Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy

Dudley Knowles
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Political Philosophy
    Book Description:

    In outlining the central problems of political philosophy, Knowles introduces the ideas of key thinkers, including Hobbes, Locke, Marx, and Mill, and influential contemporary theorists such as Berlin, Rawls, and Nozick. He discusses how to do political philosophy through a detailed examination of utilitarianism, exemplifying a commitment to the liberal practice of rational enquiry. Written in an easily readable style, Political Philosophy will be of interest general readers as well as to students and teachers of philosophy and political theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8604-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Young children, we understand, are born philosophers. They ask exasperated parents such deep questions as ‘Where is my mind?’ or ‘Is Granny living with all the other dead people in the churchyard?’. The spirit for philosophy which is born out of naïveté is soon extinguished, so the taste for philosophical reflection has to be rediscovered. I conjecture that it is an acquired taste, prompted by some strange contingency. Who knows the story behind your picking up this book? Still, some brands of philosophical enquiry are more likely to be prompted than others. An adolescent who found himself pondering the nature...

  5. Chapter 2 Utilitarianism
    (pp. 23-68)

    A good way to begin is by studying a deep and well-worked-out ethical theory which has commanded wide assent, reached clear conclusions when tackling the philosophical problems thrown up by our political life and produced unambiguous policy directives to settle practical questions. I select utilitarianism because I believe it has these features (or, at least, makes these claims). This has been recognized by many of the most impressive recent contributors to political philosophy. Few endorse utilitarianism — but most of them see the need to define their position against the utilitarian salient.¹ Utilitarianism should not be treated as a straw target;...

  6. Chapter 3 Liberty
    (pp. 69-132)

    One enjoyable, though probably fruitless, way to spend an afternoon would be to discuss which is the most prominent or important political value, which ideal carries most clout in political debates - in public bars or parliaments. Candidate values might include justice (more particularly, human rights or equality), democracy, and certainly, liberty. It is hard to think of a political manifesto that does not trumpet the prospect of liberty — and it is easy to think of fractious political disputes where freedom¹ is a contender on both sides of the issue. Freedom in education requires the provision of educational opportunity for...

  7. Chapter 4 Rights
    (pp. 133-176)

    Nowadays the rhetoric of human rights seems to be just about universal. No tyrants, no autocracy, seem to be so benighted that they refuse, in public at least, to endorse the claims of human rights. In practice they may jail or torture political opponents, or refuse to educate women, but when applying for aid to the United Nations they will give solemn assurances that human rights are respected in their jurisdiction, respected at least as far as is practical under conditions of emergency, respected at least in point of intent: that when the current crisis has been alleviated, normal conditions...

  8. Chapter 5 Distributive justice
    (pp. 177-238)

    In this chapter we shall address the problem of distributive justice, the vexed issue of how wealth and income, goods and services should be distributed or allocated amongst the population of a state. There are many candidate principles that may be applied, some of which I discuss explicitly in what follows, but before we advance any further, I should bring to your attention a restriction which I have placed on this investigation which you may well judge to be arbitrary. For many, the problem of social justice amounts in practice to the social question of how a society should cope...

  9. Chapter 6 Political obligation
    (pp. 239-298)

    Alfred Russell Whitehead is said to have said that all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato and Aristotle. It is a good saying and wouldn‘t be such a memorable falsehood if it did not contain a strong element of truth. It is a falsehood because, in the tradition of Western philosophy the Pre-Socratic philosophers deserve a mention. But just as obvious, there are more philosophical problems than were dreamt of by Plato and Aristotle in their philosophies (but perhaps not many more) and, equally, the repertory of arguments pro and con, the range of responses to these problems,...

  10. Chapter 7 Democracy
    (pp. 299-342)

    Thus far we have examined normative theories, notably utilitarianism, in their application to political questions, we have investigated central political ideals, liberty, rights and justice, and we have tackled the problem of political obligation. Much of this discussion has been conducted in a manner that supposed that there were two central characters: the state and the citizen. The question of the proper constitution of the state has arisen in a variety of contexts: political liberty requires that citizens be able to take part in the decision-making processes of the state, the right of citizens to participate is a crucial human...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 343-374)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 375-386)
  13. Index
    (pp. 387-392)