This Is Political Philosophy: An Introduction
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This is Political Philosophy is an accessible and well-balanced introduction to the main issues in political philosophy written by an author team from the fields of both philosophy and politics. This text connects issues at the core of political philosophy with current, live debates in policy, politics, and law and addresses different ideals of political organization, such as democracy, liberty, equality, justice, and happiness. Written with great clarity, This is Political Philosophy is accessible and engaging to those who have little or no prior knowledge of political philosophy and is supported with supplemental pedagogical and instructor material on the This Is Philosophy series site.


Alex Tuckness is a Professor at Iowa State University in the departments of Political Science and
Philosophy. His research focuses on toleration, mercy, punishment, international humanitarianism, and public service ethics. He is the author of Locke and the Legislative Point of View (2002) and The Decline of Mercy in Public Life (with John Michael Parrish, 2014) as well as numerous articles.

Clark Wolf is Professor at Iowa State University in the departments of Philosophy and Political Science. His research focuses on issues in the theory of justice, the philosophy of law, and bioethics. His work on law, intergenerational justice, political liberalism, intellectual property, reproductive ethics, and environmental ethics have appeared in Ethics and other major journals.


How to Use this Book xi

Preface xiii

Part I The Problem of Authority 1

1 Happiness 3

Doing Political Philosophy 4

Happiness, Welfare, and the Aims of Government 5

If You’re Happy Do You Know It? 5

The Pursuit of Happiness 6

Whose happiness? 7

Can you measure pleasure? 8

Future happiness 10

Pleasure and pain 11

Is happiness fulfilling your desires? 12

Do the ends justify the means? 14

Nozick’s Experience Machine 14

Happiness and virtue 15

The case of John Stuart Mill 17

Capabilities 18

Conflicts between liberty and happiness 22

Conflicts between equality and happiness 22

Happiness and Government 23

Happiness and Public Goods 24

Free Riding and Small Contributions 25

Philosophical objections 26

Should we evaluate political institutions according to their ability to make people happy? 27

