In this essay I will discuss the relationship between two of the most basic ideas in political and legal philosophy: the justification of the state and state legitimacy. I plainly cannot aspire here to a complete account of these matters; but I hope to be able to say enough to motivate a way of thinking about the relation between these notions that is, I believe, superior to the approach which seems to be dominant in contemporary political philosophy. Today showing that (...) a state is justified and showing that it is legitimate are typically taken to require the very same arguments. I will argue that this contemporary stance obscures the difference between two central ways in which we should morally evaluate states, and it generates confusions about other serious practical issues, such as those surrounding our moral obligations to comply with law. I begin with brief discussions of the ideas of justification and legitimacy and with an attempt to capture what ought to be most central in our concerns about these ideas. I turn then to two basic ways of thinking about the relation between justification and legitimacy that I want to distinguish: what I will call the Lockean and the Kantian approaches. Next, I argue that the minority Lockean approach to this issue captures essential features of institutional evaluation that the majority Kantian approach does not; and I add brief mention of one further complication facing any adequate account of political evaluation. (shrink)
A. John Simmons is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and creative of today's political philosophers. His work on political obligation is regarded as definitive and he is also internationally respected as an interpreter of John Locke. The characteristic features of clear argumentation and careful scholarship that have been hallmarks of his philosophy are everywhere evident in this collection. The essays focus on the problems of political obligation and state legitimacy as well as on historical theories of property (...) and justice. Cumulatively the collection presents a distinctive social and political philosophy, exploring the nature of our most fundamental rights and obligations, and displaying the power and plausibility of Lockean ideal theory. (shrink)
The most recent addition to the Fundamentals of Philosophy Series, Political Philosophy is a concise yet thorough and highly engaging introduction to the essential problems of the discipline. Organized topically and presented in a straightforward manner by an eminent political philosopher, A. John Simmons, it investigates the nature and basis of political authority and the structure and organization of political life. Each chapter focuses on a central problem, considers how it could be addressed, and outlines the various philosophical positions surrounding (...) it. Covering both historical and contemporary work, this unique text offers a survey of major concepts and debates while also reflecting the author's views and contributions. Accessible to novices yet also useful for advanced students, Political Philosophy presents a unified and accessible portrait of the issues that have been puzzling political philosophers for years. (shrink)
It is claimed by philosophers as diverse as Burke, Walzer, Dworkin, and MacIntyre that our political obligations are best understood as "associative" or "communal" obligations--that is, as obligations that require neither voluntary undertaking nor justification by "external" moral principles, but rather as "local" moral responsibilities whose normative weight derives entirely from their assignment by social practice. This paper identifies three primary lines of argument that appear to support such assertions: conceptual arguments, the arguments of nonvoluntarist contract theory, and communitarian arguments (...) (which emphasize both an "identity thesis" and a "normative independence thesis"). However, each of these lines of argument fails to show that political obligations are associative obligations. (shrink)
When officials of some political society portray their state as legitimate - and when do they not! - they intend to be laying claim to a large body of rights, the rights in which their state's legitimacy allegedly consists. The rights claimed are minimally those that states must exercise if they are to retain effective control over their territories and populations in a world composed of numerous autonomous states. Often the rights states are trying to claim in asserting their legitimacy (...) go far beyond this minimum. But whether a state's claims are modest or extravagant, the rights claimed invariably fall into three categories. The first category is a set of rights held over or against those persons who fall within the state's claimed legal jurisdiction - what I will call rights over subjects. The second is a set of rights claimed against those persons without the state's jurisdiction - what we can call rights against aliens. And the third category is a set of rights held over a particular geographical territory (whose extent largely determines the scope of the state's jurisdiction) - call these rights over territory. The rights states claim in these three categories jointly define their conception of the sovereignty that they (or their governments or institutions) enjoy, sovereignty that is more extensive (strong, absolute) as the rights asserted in these categories are more numerous and wide-ranging. It