Week One – Intro to Philosophy
Contemporary political philosophy asks these questions:
1. Who gets what? (distribution of ‘goods’)
• Ex. Imagine we are in a society. Do the people in the back row get less than the people in the
2. Says who? (who is in charge, who distributes political power)
• Ex. We decide the most important thing is to have property. – is there any good reason one person
could have more property than the other?
Traditional picture (Left wing and a right wing)
Equality (Liberals) Free Market
• Author says it is flawed. People have different foundational values if someone says freedom is more
important than equality, how do you judge the theories?
• Any political theory worth its salt has to have Equality. Every theory has to have EQUALITY.
“Every plausible political theory has the same ultimate value, which is equality”
Equality as foundational
Equality is a foundational value – the starting point for the theory so that if hat our goal is to figure out what theory
has the best conception of equality that means that equality will be the starting point. Any theory worth its salt will
have it as its value:
1) Equality is an intrinsic value
Equality as foundational: the idea that equality is intrinsically valuable and the foundation of any reasonable political
• Inherent/intrinsic value: something that is valuable in and of itself – it is valuable in itself!
o Ex. Free speak, relationships, love, friendship
• Instrumental good: something that is valuable as a means to an end – we value it because what it
o Ex. Money, a functional car. • It matters because we are not sure how it pertains to equality
Logic and Critical Reasoning
• Logical is the study of inference – of inferential reasoning about what follows from what.
• What is called collect reasoning, we leave it at inference
• Arguments in philosophy are not like ordinary conversations. Conversations we disagree on something
• An argument is a verbal expression of reasoning. In logical, and argument is not a disagreement or a
• ** An argument consists of sets of sentences consisting of one or more premises, which contain the
evidence and a conclusion which is supposed to follow from the premises. **
Example of an argument
Socrates is a man ▯ (premises)
All men are mortal ▯
Thus Socrates is mortal ▯ (conclusion)
• Notice that the term ‘argument’, as we have defined it, applies to bad arguments as well as good
• If the premises imply the conclusion, then the argument in question is a good one.
• An argument is (deductively valid) so long as the argument is such that the conclusion must be true
id the premises are true
• IF THE PREMISES IS TRUE THEN THE CONCLUSION WILL BE TRUE!
More sample arguments
Socrates was a U.S President
All U.S Presidents are women Therefore, Socrates was Greek
NOT VAILD ARGUMENT
Therefore, Socrates was a woman Socrates was a philosopher
VAILD ARGUMENT All philosophers are human
Socrates was a philosopher Therefore, Socrates was a fish
All philosophers are human NOT VAILD ARGUMENT •
• Cannot have a premises that are true and a conclusion that is false!
Valid arguments can be:
T, F, F
T, T, T
T, F, T
• An argument which is valid, and whose premises are all true.
• By contrast, is one in which it is possible for the premises all to be true but the conclusion false.
If it is raining then there are clouds in the sky.
There are clouds in the sky.
Therefore, it is raining.
THIS SAYS: if p, then q …. Q/ P INVALID
Switch the p and q
Remember: to say that an argument is valid is to say that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be
true. This means that arguments with false premises may be valid, and arguments with true conclusions may be
Week Two – Utilitarianism
• Normative political theory – how a society ought to be structured.
• Interested in the descriptive political theory – how a society is, in fact, structured.
• Asking ourselves HOW should we structure the state?
• Position that all other political theories get measured against.
• Taught as an ethical theory, BUT we will focus on political theory.
• Morally right act/ policy = greatest happiness for greatest number.
o The greatest happiness for the greatest number of people
o Maximize greatest happiness utility for the greatest number of people • 1 it doesn’t depend on God
o You do not look to God you would look at what the consequences would be for you.
o OR forget the consequences
o Consequentialist aspect. – Political theory that did not depend on God.
o What would the consequence of our actions be? – The answer use to be do what God would do
make you do.
• 2 Its consequentialist. What matter is that our actions or morals or laws must be tested by their
consequences on human wellbeing?
o The right action brings about the least consequence
• Human welfare
• Which consequences do we maximize?
• Definition: the first stage of utilitarianism is to give an account of human welfare, or “utility”
1. Welfare hedonism:
• Simple pleasures are the greatest good (oldest view least plausible). Is everything reducible
• Nozick and his ‘experience machine’
2. Nonhedonistic mentalstate utility:
• Maximize the pleasures of your mental state, whatever that mental state is be it achieved
from reading poetry or pulling grass.
3. Preference satisfaction:
• Utility is maximized by satisfying preferences.
• Also what about ‘adaptive preferences’? – ex. The ‘contented housewife’
4. Informed preferences:
• Welfare equals informed or rational preferences.
• Recalcitrant experience – how do we know when we are informed? • Rational by whose standards?
• Second issue. Once we’ve defined utility we need to figure out how to maximize utility
• We do have limited resources, so whose (informed) preferences count?
