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Cover Issues in Political Theory

3. Crime and punishment  

Massimo Renzo

This chapter focuses on crime and punishment. Punishment involves the imposition of hardship or suffering on a supposed offender for a supposed crime, by a person or body who claims the authority to do so. Criminal punishment is problematic in at least three respects: it harms those who are punished; it also harms, indirectly, their families and friends; and it imposes significant costs on the rest of the political community. There are two strategies for the justification of punishment: instrumental and non-instrumental justifications. The instrumental strategy has been traditionally pursued by endorsing some version of consequentialism, the moral theory according to which the rightness or wrongness of a given conduct, practice, or rule depends only on its consequences. Non-instrumental justifications, on the other hand, have been traditionally defended by retributivist theories, according to which, wrongdoers deserve to suffer in proportion to the gravity of the wrong they have committed.

Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

Introduction  

Robert Jubb, Catriona McKinnon, and Patrick Tomlin

This introductory chapter provides an overview of political theory. Political theory is the study of whether and what political institutions, practices, and forms of organization can be justified, how they ought to be arranged, and the decisions they ought to make. This is normative political theory. Normative theories are action-guiding, and so are theories about what we ought to do. There are two important things to remember when making claims in political theory. One is that moral and political values are relative to specific cultures in specific times and places, and so there is no universal truth about such matters. The second is that such values are radically subjective: individuals set their own moral compass and can choose how to live as they please. We should be clear about which of these positions we are invoking if we are sceptical of universal normative claims.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

1. Introduction  

This edition provides an introduction to the major schools of thought that dominate contemporary debates in political philosophy. The focus is on theories which have attracted a certain allegiance, and which offer a more or less comprehensive vision of the ideals of politics. The text examines the notion, advanced by Ronald Dworkin, that every plausible political theory has the same ultimate value, which is equality. It considers another, more abstract and more fundamental, idea of equality in political theory — namely, the idea of treating people ‘as equals’. It also explores what it might mean for libertarianism to have freedom as its foundational value, or for utilitarianism to have utility as its foundational value. Finally, it analyses the relationship between moral and political philosophy and argues that the ultimate test of a theory of justice is that it should be concordant with, and help illuminate, our convictions of justice.

Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

7. Toleration  

Anna Elisabetta Galeotti

This chapter explores toleration, which enables the peaceful coexistence of conflicting views and ways of life within the same society. It originally emerged as the political solution to the religious wars that devastated Europe after the Reformation. Toleration as the suspension of political interference in the religious creeds of people was affirmed as the only way to stop the killings for the sake of eternal salvation. At its origin, toleration was patterned on a model of civil coexistence that implied a divide between political affairs and private matters. The contemporary debate on toleration consists of three approaches: moral, liberal, and critical. The moral analysis of toleration is mainly concerned with the definition and justification of toleration as a social and moral virtue; the liberal analysis is focused on toleration as a political principle; and critical political theory proposes toleration as recognition.

Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

13. War and Intervention  

Helen Frowe

This chapter assesses war and intervention. Just war theorists share two beliefs: that wars can, at least in theory, sometimes be just, and that the fighting of war is governed by moral rules. Just war theory is usually divided into jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum. Jus ad bellum (justice prior to war) sets the conditions under which it is just to declare war. Jus in bello (justice during the war) sets the ‘rules of engagement’, governing the conduct of combatants during a conflict. Jus post bellum (justice after war) deals with topics like war reparations and punishment of aggression and had, until recently, received comparatively little attention in the just war literature. Meanwhile, pacifism and realism offer alternative approaches to the ethics of war.