Justifying the State Reading Notes

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

Justifying the State: Utilitarianism, the Principles of Fairness Reading Notes Introduction  Sooner or later, among any fairly sizeable group of people, life in the state of nature will become intolerable  that we have no alternative to the state acts as negative justification we cannot think of anything better  An argument showing a positive moral reasoning to show our duty to obey the state Consent Theory- Locke  Humans not naturally under the authority of any other person  The only way of coming under another person’s authority is to give that person your consent  State is justified if and only if every individual over which it claims authority has consented Utilitarian Theory- Jeremy Bentham  Primary value not autonomy but happiness  We should aim to maximize the sum total of happiness in society  State is justified if and only if it produces more happiness than any alternative The fundamental idea of utilitarianism is that the morally correct action in any situation is that which brings about the highest possible sum of utility. (Utility= happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction of desires) Interpersonal comparisons of utility- the problem of finding a way of comparing happiness What would a utilitarian theory of political obligation look like?  Jeremy Bentham: we should obey our rulers as long as the benefit of obeying them outweighs the costs  Only obey if my obedience leads to a greater happiness than disobedience would  If we all broke the law whenever we wanted (thinking it would increase our happiness), like stealing other peoples’ possessions, possession would be extremely insecure and uncertain  People would lose the will to produce anything in fear of it being stolen  Insecurities would lead to overall unhappiness and insecurity (like state of nature) Indirect Utilitarianism- a body of laws exist and are respected, even if breaking one of these laws would, if permitted, cause an increase in happiness. (obey the laws to gain happiness) The direct search for happiness is usually self-defeating. However, by creating goals, engaging in social activities, or pursuing ambitions can often generate happiness as an indirect consequence. The state as provider and enforcer of a body of law, is justified if and only if it contributes more to human happiness than any feasible competing arrangement. Scapegoatism: people can be victimized and kept in prison even when innocent , which could cause general insecurity, but if the public never finds out, they will not worry The Principle of Fairness  Anyone who gains advantage from the state has a duty of fairness to obey the law, pay taxes  Can only succeed if everyone accepts the benefit of the state, which is unlikely Hume  We do need a state, but may have to make short- term sacrifices  We will profit from a state in forms of justice, and security  We will only flourish if everyone obeys the law  Even though it may be in our best interest long term to obey the law, humans lack the ability to act rationally, therefore we are likely to prefe
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