The Moral Foundations of Politics (The Open Yale Courses Series)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
When do governments merit our allegiance, and when should they be denied it? Ian Shapiro explores this most enduring of political dilemmas in this innovative and engaging book. Building on his highly popular Yale courses, Professor Shapiro evaluates the main contending accounts of the sources of political legitimacy. Starting with theorists of the Enlightenment, he examines the arguments put forward by utilitarians, Marxists, and theorists of the social contract. Next he turns to the anti-Enlightenment tradition that stretches from Edmund Burke to contemporary post-modernists. In the last part of the book Shapiro examines partisans and critics of democracy from Plato’s time until our own. He concludes with an assessment of democracy’s strengths and limitations as the font of political legitimacy. The book offers a lucid and accessible introduction to urgent ongoing conversations about the sources of political allegiance.
entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is selfprotection. That the only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a
that is ‘‘political, not metaphysical.’’ His appeal is to an ‘‘overlapping consensus’’ on principles that are likely to ‘‘persist over generations and to gain a sizable body of adherents in a more or less just constitu- the social contract 119 tional regime, a regime in which the criterion of justice is that political conception itself.’’≥∞ Rawls’s ‘‘political, not metaphysical’’ intuition is that people might agree on a set of principles without agreeing on the reasons for their agreement.
Chamberlain example revealed, the di≈culty with embracing transactional conceptions of freedom go beyond immunizing them from unjust starting points.∂∫ Rawls’s identiﬁcation of the standpoint of justice with that of the least advantaged invites attention to the e√ects of transactional freedom on the condition of those at the bottom, and his moral arbitrariness argument leads us to question whether Chamberlain justly derives advantage from his unusual talent in the ﬁrst place. That is, Rawls is
Cartesian-Kantian project that revolved around achieving indubitable certainty. On Rorty’s account, to think of knowledge as presenting a ‘‘problem’’ about which we ought to have a ‘‘theory’’ is fundamentally misconceived. The obsession with foundational questions, he contends, begins with Descartes’s ‘‘invention’’ of the mind, his ‘‘coalescence of beliefs and sensations into Lockean ideas’’ that provided a ﬁeld of inquiry that seemed more fundamental than that which had concerned the ancients, a
hermeneutics and be satisﬁed with an interpretive discourse that ‘‘keeps the conversation going.’’∞≠ His outlook has produced predictable charges of relativism which Rorty tends to deﬂect playfully without engaging seriously. He intimates that the skeptic’s request for criteria by which we say that one answer is better than another reveals his inability to get beyond the expectations built into the Enlightenment project. Yet Rorty glosses over questions about deep disagreements within cultures