References and Further Reading 28

Online Resources 30

2 Freedom 31

The Meaning of Freedom 34

The Fundamental Question 34

What Is Freedom? And Who Is Free? 35

Subjective and objective freedom 36

What counts as restraining freedom? 37

Freedom and consent 38

Republican liberty 39

Private freedom and public freedom 40

Negative and positive liberty 41

Paternalism, the Harm Principle, and Moralism 42

Paternalism 42

The harm principle 44

Moralism 48

Can (and should) we avoid moralism? 50

Conclusion 51

References and Further Reading 52

Online Resources 53

3 Equality 54

Introduction 55

How Unequal Are People in the United States? 56

Against Equality: A Politics of Procrustes? 57

Unequal Treatment and Discrimination 59

Equality as a Baseline? 61

Equality of Resources and Luck Egalitarianism 62

First objection: Disabilities 62

Second objection: Slavery of the talented 63

Third objection: Expensive tastes 63

Equality of Opportunity 64

Should we level down? 66

What Does Equality of Opportunity Require? 67

Inequalities in the Real World 68

Inequality or Deprivation? 71

Is Sufficiency Enough? 73

Complex Equality 73

Race, Gender, and the Social Construction of Inequalities 75

Affirmative Action 76

Conclusion 78

References and Further Reading 78

Online Resources 80

4 Justice 81

Justice: A Brief Introduction 82

Rawls’s Theory of Justice 83

The original principle and the veil of ignorance 84

Rawls’s two principles of justice 85

The Libertarian Critique: Individual Liberty Restricts Redistribution 87

Utilitarian Critique: An Alternative Rationale for Redistribution 91

Feminist Critique: The Public–Private Distinction and Power Relations 93

Communitarian Critique: Alternatives to Individualism 96

Cosmopolitan Critique: The Demands of Global Justice 97

Conclusion 99

References and Further Reading 99

Online Resources 101

Part II Core Values in Political Philosophy 103

5 Democracy 105

Democracy and Political Self?]Governance 107

What Is Democracy? 108

Who Gets to Participate? 108

Constitutional Democracy and Rights 110

Sources of rights 111

Claim and liberty rights 113

Interest and choice theories of rights 114

Benefits of Democracy: The Instrumental Case 115

Would a kind dictator be a bad thing? 115

Do the people know best? 116

Can representation help? 117

Is Democratic Self?]Governance Intrinsically Valuable? 118

Is There a Right to Democratic Self?]Governance? 119

What Are the Implications of a Right to Democratic Self?]Governance? 120

Voting and Representation: Interests or Ideals? 122

Does Democracy Rest on a Paradox? 123

Deliberative Democracy as a Solution? 125

Distorting Democracy: Persistent Minorities and Electoral Inequalities 126

Persistent minorities 126

Electoral inequalities 126

Do Democracies Decline and Fall? 128

References and Further Reading 130

Online Resources 131

6 The Obligation to Obey the Law 132

Breaking the Law 135

Motives for breaking the law 135

Ways of breaking the law 136

Unjust laws 137

Are we obligated just because it is a law? 137

How strong are our legal obligations? 139

Breaking the Law: A “How to” Guide 140

Civil disobedience 140

Violence 141

What should be on the menu? 143

What should we choose from the menu? 143

Principles for ideal and nonideal agents 144

Do We Have an Obligation at All? 147

Consent 147

Gratitude 150

Fairness 150

Duty 151

Membership 152

Conclusion 152

References and Further Reading 153

Online Resources 154

7 Political Violence: War, Torture, and Punishment 155

Umkhonto we Sizwe 157

What Is Violence? 159

When (If Ever) Is Violence Justified? 161

Pacifism 162

Gandhi’s pacifism 163

Russell’s “relative pacifism” 163

Ius ad bellum: “Just War” and the Justification of Large?]Scale Violence 164

Testing Just War Theory 166

Vagueness 167

Manipulability 167

Ius in bello: Justice in the Conduct of War 168

Cultural Conflicts and the Laws of War 170

Pushing the Limits, I: Preemptive War 171

Pushing the Limits, II: When Are Captured Combatants “Prisoners of War?” 172

Pushing the Limits, III: Torture, “Enhanced Interrogation,” and Ticking Bombs 173

Punishment 175

Rationales for punishment 176

Positive future consequences 176

Desert 177

Sending a message 178

War, torture, and punishment in political context 179

References and Further Reading 180

Online Resources 182

Part III Specific Topics 183

8 Who Counts? 185

Who Gets Justice? 187

The Guano Ring 188

Animals 189

Moral Standing and Moral Personhood 191

Degrees of Moral Standing? The Constitutive View 195

Comparative Moral Standing: The Constitutive View 195

Comparing Characteristics and Abilities 196

Objections to the Constitutive View 197

Hard Case I: Fertilized Ova and Fetuses 198

Hard Case II: Childhood and Disability 201

Hard Case III: Distant Peoples and Future Generations 204

Hard Case IV: Posthumans? 205

Hard Case V: Ecosystems and the Natural World 205

Upshot 208

References and Further Reading 208

Online Resources 209

9 Religion and Politics 210

Religion and Politics 213

Is Religion Special? 214

The limits of toleration 216

Neutrality and religion 218

Neutrality of intent 219

Exemptions for nonreligious reasons 221

Multiculturalism 222

Justifications for multiculturalism 223

Which policies would multiculturalism recommend? 224

Criticisms of multiculturalism 225

Freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, or freedom of culture? 226

Is Religion Suspect in Politics? 227

Four sample views on the environment 228

Reasons everyone can accept 229

Overlapping consensus 230

Should religion and philosophy be treated the same? 230

Arguing fairly 232

Conclusion 233

References and Further Reading 233

Online Resources 234

10 Money, Lies, and Political Corruption 236

Lying Politicians 238

What is a lie? 238

Why do people lie? 240

Utility 240

Intentions 241

Hugo Grotius and the rights approach 241

Virtue 242

A license to lie? 242

Sneaky ways to win an election 243

When is lying justified? 245

Dirty hands 246

Bribery and Corruption 247

Is Blagojevich that different? 250

Individual versus institutional corruption 250

Campaign finance 251

Ethics and institutions 252

Just following orders 252

Who is responsible? 253

Compromise 254

Conclusion 254

References and Further Reading 255

Online Resources 257

Index 258