What is political philosophy’s relation to moral philosophy? Does it simply form part of moral philosophy, focusing on the proper application of certain moral truths to political reality? Or must it instead form a more autonomous discipline, drawing its bearings from the specifically political problem of determining the bounds of legitimate coercion? In this essay I work out an answer to these questions by examining both some of the classical views on the nature of political philosophy and, more particularly, some (...) recently published writings by Bernard Williams and G.A. Cohen. (shrink)
This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairness that John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice but changes its philosophical interpretation in a fundamental way. That previous work assumed what Rawls calls a "well-ordered society," one that is stable and relatively homogenous in its basic moral beliefs and in which there is broad agreement about what constitutes the good life. Yet in modern democratic society a plurality of incompatible and irreconcilable doctrines -- religious, philosophical, and moral (...) -- coexist within the framework of democratic institutions. Recognizing this as a permanent condition of democracy, Rawls asks how a stable and just society of free and equal citizens can live in concord when divided by reasonable but incompatible doctrines? This edition includes the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," which outlines Rawls' plans to revise Political Liberalism, which were cut short by his death. "An extraordinary well-reasoned commentary on A Theory of Justice...a decisive turn towards political philosophy." -- Times Literary Supplement. (shrink)
Our capacity for impersonal reflection, for looking at our own perspective from without, as part of a world that exists independently of us, is our most distinctive trait as human beings. It finds its most striking expression in our moral thinking. For we are moral beings insofar as we stand back from our individual concerns and see in the good of others, in and of itself, a reason for action on our part. It is not, to be sure, in morality (...) alone that we exercise this power of impersonal reflection. We do so too, whenever we set about weighing the evidence for some belief without regard for what we would like to be true or for what common opinion would say. Yet nowhere does this self-transcendence show forth more vividly than when we turn our attention from our own happiness to that of another, taking the same immediate interest in that person's goodas we naturally harbor for our own. In this essay, I explore the way that the moral point of view is shaped by the nature of impersonal reflection and thus constitutes a signal expression of our humanity. (shrink)
Liberalism is a distinctively modern political conception. Only in modern times do we find, as the object of both systematic reflection and widespread allegiance and institutionalization, the idea that the principles of political association, being coercive, should be justifiable to all whom they are to bind. And so only here do we find the idea that these principles should rest, so far as possible, on a core, minimal morality which reasonable people can share, given their expectably divergent religious convictions and (...) conceptions of the meaning of life. No longer does it seem evident—as it did, let us say, before the seventeenth century—that the aim of political association must be to bring man into harmony with God's purposes or to serve some comprehensive vision of the good life. The causes of this transformation are various, and not all of them lie at the level of moral principle. But a change in moral consciousness has certainly been one of the factors involved. As Hegel observed, modern culture is inherently a reflective one: notions of principle are essential to our self-understanding and thus to the stability of the social forms in which we participate. Modern culture has no room for a dichotomy between “in principle” and “in practice.” It is worth determining, then, what new moral conceptions have been responsible for the emergence of modern liberalism. Not only will we thereby better understand how we have become who we are, we will also have a surer grasp of the principles that sustain our political life. (shrink)
In this carefully crafted volume, Michael Kort describes the wartime circumstances and thinking that form the context for the decision to use these weapons, surveys the major debates related to that decision, and provides a comprehensive ...
When philosophers undertake to say what it is that makes life worth living, they generally display a procrustean habit of thought which the practice of philosophy itself does much to encourage. As a result, they arrive at an image of the human good that is far more controversial than they suspect. The canonical view among philosophers ancient and modern has been, in essence, that the life lived well is the life lived in accord with a rational plan. To me this (...) conception of the human good seems manifestly wrong. The idea that life should be the object of a plan is false to the human condition. It misses the important truth which Proust, by contrast, discerned and made into one of the organizing themes of his great meditation on disappointment and revelation, A la recherche du temps perdu : The happiness that life affords is less often the good we have reason to pursue than the good that befalls us unexpectedly. (shrink)
Freedom has a number of different senses. One of them is the absence of domination, which neo-republican thinkers have helped us to understand better. This notion of freedom does not, however, provide an alternative to political liberalism, since its proper articulation depends on distinctly liberal principles.
Sartre as guide -- Bad faith and sincerity -- The example of Stendhal -- Reflection and being like another -- Being natural -- The ubiquity of convention -- Being like another -- Authenticity and the democratic age -- Mimetism and equality -- Being oneself amid conventions -- Authenticity and the nature of the self -- Foundations of a theory of cognitive reflection -- Psychological interpretation -- The structure of cognitive self-reflection -- The self in cognitive reflection -- Representing and reasoning (...) -- A critique of autonomy -- Obligations and avowals -- A defense of first-person authority -- The persistence of the cartesian model -- The key to the mystery -- A final problem -- Ways of being oneself -- The domain of authenticity -- The instability of practical reflection -- Authenticity and conversion -- How to be virtuous -- The ends of reflection -- Reflection and its problems -- The self and time -- The importance of unexpected goods -- Socrates' mistake -- The limits of prudence -- Wisdom. (shrink)
In The Autonomy of Morality Charles Larmore challenges two ideas that have shaped the modern mind. The world, he argues, is not a realm of value-neutral fact, nor does human freedom consist in imposing principles of our own devising on an alien reality. Rather, reason consists in being responsive to reasons for thought and action that arise from the world itself. Larmore shows that the moral good has an authority that speaks for itself. Only in this light does the true (...) basis of a liberal political order come into view, as well as the role of unexpected goods in the makeup of a life lived well. (shrink)
L'auteur défend la thèse selon laquelle la morale constitue un domaine de valeur irréductible. Il n'existe à l'extérieur de la morale aucun point de vue d'où la raison peut nous amener à une juste intelligence de la nature de la vie morale. Cette thèse est développée non seulement contre la perspective hobbésienne, mais aussi contre certains aspects centraux de la pensée kantienne. Au lieu d'une morale de l'autonomie, c'est en effet l'autonomie de la morale qu'il faut embrasser. Une telle conception (...) exige pourtant que l'on abandonne une des plus grandes idéologies philosophiques de notre époque, à savoir l'image naturaliste du monde.The author defends the thesis that morality constitutes an irreducible domain of value. There is no point of view external to morality from which we can reason ourselves into a proper appreciation of the nature of the moral life. This thesis is developed not only by way of objections to the Hobbesian perspective, but also in criticism of certain central aspects of Kantian ethics. Instead of a morality of autonomy, it is the autonomy of morality which we should embrace. Such a view of morality requires, however, that we break with a. reigning philosophical ideology of our time, namely the naturalistic conception of the world. (shrink)