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William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter provides an overview of how to do political philosophy. It identifies some of the main aims of the discipline, showing that one can make progress with the subject by studying arguments about the justifiability of various public policies. Political philosophers are mostly concerned with exploring the moral claims of an argument, and the relationship between an argument’s claims and its conclusion. It is here that the discipline connects to other parts of philosophy, particularly moral philosophy and logic. This chapter discusses two tools in the practice of political philosophy. One of these involves arranging arguments in clear and organized terms, and the other involves the use of examples and thought experiments in the analysis of moral claims. The chapter then discusses how to employ these tools in the service of a political argument.

Chapter

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

This chapter deals with normative international relations theory, a field of study that relies on a variety of approaches and theories to explore moral expectations, decisions, and dilemmas in world politics. Normative IR theory has adopted—and adapted—conceptual categories such as communitarianism and cosmopolitanism from political theory. It also borrows from moral philosophy to designate different types of ethical reasoning, such as deontology and consequentialism. The chapter begins with an overview of the history, influences, and some of the categories that normative IR theory brings to the study of international relations. It then examines the ways in which normative IR theory engages with the hidden ethical assumptions of a range of IR approaches. The case study considers the ethics of war in the Iraq war.

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This chapter examines John Stuart Mill's views on liberty. It first provides a short biography of Mill before discussing his revision of psychological hedonism in light of accusations by Thomas Carlyle, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his followers, that Mill's hedonistic naturalism is no better than a philosophy for ‘swine’. Mill addressed this charge by drawing a categorical distinction between higher and lower pleasures. The chapter also considers the equally problematic attempt to derive Mill's liberty principle from an act-utilitarian moral philosophy as well as the claim that Mill's religion of humanity involves a form of moral and philosophical coercion as great as anything he challenges. It concludes with an analysis of Mill's Considerations on Representative Government and shows that its defence of constitutional democracy reflects his philosophical liberalism.

Chapter

This chapter deals with normative international relations theory, a field of study that relies on a variety of approaches and theories to explore moral expectations, decisions, and dilemmas in world politics. Normative IR theory has adopted — and adapted — conceptual categories such as communitarianism and cosmopolitanism from political theory. It also borrows from moral philosophy to designate different types of ethical reasoning, such as deontology and consequentialism. The chapter begins with an overview of the history, influences, and some of the categories that normative IR theory brings to the study of international relations. It then examines the ways in which normative IR theory engages with the hidden ethical assumptions of a range of IR approaches. It also considers the case of civilian deaths during the 2003 Iraq war in relation to the just war tradition, and more specifically to the idea that soldiers have duties to exercise restraint in war.