State power is widely thought to be coercive. The view that governments must wield force or that their power is necessarily coercive is widespread in contemporary political thought. John Rawls is representative in claiming that (political power is always coercive power backed up by the government(s use of sanctions, for government alone has the authority to use force in upholding its laws.( This belief in the centrality of coercion and force plays an important but not well appreciated role in contemporary (...) political thought. I wish to challenge this belief and the considerations that motivate it. States are not necessarily coercive or coercive (by definition.( Their claimed authority is prior to the force they wield. Legitimate states should need to resort to coercion and force much less than other states, and that fact seems unappreciated in contemporary political thought. (shrink)
Featuring sixty-seven classic and contemporary selections, Questions of Life and Death: Readings in Practical Ethics is ideal for courses in contemporary moral problems, applied ethics, and introduction to ethics. In contrast with other moral problems anthologies, it deals exclusively with current moral issues concerning life and death, the ethics of killing, and the ethics of saving lives. By focusing on these specific questions--rather than on an unrelated profusion of moral problems--this volume offers a theoretically unified presentation that enables students to (...) see how their conclusions regarding one moral issue can affect their positions on other debates. Questions of Life and Death includes readings on socially and politically relevant controversies including famine, killing in war, terrorism, capital punishment, killing animals, suicide, euthanasia, and abortion. The essays include classic works by Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke alongside contemporary selections by Thomas Nagel, James Rachels, Peter Singer, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Michael Walzer, and many others. Rather than presenting students with readings on abstract and complex moral theories, editor Christopher Morris has chosen works that reflect "middle-level moral theory" and inspire everyday questions like "What if everyone did that?" Each reading is preceded by a brief introduction and followed by discussion questions. For additional theoretical background, students can consult the final chapter, a "Moral Theory Primer" (by Mark Timmons), which clearly outlines various theories. (shrink)
Imperialism is thought to be wrong by virtually everyone today. The consensus may be correct. However, there may be a few good things to be said for empire. More importantly for political philosophy, empires are not harder to justify or legitimate than states, or so I argue. The bad press that empires receive seems due to a methodological suspect comparison of nasty empires to nice states. When nice empires are considered they do not fare much worse than (nice) states. I (...) suggest that empires can have the same weak kind of legitimacy that states have and that both lack fuller or stronger legitimacy. a Footnotesa An earlier version of this essay was presented at James Madison University and discussed at a workshop of the Committee for Politics, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am grateful to members of both audiences for critical questions and comments, in particular to John Brown, Farid Dhanji, Douglas Grob, Peter Levine, Jerry Segal, and Karol Soltan (others are thanked in the notes). Gratitude is also owed to Jose Idler-Acosta, David Lefkowitz, and Ellen Paul for helpful written comments. (shrink)
If we have a natural right to liberty, it is hard to see how a state could be legitimate without first obtaining the (genuine) consent of the governed. I consider the threat natural rights pose to state legitimacy. I distinguish minimal from full legitimacy and explore different understandings of the nature of our natural rights. Even though I conclude that natural rights do threaten the full legitimacy of states, I suggest that understanding our natural right to liberty to be grounded (...) in our interests in a certain way might not commit us to requiring consent for minimal legitimacy. Thus, even if natural rights effectively block the full legitimacy of states - on the assumption that rarely, if ever, the requisite consent will be forthcoming - they may allow minimal state legitimacy. Footnotesa I am grateful to my fellow contributors to this volume and to other readers for helpful questions and comments on an earlier version of this essay and in particular to Fred Miller, David Schmidtz, and John Simmons for written comments. Ellen Paul's detailed comments have helped me, as always, to correct many confusions and errors, and Harry Dolan's excellent editing has discovered others that I have endeavored to address. (shrink)
What are preferences and are they reasons for action? Is it rational to cooperate with others even if that entails acting against one's preferences? The dominant position in philosophy on the topic of practical rationality is that one acts so as to maximize the satisfaction of one's preferences. This view is most closely associated with the work of David Gauthier, and in this new collection of essays some of the most innovative philosophers currently working in this field explore the controversies (...) surrounding Gauthier's position. Several essays argue against influential conceptions of preference, while others suggest that received conceptions of rational action misidentify the normative significance of rules and practices. This collection will be of particular interest to philosophers of social theory and to reflective social scientists in such fields as economics, political science and psychology. (shrink)
Concern for one's "reputation" has been introduced in recent game theory enabling theorists to demonstrate the rationality ofcooperative behavior in certain contexts. And these impressive results have been generalized to a variety of situations studied bystudents of business and business ethicists. But it is not clear that the notion of reputation employed has much explanatory power onceone sees what is meant. I also suggest that there may be some larger lessons about the notion of rationality used by decision theorists.
Greg Kavka (1947-1994) was a prominent and influential figure in contemporary moral and political philosophy. The new essays in this volume are concerned with fundamental issues of rational commitment and social justice to which Kavka devoted his work as a philosopher. The essays take Kavka's work as a point of departure and seek to advance the respective debates. The topics include: the relationship between intention and moral action as part of which Kavka's famous 'toxin puzzle' is a focus of discussion, (...) the nature of deterrence, the rationality of morals, contractarian ethics, and the contemporary relevance of Hobbes' political thought. Incorporating important new philosophical statements of problems and fresh contributions to the ongoing debate about rational intention this volume will interest not just philosophers but also political scientists and economists. (shrink)
This collection of contemporary essays by a group of well-known philosophers and legal theorists covers various topics in the philosophy of law, focusing on issues concerning liability in contract, tort, and criminal law. The book is divided into four sections. The first provides a conceptual overview of the issues at stake in a philosophical discussion of liability and responsibility. The second, third, and fourth sections present, in turn, more detailed explorations of the roles of notions of liability and responsibility in (...) contracts, torts, and punishment. The collection not only presents some of the most challenging work being done in legal philosophy today, it also demonstrates the interdisciplinary character of the field of philosophy of law, with contributors taking into account recent developments in economics, political science, and rational choice theory. This thought-provoking volume will help to shed light on the underexplored ground that lies between law and morals. (shrink)