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Cover Political Thinkers

19. Wollstonecraft  

Carole Pateman

This chapter examines Mary Wollstonecraft's political thought. Wollstonecraft advances the argument that the private and public are interrelated and that God has given reason to both sexes. Among her ideas: ‘natural’ qualities, including masculinity and femininity, are socially constructed; reason and virtue require cultivation; private and public virtue demands non-sexually differentiated principles and standards, and freedom, equal rights, and political representation for women and men; tyranny in private, especially in marriage, undermines political virtue and active citizenship; education must be reformed, marriage transformed into an equal relationship between loving friends, and wives must have economic independence. After providing a short biography of Wollstonecraft, the chapter analyses her views on nature, sentiment, reason, men's rights and women's freedom, private virtue, and public order. It shows how Wollstonecraft's insights challenge standard conceptions of democracy.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

21. Tocqueville  

Cheryl Welch

This chapter examines Alexis de Tocqueville's social and political thought. Tocqueville is known as a forerunner of systematic social or political theory, but he is more relevant today as a philosophical historian with particular concerns that parallel those of many contemporary political thinkers. Those concerns are: how to sustain the civic practices underpinning liberal democracy, how to create such practices in the face of hostile histories, and how to think about democracy's need for stabilizing beliefs. The chapter considers the first concern through a discussion of some of the principal arguments of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the second through an analysis of The Old Regime and the Revolution, and the third by considering the moral touchstones of Tocqueville's thought, in particular his arguments about religion and family. Tocqueville's views on tyranny, individualism, despotism, and aristocracy are also explored.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill's Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person's freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill's arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another's interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill's Liberty Principle.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

8. Aquinas  

Joseph Canning

This chapter examines St Thomas Aquinas' political ideas. Aquinas combined Aristotelian ideas with Christian concepts, distinguishing between the natural and supernatural orders, and attributing inherent validity to the natural order, including political life. His theory of law linked, through reason, the eternal law of God, natural law, human positive law, and divine law. According to Aquinas, government's justification was its purpose — securing the common good. He favoured limited monarchy in a mixed constitution. The chapter first provides a short biography of Aquinas before discussing his views on natural and supernatural orders, government, tyranny, and temporal and spiritual power. It concludes with an assessment of Aquinas' contribution to political thought in the area of just war theory.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill’s Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person’s freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill’s arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another’s interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill’s Liberty Principle.