence)
Particular and universal good?
Particular goods = things that improve well being of agent (family, friends, etc.)
Universal goods= goods that are good for a general group or community
The State: domain in which individuals, groups, and institutions consciously and directly
have as their end and object the “universal”
Example: provide stable community of mutual recognition
Civil Society/ The State
1. Civil society is the sphere in which agents have the particular as their end and object;
2. The universal is an unintended consequence of this pursuit of the particular in civil
3. The state is the sphere in which agents constantly have the universal as their end
The Institutions of Modern Social Life
How do the institutions of the modern state promote our freedom?
1 Hegel: freedom requires we be members (not just persons)
Participating members of certain institutions
Each encourages us to work for others
Family: works through sentiment and affection
Civil society: through invisible hand mechanism
State: caters to our particular interests (e.g. family and civil society) (subjectively) and
provides for a rational way of life (objectively).
Private Property (Hegel)
1. Self-perception we see ourselves in property; e.g. things we make
2. Self-development helps us develop and sustain our personality
Legal positivism vs. Natural Law
Are laws moral or just?
“The existence of law is one thing; its merit and demerit another” (English jurist John
Austin) It‟s a factual question; is x legal in a country; but nothing to do with whether
it‟s a good law or a bad law?
“ An unjust law is no law at all” (Natural law tradition- St. Augustine) if it grossly unjust
then it has no business being a law
Legal positivism: emphasize the conventional nature of law (of specific countries)
Bentham‟s radical suggestion: distinguish between descriptive and critical jurisprudence
the past doesn‟t mean that what went on was right, not whether it was just or not
adopt a critical perspective: law is human made and justification should be made on
what is the consequences of these laws are on human happiness
Obligation is not grounded on social contract (never happened).
Bentham a fierce critic on natural law and social contract
It is grounded on utility
Talk of “natural rights” is “nonsense on stilts”.
Bentham and Utilitarianism
The right action/policy is that which produces “the greatest happiness of the greatest
What are the consequences of pursuing x or y
What action makes the most people happy
Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism
Looking to the consequences of actions
2 Jeremy Bentham & Intro to John Stuart Mill
Founder of utilitarianism.
Background: odd character, radical critic of legal traditions in England.
Bentham and Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism: the right action/policy is that which produces “the greatest happiness of
the greatest number.”
Rational and impartial way of looking at morality in politics. Everyone counts as an
equal. Many potential virtues. Also has potential deficiencies.
Version of consequentialism. Not all consequentialists are utilitarians.
Jeremy Bentham has an account about what consequences matter, which are pain and
pleasure. What makes an account/policy right or wrong is its consequences. We
engage in actions that bring about pleasure. Pursuit of pleasure helps explain a lot of
what human beings do.
Hedonic view because it takes interpretation of human welfare and refines it to
maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain.
“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and
pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine
what we shall do.”
“What we ought to do” – normative.
“What we shall do” – descriptive.
Famous remark – “the game of pushpin (child‟s game) is of equal value to poetry if it
gives one the same amount of pleasure.”
This is criticized by John Stuart Mill, who argues that there are higher and lower
Bentham‟s Calculus of Happiness
Very ambitious calculation, but has redeeming virtues. There are various factors.
Case: Imagine if you are deciding between staying in to study for a midterm OR go to a
keg party someone‟s throwing.
1) Intensity of pleasure
Reading political theory vs. going to a party.
2) Duration of pleasure
Consider duration of pleasure. Some pleasures last a few seconds, others
last a long period of time.
Pleasure you get from a good mark.
Pleasure you get from possibly meeting a new person.
3) Its certainty/uncertainty
Likelihood of a good party.
Certainty/uncertainty of doing well depends on how much work you put in.
4) Remoteness (nearness in time)
1 Bias against immediate gratification. Bentham says don‟t go for the pleasure
5) Fecundity (likelihood that it will be followed by sensations of the same kind)
Consider not only the immediate pleasures but other pleasures that come
6) Purity (likelihood that it will be followed by opposite sensations)
Some actions are pleasurable but also come with pain.
Bentham believes you can quantify all these things. This can then lead to some
7) Extent (the number of persons to whom it extends)
Parents would want you to stay in and study.
Everything before this factor looks very self-interested. This factor includes
the happiness of others.
How many people does it impact?
Treatment of Animals
Contribution of positivism.
Pioneer of the status of non-humans. As a utilitarian, relevant criteria is whether or not
other things feel pain or pleasure.
Moral concern applies to all sentient beings, not just humans (animals can feel
Resonates with us in the 21 century. A lot of what he says can be seen as self-evident
truths, but at the time he was writing, this was a radical proposal.
Central prescription of the greatest happiness principle is that democracy should be
where we‟re heading since it is required by the greatest happiness principle.
He offers us a succinct justification for democracy. It‟s not perfect, but delivers the best
Bentham Plan of Parliamentary Reform.