is principally on the third of these categories - on the nature and possible moral bases for the claims states make over geographical territories - that I will focus in this essay. The modern state is a territorial entity, and it claims to be legitimately so. Sidgwick was surely correct when he wrote that "it seems essential to the modern conception of a State that its government should exercise supreme dominion over a particular portion of the earth's surface ... Indeed, in modern political thought the connection between a political society and its territory is so close that the two notions almost blend." Common sense seems to view the territoriality of the modern state as natural and unquestionable. That, perhaps, explains why so little has been written, either by contemporary theorists or by the authors of the classics of modern political philosophy, on the moral bases of the modern state's claimed rights over territory. States typically claim not only legal authority over their territories (i.e., that their rights over those territories should be affirmed by international law), but moral authority as well - at the very least insofar as the relevant principles of international law are thought themselves to have moral weight. My concern here, then, will be with the possible moral bases for the kinds of claims made over geographical territories by typical modern states. (shrink)
Theories of political authority divide naturally into those that locate the source of states' authority in the history of states' interactions with their subjects and those that locate it in structural (or functional) features of states (such as the justice of their basic institutions). This paper argues that purely structuralist theories of political authority (such as those defended by Kant, Rawls, and contemporary “democratic Kantians”) must fail because of their inability to solve the boundary problem—namely, the problem of locating the (...) boundaries between different states' domains of authority in the natural or intuitive places. (shrink)
Anarchist political philosophers normally include in their theories (or implicitly rely upon) a vision of a social life very different than the life experienced by most persons today. Theirs is a vision of autonomous, noncoercive, productive interaction among equals, liberated from and without need for distinctively political institutions, such as formal legal systems or governments or the state. This "positive" part of anarchist theories, this vision of the good social life, will be discussed only indirectly in this essay. Rather, I (...) want to focus here on the "negative" side of anarchism, on its general critique of the state or its more limited critique of the specific kinds of political arrangements within which most residents of modern political societies live. Even more specifically, I will center my discussion on one particular version of this anarchist critique - the version that is part of the theory now commonly referred to as "philosophical anarchism". Philosophical anarchism has been much discussed by political philosophers in recent years. But it has not, I think, been very carefully defined or adequately understood. My object here will be to clear the ground for a fair evaluation of philosophical anarchism, by offering a more systematic account of the nature of the theory and of possible variants of the theory, and by responding to the most frequent objections to the theory. I hope by this effort to present philosophical anarchism as a more attractive, or at least a less obviously flawed, political philosophy. (shrink)
My aim of this paper is to clarify, and in a certain very limited way to defend, historical theories of property rights (and their associated theories of social or distributive justice). It is important, I think, to better understand historical rights for several reasons: first, because of the extent to which historical theories capture commonsense, unphilosophical views about property and justice; then, because historical theories have fallen out of philosophical fashion, and are consequently not much scrutinized anymore; and finally, because (...) of (what I see as) the continuing need to better understand the historical components of our society's responsibilities to the descendants of victims of systematic injustice in our own past. The case I will have in mind throughout is that of the property claims of Native American tribes, claims based on their historical standing as the original owners of certain lands and resources. And while I will concentrate here only on the question of rectifying past violations of property rights, this will constitute at least a start to answering more general questions about just rectification, which includes the more serious and less compensable wrongs of violence against persons. (shrink)
In his paper "Role Obligations," Michael Hardimon defends an account of the nature and justification of institutional obligations that he takes to be clearly superior to the "standard" voluntarist view. Hardimon argues that this standard view presents a "misleading and distorted" picture of role obligations (and of morality generally); and in its best form he claims this view still "leaves out" of its understanding of even contractual role obligations an "absolutely vital factor". I argue against Hardimon that a related version (...) of this "standard view" of institutional obligations is "standard" for a very good reason - namely, that it is true. (shrink)
