Chapter 4Examining the EthicalFoundations of Politics
• How do governments deal with value judgments concerning what is right and wrong?• Normative questions
Plato(427-347 B.C.)• Taught by Socrates • The search for wisdom should engage the mind• Academy educated others in philosophy, law, mathematics, and logic. • 387? B.C. and A.D. 529• Ideal system similar to fascism or communism• The Republic
What purposeshould the state serve?Plato vs. Hobbes
Plato• Highest purpose of the state is the promotion of justice• The best form of state is one that pursues justice Justice presented as “following nature”
Plato’s“Following Nature”• Being true to the person you are• Doing what is natural, honest, correct for yourself• Following your natural calling, your natural purpose
Plato• When each person is acting justly, the state itself is just.• Natural class system • Workers • Auxiliaries (military leaders) • Guardians (rulers)• Each person should do what is natural and enter the group consistent with his or her natural inclinations, talents, and abilities.
Plato’s “Injustice”• Acting contrary to nature• Plato warns against • Ambition • Upward or downward mobility • Doing something simply because it’s popular or because you have the power to do it• These actions can lead us away from our nature and bring unhappiness to ourselves and harm to the state.
Views re Teachings of Plato• Plato hierarchical and authoritarian in his thinking • Plato was a critic of democracy • Convinced that ruling and policymaking were natural talents possessed by some people, but not by all.• Plato self-serving • Philosophers the class most naturally suited for ruling the perfect state.
Views re Teachings of Plato• Plato’s criticisms of ambition, competition, and individual self- promotion are antidotes to U.S. culture’s message that the only life worth living is the frenzied climb-the-ladder-of- success-to-the-very-top approach to life.• Living justly is more important than following personal ambitions.
Thomas Hobbes1588-1679• English political theorist• We cannot know the purpose of the state until we have answered the question: “What is human nature?”• To understand human nature, must look into your own psyche. • Will find passion, desires, fears, aggressive impulses, and instinctive urges to acquire power.
Hobbes• Must understand the mixture of passion and reason in human nature if politics is to be understood. • The violent and impulsive components of human nature lead to social conflict • Whenever aggressive human beings live in groups, violence is always a possibility • Each of us is vulnerable to all others • No one is safe • The strongest can fall at the hands of the weakest.
Hobbes• It is in our best interest to join with others to create a power over all of us that will deter each individual’s natural aggressiveness.• It is natural to create a power that will leave us alone unless we act aggressively toward another, in which case it is to punish us severely and quickly.
Hobbes’ State• It’s purpose is to provide security through deterrence • Thus promoting the survival of humanity• Rejects lofty and utopian dreams of the perfect just state, and concentrates on the importance of creating a state that can crack down on violence.
Hobbes’ State• We can have a powerful no-nonsense state that will protect us; or• We can live desperate and terrified in a violent world in which every single person has the power to kill any of us at any moment.
Views re Teachings of Hobbes• Hobbes attacked for justifying what looks like a police state.• Hobbes blamed for steering political theory away from questions of justice and toward issues of law and order.• Hobbes a convincing argument that governments need to be concerned with fighting crime and promoting safety.
What are the purposes of states? How should people be governed?
Should State Promote Equality?• Theorists disagree • Aristotle • Thomas Jefferson • Tecumseh • Chico Mendes • Friedrich Nietzsche • Kurt Vonnegut
Aristotle• Equality means equal consideration of interests.• Should be promoted by states• Six forms states can assume: • Monarchy • Aristocracy • Polity • Tyranny • Oligarchy • democracy
Power to what people?• Monarchy: Rule by • Tyranny: Rule by one in the interests one in the interest of of all the ruler• Aristocracy: Rule by • Oligarchy: Rule by the few in the the few in the interests of all interest of the rulers• Polity: Rule by the • Democracy: Rule many in the by the many in the interests of all interests of the rulers
For Aristotle:• It is less important to have equal participation in the process of decision making than it is to have equality reflected in the results of the decision arrived at. • Example: • Right-handers get 10 bonus points • Left-handers lose 20 points • Contrast with single ruler with same rules for all
Aristotle• Good states serve the public’s interest, not most of the public’s interest, but the interest of the entire public
Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826)• Theory of equality of natural rights • Individuals are created naturally equal • Individuals possess natural rights • It is the proper role of government to protect and respect these natural rights • If governments aggress against these equal natural rights, individuals may overturn such governments
Jefferson vs. Aristotle• Equality is discussed not in terms of political results, but in terms of human essences • Equality an attribute of people, not an attribute of decisions • People, by their human nature, possess equality of natural rights • Having the right to life, liberty, and happiness is a fundamental part of being a human being• Fundamental duty of the state is to protect these rights!
Tecumseh (1768-1813)• Shawnee theorist• Argued for equality of natural rights with an emphasis on property rights. • A spiritual force placed Native American on their lands and members of the Native American community had an equal and natural right to the lands. • Argued that Native Americans could recover their lands on the basis of natural equality doctrines.• Equality is an attribute (a right) of people.
