As its subtitle 'Skepticism, Individuality and Chastened Politics' indicates, this book is an exploration of and a largely favorable engagement with salient elements in the thinking of a theorist who is widely regarded as the greatest Anglophone political thinker and among the top rank of philosophical writers generally. In emphazing Hobbes's skepticism, Richard Flathman goes against the grain of much of the literature concerning Hobbes. The theme of individuality is more familiar, particularly from the celebrated writings on Hobbes by Michael (...) Oakeshott, but the idea of a chastened politics challenges the widely influential view that Hobbes was not only an authoritarian but an incipient or proto-totalitarian. (shrink)
Certainly, it is beneficial when the roles of man and citizen coincide as far as possible; but this only occurs when the role of citizen presupposes so few special qualities that the man may be himself without any sacrifice.... Education is only to develop a man's faculties, without regard to giving human nature any special civic character.¹.
Can any of us ever really be free? Do we follow the rules our society gives us because we want to, or because we are forced to? Discipline, Freedom, Resistance challenges the received wisdom that discipline and freedom are opposite and mutually exclusive. Though it is typically argued that a well-ordered liberal society must discipline its more unruly citizens to maintain freedom for all, Flathman shows how resistance to rules can mean more than criminals breaking laws. Resistance can also mean (...) political protest and political dialogues about what the rules can be. Discipline, Freedom, Resistance draws on Foucault's theories of the self to describe the inner discipline it takes to resist authority-declaring that individuals must sometimes resist forces that wish to destroy freedom, to ensure freedom. (shrink)
Drawing heavily on Wittgenstein, Winch’s The Idea of a Social Science advanced a forceful and still valuable critique of positivist/empiricist conceptions of social science. In its more self-confident assertions concerning the nature of philosophy and society, however, Winch failed to recognize Wittgenstein’s acknowledgement of and appreciation for the indeterminacy and unsettled character of social and moral life.
In his later writings, the British philosopher Bernard Williams increasingly turned his attentions to issues concerning practical politics and in political theory. He advanced a moderately sceptical and realist liberalism that features distinctive views concerning the appropriate relations among moral, ethical and political theory, and concerning legitimacy, freedom and equality, and democracy. This article examines these and related features of his thinking and locates them in the context of currently influential formulations of liberalism.
Taken at face value, Professor Maclntyre's charge that modern culture is "emotivist" is conceptually incoherent and betrays epistemological confusion. Examination of the modern concept and practice of rights indicates hat his comparisons between modern and pre-modern cultures exaggerate the irrationality, individualism, and fragmentation of the former, the rationalism, unity, and communalism of the latter. There are important differences among the several cultural forms that Maclntyre distinguishes. It is less clear that, lacking a satisfactory account of moral reasoning, Maclntyre has made (...) persuasive his case for abandoning modern liberalism in favor of communalism inspired by pre-modern cultures. (shrink)
The argument of this paper is as follows: IF there is a single most perspicuous account or analysis of the concept of authority, and IF there is a single most compelling normative conception of authority, then that account and that conception find their origin and one of their most forceful articulations in the writings of Thomas Hobbes. Needless to say, the hesitations marked by my two "ifs" are yet larger and more difficult to overcome than my modest graphology can show (...) them to be. If we approach questions about authority with the temperamental or dispositional skepticism of Hobbes himself, we will be suspicious of the idea that there is or ever will be a "single most perspicuous" analysis or a "single most compelling" assessment of this - in the once popular jargon -"essentially contested" concept and idea. His skepticism notwithstanding, Hobbes himself wrote with great verve and self-confidence concerning this topic. We can, at least provisionally, follow him in putting our skepticism in abeyance and do our best to develop the arguments anticipated in the opening paragraph above. (shrink)
Rights might be regarded as an objectionable and even a dangerous feature of moral, political, and legal arrangements. It is an element of all types of rights that Able's having right X entails requirements or prohibitions for Baker. These restrictions hold against Baker at Able's discretion, that is unless Able excuses Baker from respecting them. Nor are the restrictions merely decorative. We must presume that they are established because of the expectation that Baker would otherwise be disposed to interfere with (...) the action Ms. Able's right warrants her in taking. Thus as writers as early as Spinoza have stressed, rights are powers – one might even say weapons – that Able may use against Baker. Of course, as a practical matter these “weapons” are frequently ineffective. Ms. Baker may willfully ignore her obligations and prevent Ms. Able from enjoying her entitlements. But such occurrences, as common and as unfortunate as they are, do not materially ease the task of justifying rights. It is only insofar as rights are effective, and hence only insofar as anyone will have reason to defend them, that they are weapons in Able's hands. (shrink)
During most of his long philosophical career, Bertrand Russell was a strong moral subjectivist or emotivist who argued that ethics, because it cannot hope to arrive at truth, is not properly a part of either science or philosophy. In several works, however, most notably Philosophy and Politics and Human Society in Ethics and Politics, he attempted to bring his empiricism and his philosophy of science to bear on moral and other axiological questions. In these writings, he appears to seek and (...) to hope for the "imperium" of the title of this article, which contrasts these two positions, drawing on the former to critique the latter. (shrink)
How should we understand the relationship between discipline and freedom? What do either or both have to do with the idea of resistance to others and/or to culturally, socially or politically established norms and expectations, authorities and powers?