Locke appears to be committed to the peculiar views that native-born residents and visiting aliens have the same political status (since both are tacit consenters) and that real political societies have very few "members" with full rights and duties (since only express consenters seem to be counted as "members"). Locke, however, also subscribes to a principle governing our understanding of the content of vague or inexplicit consent: such consent is consent to all and only that which is necessary to the (...) purpose for which the consent is given. Using this principle, we can see that Locke's commitments are to far more reasonable positions. (shrink)
This paper argues that libertarian political philosophers, including Robert Nozick, have erred in neglecting the problem of political obligation and that they ought to embrace an actual consent theory of political obligation and state legitimacy. It argues as well that if they followed this recommendation, their position on the subject would be correct. I identify the tension in libertarian (and especially Nozick's) thought between its minimalist and its consensualist strains and argue that, on libertarianism's own terms, the consensualist strain ought (...) to prevail. I then describe the form of the consent theory that I recommend to libertarians. The paper concludes with an extended defense of this form of consent theory against contemporary liberal-egalitarian criticisms of it (both explicit and implicit), including those of Dworkin, Rawls, and their followers. Footnotesa Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the University of Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Brown University. For their lively discussions and helpful suggestions for the improvement of this essay, I am grateful to those audiences and to my fellow contributors to this volume. And for their careful reading and comments, I thank the editors of Social Philosophy and Policy. (shrink)
This paper examines the thesis that human labor creates property rights in or from previously unowned objects by virtue of labor's power to make new things. This thesis is considered for two possible roles: first, as a thesis to which John Locke might have been committed in his writings on property; and second, as a thesis of independent plausibility that could serve as part of a defensible contemporary theory of property rights. Understanding Locke as committed to the thesis of makers' (...) rights has seemed to many of the best known recent Locke scholars to explain and unify Locke's various claims about property in a way that more traditional "labor-mixing" interpretations cannot. This paper argues that there is in fact no convincing evidence in Locke's texts to suggest any commitment to the thesis of makers' rights for humans. (shrink)
My aim in this essay is to explore the nature and force of “original-acquisition” justifications of private property. By “original-acquisition” justifications, I mean those arguments which purport to establish or importantly contribute to the moral defense of private property by: offering a moral/historical account of how legitimate private property rights for persons first arose ; offering a hypothetical or conjectural account of how justified private property could arise from a propertyless condition; or simply defending an account of how an individual (...) can make private property in some previously unowned thing . The “original acquisition” to which such justifications centrally refer, then, may be either the first instance of legitimate private property in human history , or only the first legitimate acquisition of some particular thing . But in either case, the justification will involve or entail the defense of one or more moral principles specifying how unowned things can become privately owned — that is, the defense of the kind of principles Robert Nozick has called “principles of justice in acquisition.”. (shrink)
Brian Calvert has offered us a clear and careful analysis of Locke's views on punishment and capital punishment. The primary goal of his paper - that of correcting the misperception of Locke as a wholehearted proponent of capital punishment for a wide range of offenses - must be allowed to be both laudable and largely achieved in his discussion. But Calvert's analysis also encourages, I think, a number of serious misunderstandings of Locke's true position.
This rich collection will introduce students of philosophy and politics to the contemporary critical literature on the classical social contract political thinkers Thomas Hobbes , John Locke , and Jean-Jacques Rousseau . A dozen essays and book excerpts have been selected to guide students through the texts and to introduce them to current scholarly controversies surrounding the contractarian political theories of these three thinkers.
The question 'Why should I obey the law?' introduces a contemporary puzzle that is as old as philosophy itself. The puzzle is especially troublesome if we think of cases in which breaking the law is not otherwise wrongful, and in which the chances of getting caught are negligible. Philosophers from Socrates to H.L.A. Hart have struggled to give reasoned support to the idea that we do have a general moral duty to obey the law but, more recently, the greater number (...) of learned voices has expressed doubt that there is any such duty, at least as traditionally conceived. (shrink)