An Introduction to Political Philosophy - Jonathan Wolff.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

Politics 1020 An Introduction to Political Philosophy – Jonathan Wolff Chapter 1: The State of Nature - Determine the balance between autonomy and authority o Determine the proper distribution of political power - Normative discipline o Establish norms, rules, or ideal standards o How things should be: what is right, just or morally correct - Descriptive o Find out how things are Hobbes - It is impossible for humans to live without a state - Hobbes feared the evil of the civil war and anarchy - Nothing could be worse than the state without protection - Two keys to understanding human nature: o Self-knowledge  Nature of humans thoughts, hopes, and fears o Knowledge of general principles of physics - Theory of the conservation of motion o Humans are always searching for something, never at rest - Fear of death will naturally bring humans to create a state - Power: one’s present means to obtain some future apparent good - Riches, reputations, and friends are all sources of power - Humans have a restless desire of power after power - Everyone’s natural attempt to increase power will lead to competition o But competition is not war - Human beings are equal by nature o Equality is often used in political and moral philosophy as a basis for the argument that we should respect other people - We are equal in a sense that all humans possess roughly the same level of strength and skill o Any human being has the capacity to kill another - There is a scarcity of goods in the state of nature o Two people who desire the same kind of thing will often desire to possess the same thing - No one in the state of nature can make himself invulnerable against the possibility of attack - Some people will attack others, even if they pose no threat o Purely to gain reputation of strength as means of future protection - State of war is not constant fighting, but a constant readiness to fight o No one can relax and let down their guard - Laws of Nature could be called a moral code - If people are motivated to obey the moral law, perhaps the state of nature could be more peaceful - Fundamental Law of Nature tells us it is rational to seek peace - Individual vs collective rationality o Collective: What is best for each individual, assuming that everyone acts the same way o Individual: To attack others, leading to the state of war - State of nature is where everyone is rightly suspicious of everyone else, which leads to war, where people will attack to gain safety and reputation - Life is miserable, racked by fear and lacking material comforts and sources of well being - Few will engage in long term plans and will spend their time fighting battles Locke - Believed it would be possible to live life without a government - No one naturally has a right to rule - State of perfect freedom - State of equality o No one has the natural right to subordinate another - Law of Nature o No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions o Man kind is to be preserved for as much as possible o We have a clear duty not to harm others in the state of nature (except for purposes of self defense) - State of liberty o We are given the liberty to do only what is morally permitted - Locke’s conclusion is that the state of nature does not need to be a state of war - Nature has given things richly - There is a natural abundance of land o Very little reason for conflict and dispute o Most people would rather cultivate their own plot than invade their neighbors - The initial abundance of land will eventually turn to scarcity o Not through massive population growth, but through greed and the invention of money - Once land is short in supply and under dispute, it becomes imperative to establish government o It is initially peaceful, eventually the state of nature becomes unbearable Rousseau - Primarily motivated by the desire for self preservation - Compassion acts as a powerful restraint on the drives that might lead to attack and war - Notions of law, right, and morality have no place in the state of nature - We generally try to avoid harming others, not because we recognize that harm is immoral, but because we have an aversion to harm - We are naturally sympathetic to others, and are upset by their suffering - Nature has equipped the savage to survive alone - To be a consequence of indulgence and unhealthy habits, the savage desires only food, sexual satisfaction, sleep, and fears only hunger and pain - Natural solitude rules out any desire for glory or reputation o The savage has no desire for power - We are dependent on what we used to call luxuries Chapter 2: Justifying the State - Examine consent theory and the utilitarian theory - Moral defense of the state The State - Sociologist Max Weber said “states possess a monopoly of legitimate violence. Within any state, violence or coercion is seen as primarily the states’ business. Either directly, through its agents – the police and law courts – or indirectly, through the permissions it gives citizens to be violent to each other on occasion: in self-defense. All legitimate violence or coercion is undertaken or supervised by the state.” (page 36) - State accepts the responsibility of protecting everyone who lives within its borders from illegitimate violence (page 36) - We forfeit the right to protect ourselves only on the understanding that we do not need self protection; the state will do what is necessary for us (page 36) - State has two essential features: (page 36) o Maintains a monopoly of legitimate coercion or violence o Offers protection to everyone within it’s territory - No state can really monopolize violence or protect everyone within it’s territory (page 36) - State has no business trying to monopolize the means of violence (page 37) o US citizens claim right to arm themselves in self defense o Argue that the government has no authority over this matter - Not true that state offers protection to all (page 37) o Ignored unfavoured minorities  Ethnic groups  Suffer from violence from the state itself: persecution, purges, ethnic cleansing The Goal of Justification - Task of justifying the state is the task of showing that there are universal political obligations (page 37) o To say someone has political obligations is to say they have the duty to obey the law of land, pay taxes, to fight in defense of the state, behave patriotically, seek out and expose enemies of the state (page 38) - We obey the law because it is the law, not necessarily because we think it is morally justified (page 38) o Some taxes are used to build nuclear warheads, but tax payers feel an obligation to obey the tax laws (page 38)  Reluctantly continue to contribute to this and other projects because it is the law Voluntaristic Obligation - Self assumption principle: No one has any duties unless they have assumed those duties, voluntarily undertaken them (page 39) o Accept that we have some moral duties, whether or not we have agreed to them - Boy Scouts and school children are often required to pledge their allegiance to the flag or to “God and the Queen” but are given no real choice and are not old enough for their pledge to have legal standing (page 41) Hypothetical Consent - Although almost no one ever formally expresses their consent to the state, there is a sense in which all or must of us can be said to consent (page 45) o If we were required to think about the matter critically, we would express our consent o We can have beliefs we never brought to consciousness - Hypothetical contract is a way to get us to realize what we really think (page 45) o Reflecting on how you would behave in the state of nature Utilitarianism - Utilitarianism is the idea that the morally correct action in any situation brings out the highest possible total sum of utility (page 49) o Happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, desires or preferences o Requires one to perform the action that will create more happiness than any other action available at the time - Jeremy Bentham says we should obey our rulers as long as the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs (page 50) o I should obey the law but only if my obedience will lead me to a greater happiness - Jeremy Bentham’s beliefs o Laws should be passed only if they contribute more to human happiness than any competing law (or absence of law) would do o Laws should be obeyed because they are laws (and will be obeyed because disobedience means punishment) and should only be disobeyed to avoid disaster o Laws should be repealed and replaced if they fail to serve the proper utilitarian function - The best society is the one in which happiness is maximized (page 52) - State promotes happiness better than the state of nature - State and the state of nature are the only alternative we have - We have a moral duty to bring about and support the state - Scapegoat objection: Utilitarianism will permit enormous injustice in the pursuit of the general happiness The Principle of Fairness - Hart says once you reap the benefits, you must contribute (page 58) o Nozick argues that you did not ask for the benefits, therefore have no moral duty Chapter 3: Who Should Rule? - Democracy is government by the people Plato Against Democracy - Democracy is a mob rule: rule of the rabble, vulgar, unwashed and unfit (page 67) - Craft analogy: If you were ill and wanted advice on your health, you go to the doctor o You want to consult someone who had been specially trained to do the job o Last thing you would do is assemble a crowd and ask to vote on correct remedy - Making political decisions require judgment and s
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