PHIL 153 Study Guide - Final Guide: Harm Principle, Common Stock, Justice As Fairness

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29 Jan 2013
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Part One: Anarchy and Government
According to Thomas Hobbes, why are individuals mutually vulnerable in the state of nature, and what are the
implications of mutual vulnerability for the social contract?
- State of nature: natural state
o No preposed conditions
o No legal/political institutions
o Social but apolitical: people live together but we are not mandated by legal/political power
o Under the state of nature, we are all equal, unabated, unhindered by institutions that would otherwise
give some power over others
o This is premise one: natural equality
Some men are smarter/faster/stronger than others
But we are all able to hurt one another despite the small range of differences
The weaker man can plot and kill the strongest man despite possessing less strength
Therefore, under the state of nature, we are all mutually vulnerable
Even if you are the strongest, smartest person, you don‟t know if your neighbor will turn on you
Therefore, we are mutually vulnerable.
o in addition to natural equality, state of nature involves:
similar interests, abilities, desires
scarcity of needs/wants
the possibility of conflict
just the possibility of conflict alone makes the state of nature a state of war
o in the state of nature, we have jus natural, natural liberty
able to do what we need to in order to ensure survival
o therefore, in a state of nature, we may do whatever is necessary to ensure survival even it is at the
expense of our neighbors (note that Hobbes makes exceptions for the laws of nature; things that are
destructive to life)
o we are constantly living in fear that others will do things that will harm our well-being/sustenance
o therefore, reason dictates that we should look to end the state of war
o via a social contract
establishment of a commonwealth and a sovereign within the social contract is necessary due to
our mutual vulnerabilities
commonwealth is necessary:
we are vulnerable (mutually) in small groups (family or even a village)
therefore, we need larger communities
sovereign is necessary:
protections from those within the group/commonwealth
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What are key differences between the account of the state of nature offered by Thomas Hobbes and John
Locke, and how do these differences impact their views of morally legitimate government?
- Both natural law and social contract theorists but the similarities for the most part ends there
Locke
Hobbes
- Men usually kept their promises/obligations
- Usually peaceful believed in natural law
o We give up our right to exact
retribution for crimes in return for
impartial justice backed by
overwhelming force
o Role of the state is to ensure that
justice has been done
o Men have rights by nature
o Because men as a whole are not
nasty as Hobbes would make you
believe, rulers should have limited
rights and individuals have more
limits as to what they may consent
to
Ultimately, this indicates a
democratic government
since men are capable of
governing themselves (and
by extension, each other)
We can seek retribution via a
third party (we can not be our
own judges because we are
emotionally attached to our own
cause
- Life of continual danger
- Morality was purely external
we only act morally because of fear
of repurcussions
- “no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and
danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary,
poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
o Since men by nature are so shitty, it makes sense
to transfer all power to a soverign- we are clearly
too dangerous, narrow minded, and stupid to
wield these rights ourselves
- state of nature = state of war
o Because you are vulnerable, a rational person will seek to
protect themselves (and do arguably bad things)
Thus, a state of war
o No matter what the sovereign does, it is not a
violation of the contract
o Do what you are told and you have the right to
not be killed
o No right to rebel
o What the state does is just by definition because
they are there to provide the security and lessen
the mutual vulnerability people would have
otherwise
Therefore, authoritarianism is the best
form of government
Conflicting opinions threatens the
stability of the state
-
-
Part Two: Tyranny of the Majority
On Will Kymlicka’s view, how is the unchosen inequality of circumstances faced by members of national
minority communities a form of tyranny of the majority?
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- Even in a democratic institution, a national minority may find themselves being consistently outvoted,
outbidded, over legitimate grievances
o When other minorities (i.e. an environmentalist) are outbid, this is a fair part of the system (even if
unfortunate to the environmentalist)
- Individual choice and fairness necessitates stable and consistent cultural context
o Minorities are consistently outbid/outvoted on matters crucial to survival/stability of communities
o Difference between choice and context in which the choice is mad
We are responsible for the choice, but not the context in which they are made
- There is a risk that democratic institutions will become a tyrant of the majority against minorities without
safeguards
- Everyone wants to lead the good life but this involves a cultural precondition
o The majority could impose their own rules on this
What is John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, and how does it protect against tyranny of the majority?
- Before talking about the harm principle, Mill extensively outlines the history of tyranny against the majority
o From this, he makes one important conclusions: “There is a limit to how far collective opinion can
legitimately interfere with individual independence.” And finding that limit is of utmost importance
- John Stuart Mill‟s harm principle states that we should all be allowed to act in the way we wish as long as that
action does not harm others. No one should be forcibly prevented from acting in the way they choose provided
his act is not harming the security of others
o Parentalism: not suitable grounds for interference
People should be able to pursue happiness the way they see fit even if it isn‟t in line with their
own idea of happiness
- Distinction between public and private spheres
o the individual is sovereign within the private sphere we only owe answers to things that concern other
people
3 domains:
Freedom of conscience/thought/opinion
Autonomy- freedom to form, rationalize, pursue one‟s own idea of the good life
Freedom of association & disassociation.
- Why does the harm principle protect against the tyranny of the majority?
o Minorities should be allowed to pursue the life they want even if it is in the face of the majority
o The majority may not dictate what you, a minority believe, your way of life, or who you associate
yourself with
o The private sphere is crucial for minorities to be able to be free
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