Chico Mendes(1944-1988)• Rubber-tapper in Brazil • Depended upon rain forest for livelihood • Fought development of rain forest• Demanded equality of participation in the decision-making process • Advocated land set-asides • Protection from deforestation• Murdered in 1988• Equality in the process of decision making is the only way to ensure equality of results.
Aristotle, Jefferson, Tecumseh and Mendes Share the position that equality is a desirable political goal for individuals and governments.
Friedrich Nietzsche(1844-1900)• Professor of classical philology • Controversial writings on the death of God, the pettiness associated with religious beliefs, and the lies that make up the teachings of traditional morality • Father a Lutheran minister• Maintained that equality is rooted in a certain type of morality
Nietzsche’s Morality• Slave Morality • A morality articulated by the weak and thus designed to serve the interests of the weak• Master Morality • Ethical codes that serve the strong and praise the attributes of strength, conquering, ruling, and dominating• Both self-serving• Neither provides a concept of good or bad that exists beyond its own context
Christianity• A slave morality • Teaches forgiveness, humility, and meekness• Advocates of slave morality seek a vengeful retribution against those who are strong • Christians deeply resent the powerful and love the idea of the powerful being made to suffer.• Equality a part of slave morality • Weak uphold equality as “good” and “ethical” because they want to destroy the privileged positions of the powerful.
Nietzsche• Both moral systems serve interests • Master morality • Serves the interest of those who need to legitimize their position of dominance • Slave morality • Serves the purposes of those who need to delegitimize dominance and legitimize equality
Kurt Vonnegut• “Harrison Bergeron” • Nietzschean themes • Equality becomes a basis for attacking those who use their talents to become strong or intellectually dominant • Equality is exposed as being a self-serving position • Equality is not a neutral concept but rather one that harms some and favors others.
• Is it possible to equalize all without harming some?• Should individuals be equal in every way?• Should laws pursue equality so diligently that laws provide for equality of capabilities rather than equality of opportunities?• Can equality become a basis for oppression?
Should states be organized to maximize their own power or organized to restrain this power?
Niccolo Machiavelli(1469-1527)• Argues in favor of state organization to maximize state power• The Prince • A blueprint for organizing states in a manner to seize and maintain power • Classic text on the mechanics of state power • “Win at any cost” approach to governing
Rulers should use just the right amount of cruelty against their own citizens so that fear is created but popular vengefulness against the government is not.• Use cruelty to make citizens fear politicians but not hate them• By being cruel, the state is really being kind • Maintain order and peace • Provide protection and security
James Madison(1751-1836)• States should intentionally restrict their powers by a means of • Separation of powers • Checks and balances• Limit state power to protect against tyranny
Should states protect citizens from government? Or should states protect citizens by government?
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)• English Philosopher• Individuals should be allowed to judge ethical questions for themselves • Governments should not interfere with individuals unless individuals pose a threat to others• Defended widest possible range of individual freedom of thought and action. • Respect the individual’s right to think any thought no matter how outrageous or unpopular
John Stuart Mill• Everyone benefits if government removes itself from questions of personal morality • Individuals benefit because they possess the liberty to live their lives as they please • Society benefits because society gains whenever it encourages freethinkers to express themselves and explore new ideas • Even if opinions are erroneous, they should be expressed and the error exposed• States should avoid the role of moral guardian
Fundamentalism• Asserts that • Religious truth is authoritative • Religious truth is compelling and not to be disregarded or reduced to being a mere option • If fundamentalism is to guide government policy, laws must codify the authoritative truths of the religion • Not a posture of neutrality or silence on the issues of politics
The TalibanDecrees• Men must grow beards• Girls and women forbidden from attending school• Women cannot be in public without religious attire and without male escorts• Ban most games• Ban photography• Ban American hairdos• Ban nonreligious holiday observances
• How do we deal with those who disagree with our understandings of what is ethical?• Is it best to uphold no single morality as the absolute truth?• Should each person decide morality for him- or herself?• If so, are all opinions to be tolerated?• If we live moral lives, does our morality require us to speak up against immorality wherever we see it?
One Nation, Underprivileged Rank 4: In Our Self-Interest
“Your own property is at stake when your neighbor’s house is on fire.” ~ Horace
The AmericanRevolution“The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and John Adams obligation…. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
Why Care?• Impoverishment breeds: • Serious health problems • Inadequately educated children • Higher rates of criminal activity
• Poverty a “normal” life-course event • A majority of Americans will experience at least one year of poverty during their lifetime• Building bridges • Create a more accessible route • Nonpoor ► poor ► back again
Impact of Poverty• Drains us individually and as a community and society• Is inconsistent with American core values and principles• Violates our concept of Citizenship
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” ~ Aristotle