Poli 471 Midterm Study Guide

Poli 471 Midterm Study Guide - Carter Whittington Poli 471...

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Carter Whittington Poli 471 Midterm Study Guide Rawls, Nozick, Cohen, Berlin, Taylor, Walzer, Hayek, Habermas, Okin Rawls Four Roles of Political Philosophy Rawls sees political philosophy as fulfilling at least four roles in a society's public life. The first role is practical: political philosophy can discover bases for reasoned agreement in a society where sharp divisions threaten to lead to conflict. Rawls cites Hobbes's Leviathan as an attempt to solve the problem of order during the English civil war, and the Federalist Papers as emerging from the debate over the US Constitution. A second role of political philosophy is to help citizens to orient themselves within their own social world. Philosophy can describe what it is to be a member of a society with a certain political status, and suggest how the nature and history of that society can be understood from a broader perspective. A third role is to probe the limits of practicable political possibility. Political philosophy must describe workable political arrangements that can gain support from real people. Yet within these limits philosophy can be utopian: it can depict a social order that is the best that one can hope for. Given men as they are, as Rousseau said, philosophy imagines how laws might be. A fourth role of political philosophy is reconciliation: “to calm our frustration and rage against our society and its history by showing us the way in which its institutions… are rational, and developed over time as they did to attain their present, rational form.” ( JF , 3) Philosophy can show that human life is not simply domination and cruelty, prejudice, folly and corruption; but that in some ways at least it is better that it has become the way that it is. Rawls viewed his own work as a practical contribution toward settling the long-standing conflict in democratic thought between liberty and equality, and toward describing the limits of civic and of international toleration. He offers the members of his own society a way of understanding themselves as free and equal citizens within a fair democratic polity, and describes a hopeful but limited vision of a stably just constitutional democracy doing its part within a peaceful international community. To individuals who are frustrated that their fellow citizens and fellow humans do not see the whole truth as they do, Rawls offers the reconciling thought that this diversity of worldviews results from, and can support, a social order with greater freedom for all. The Sequence of Theories In contrast to the utilitarian, for Rawls political philosophy is not simply applied moral philosophy. The utilitarian holds to one universal moral principle (“maximize utility”), which he applies to individual actions, political constitutions, international relations, and all other subjects as required. Rawls has no universal principle: “The correct regulative principle for anything,” he says, “depends on the nature of that thing.” ( TJ , 29) Rawls confines his theorizing to the political
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Poli 471 Midterm Study Guide - Carter Whittington Poli 471...

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