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Philosophy - Hobbes, Harm Principle, Legal Moralism

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Byron Williston

Political philosophy is the normative study between the individual and the state. This is about both what we owe to the state and what it owes to us. Body-politic: Thomas Hobbes defined 3 key points to the state-as-„body‟ analogy. 1) The importance of sovereignty: “supremacy with respect to power and rank” 2) The supreme authority must also be seen as legitimate: “has the consent of the people – think of the coat (leviathan) and how it is full of the people. 3) Concord (agreement) and sedition (disagreement) correspond, respectively, to health and sickness. Optimal level of peace and union. The way that cancer in the body would be sedition – in regards to politics; civil war is the absolute worst sedition in Hobbes‟ mind. Definition of the state: A nation or territory considered as a single political community organized under a sovereign and legitimate government. The key components of the state are: 1) A specific territory 2) A sovereign authority 3) Legitimacy: political tyranny (North Korea) is not seen as a state because they are not legitimate Harm Principle: “My freedom ends at the tip of your nose” – John Stuart Mill Mill has three key points: 1) Individuals should be free to express themselves any way they see fit. 2) The only limit to that freedom is the ability of others in society to express themselves. 3) The state is never justified in preventing me from harming myself (rejection of paternalism). The state can only intervene when other people are harmed. Legal Moralism: Placing limitations on individual liberty in the interests of clear moral standards. 2 reasons to oppose legal moralism: 1) No victim= no crime (think of the harm principle) 2) There is too much disagreement about values in society to
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