• Bring about consequences which satisfy the greatest number of (informed)preferences amongst
people in the society
• Everyone’s preference’s matter equally – sounds like a good way to characterize equality.
• Everyone counts for one and only one!
• No one counts one bit more or one bit less than people who you have not met!
Intuition: our first but also reflect view
1 Biggest Problem
• Special relationships don’t matter!
o If any situation you can maximize utility by NOT doing your commitments turns out that you can
maximize utility by NOT doing it ex. By giving 10$ you owe to someone else in need.
o Backwards entitlements – promise keeping. I’ll do this for you if you do that for me.
You have to forego your commitments – that is what utilitarian’s believe.
o Duties or commitments – living in a society where no one keeps their promises it will create chaos
and will NOT maximize utility in the long run.
o Employee/employer vs. husband/wife –you make a commitment to them!
o Just one measure of utility. – if you can maximize a strangers utility more than your special
relationship IT DOESN’T MATTER
We all count for one! Special relationships do not count for more than a stranger.
o Think of the consequences
o But isn’t this an inadequate account of promisekeeping?
o Bigger problem: alienating
It makes us alien to those things in life, to the people who we care about in life. Not keeping your commitment you can strain your relationship.
Reasons why it is alienating:
• Reason 1: our relationships will fall apart, they will not flourish
• Reason 2: it asks us to treat people who we don’t know the same the way we
treat the people we are close with.
2 biggest problem
• Perhaps utility is increased in Alberta by banning homosexuals from living there
o What if this isn’t uniformed, just ‘illegitimate’?
We might think it is wrong but it may not be uniformed.
o How do we block the horrific views?
o How do we measure these problems with utilitarianism against our everyday morality?
o Actutilitarianism; do whatever it takes to maximize the utility
One problem: not well suited to make the calculations
• Go from:
o Act > Rule
Would a general rule be rules we could see as maximizing utility? Probably not.
Utilitarian’s sometimes say:
• So if its right to maximize utility and we can only accomplish that by employing nonutilitarian decision
making procedures, then that is what we must do!
1 argument: Equal consideration of interests:
1. People matter, and matter equally; therefore
2. Each person’s interests should be given equal weight; therefore
3. Morally right act will maximize utility.
Week Three – Liberal Equality
• We need to protect people, but which rights and liberties should we protect?
• How ever we structure our state we need to protect our people.
• 1 principle – each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic
liberties (ex. right to vote, run for office, free speech, due process etc), compatible with a similar system of
liberty for all. o If you are all to have the right to free speech, etc. then my right to trample to your so called free
speech is as CLASH.
o It limits the rights of somebody else
o Rights with everyone with limiting the certain number of freedoms for others.
• 2 principle – the difference principle
o Social and economic inequalities (your social primary goods) are to be arranged so that they are
To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, and attached to offices and positions open
to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
We can allow inequalities in society if and ONLY IF it benefits the less welloff in society.
• One taps into our equality of opportunity, another to the social contract
1 argument for the difference principle: the intuitive equality of opportunity argument
• What makes sense of equality of opportunity?
o it benefits a lot of people
• Job posting – requirements you be in the class
o As long as you all are entitled to apply for it and even if one gets the job it is fair.
• Prevailing justification for economic distribution: equality of opportunity – so long as we all have a fair go at
earning $1,000,000, its okay that someone earns that.
o Why do we think it is fair? We often think they deserve it because they earned it.
• This is not ok. He requires equality of opportunity, but denies that the people who fill the positions
are thus entitled to a greater share of society’s resources
What makes sense about equality of opportunity?
• People only get more if they earn it, and they’re not precluded from earning it because of morally
arbitrary factors: race, ethnicity, gender, class, etc.
• Morally arbitrary facts – facts that are not relevant.
• The kind of social inequality that may result from massively gross difference in wealth that results in
• Social inequality is unfair, sure, but so is inequality in natural talents both are causes of brute luck. • Where you were born and what talents you were born with is brute luck! – natural lottery
• If it’s the case that you happen to be born with a set of talents that enables you to rise to the top,
you didn’t really actually earn that in some sense. Those talents were ones that you were born with!
• You shouldn’t profit from the talents that you were born with.
• If as a result of the natural lottery you ended up with a certain set of talents and earn a lot of social
goods, those social goods should be distributed to others.
• Don’t erase the talents, but set up our social system so that no one gains or loses from her
arbitrary place in the distribution of talents.
• Aren’t there inequalities that result from choice?
2 argument: social contract argument
• What would we chose a state of nature?
o Rawl’s is going to ask us to imagine that we don’t know any facts ao but ourselves of the
source (talents). Imagine no principle justice in state.
• It is a hypothetical intuitions about justice and fairness.
People in the ‘original position’:
• There are no theories of government that are governing at this stage.
• We are developed in some important respect
• State we are in before we