James Mill Essay on Government.
These two authors are proposing radical, democratic transformation.
Main virtue/merits, while not perfect, is the best system to minimize abusing power, but
also allowing government to secure goods. Democracy provides checks and balances
of government power.
Idea of accountability – greatest happiness for greatest numbers is more likely realized
when government is accountable for the population.
Democracy is about electing representatives. If they‟re not happy with the
representative, they can kick them out.
Bentham rejects monarchy – stringent critique of monarchy. Monarchy wields a lot of
power at the time he is writing. Burke wants to preserve order, but Bentham disagrees
2 He does not advocate direct democracy. That would be too inefficient.
Representative democracy is the best.
The Septennial Act 1715: increased maximal length of Parliament from 3 years to 7
Both James Mill and Jeremy Bentham were critical of this. The reason for this is
because what it meant was it would wither away accountability.
Bentham proposes holding elections every year. The payoff would be high
accountability. Governments would have a 1 year window to get things done. A move in
the opposite direction from the Septennial Act.
Disagreements between Bentham and Mill in regards to allowing representatives to be
reelected. Bentham was opposed to this. Danger of corruption would be too high. In
certain conditions, it could be permitted, but in general, it would be desirable to bring in
new people, ensuring efficiency.
The other disagreement was that Mill believed the vote should be given to men over 40.
Bentham believed it should be lowered to 21, and also include women in the vote.
Justification much more likely to create greatest happiness for the greatest number.
(1) Arguments raised against Bentham, the first being the account of human welfare.
Robert Nozick takes issue with the account of happiness.
Bentham: welfare is equated with the experience or sensation of pleasure.
(a) Nozick‟s virtual reality machine test the “experience machine”. Imagine
there‟s a machine that will mimic all the sensations of whatever you want to
o Nozick asks us to imagine if this was possible and asks how many
people would want that for the rest of their life.
o If majority of people have hesitation, then this suggests that human
welfare cannot be reduced to mental sensations.
o Value in non-hedonic fashion.
Another similar example is the case of a friend who has a wife that is cheating
and now there‟s a question about whether or not you should tell him.
o The Bentham idea would promote not telling the friend.
o The idea of authenticity of happiness.
o Reason for questioning adequacy of Hedonist assumption.
(b) John Stuart Mill: not just about the quantity of pleasures. Bentham‟s
hedonism suggests that we should get as much pleasure and happiness as
we can. JSM has this view that there are some pleasures that are higher and
it‟s better to have those than to simply pursue lower pleasures. Quality
(2) One of the main objections. Simply too demanding. The requirement that we seek to
bring about the greatest happiness for the greatest number requires too much of us.
3 Morality requires to live giving up everything to satisfy the greatest happiness for the
Good example: the family. If you‟re a good utilitarian, instead of taking the
kids out to the beach, you should write a cheque for tackling poverty
somewhere else in the world.
o Best utilitarian would be the crappy parent.
o Too demanding.
You can place some extra weight on other things.
(3) Most common objection: utilitarianism permits injustice. It leads to a political theory
that puts the welfare of society above the importance of individual rights.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Topics: Utilitarianism (1863), On Liberty (1859), Considerations on Representative
Government (1861), and The Subjection of Women (1869)
Born in England, very influenced by Bentham. Son of James Mill. Received a rigorous
education from a young age. His father started teaching him Greek at the age of 3,
started learning Latin at age 8. By age 7, he was reading many of Plato‟s dialogues but
When he was 20, he suffers a mental breakdown, which he attributed to the lack of any
emotional education. Never taught how to develop his emotions, what appropriate mode
of response is, etc. Went through a period of severe depression. What lifted him was a
love of poetry.
William Wordsworth: Ode: intimations of Immorality.
Resonates with JSM. As he suffers with depression, he ponders the value of his life in
part because of the deprivation of emotive development.
This passage from Wordsworth‟s poem inspires him and has a lasting impact in terms of
what he wants to argue.
Went on to write great works of political philosophy.
Mill‟s utilitarianism: 3 central issues.
(1) Brings in a distinction of higher and lower pleasures.
(2) Also brings in “proof” of the principle of utility.
(3) Justice and utilitarianism.
“…the Greatest Happiness Principle holds that actions are right in proportion as they
tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”
He has trouble with the idea that the quantity of pleasure is all that matters.
4 The quality of pleasure, not just quantity, is important.
Example: Haydn and the Oyster. Which life do you want to live? As a good
utilitarian, you must make a decision on utilitarianism.
o Haydn lives 77 years, compose great music, travel around the world,
be very famous and rich, etc.
o An oyster has mild, sensual pleasure. Imagine floating in a pool with a
beer for as long as you want. Less pleasure.
o Is the finite time (77 years) more appealing than the infinite time?
o Bentham, if it‟s o