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Book

Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

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

Should the state permit euthanasia? Should it prohibit recreational drug use? Should it ban hate speech? Should it grant members of minority groups exemptions from otherwise universal laws? When, if ever, should it intervene in the affairs of other states to prevent human rights abuses? All of these questions have been prominent in political debate over the last fifty years, and there remains plenty of dispute about them at the start of the 2020s. Political arguments about public policy are an apt subject of philosophical analysis—or, in other words, they present a prime opportunity to do some political philosophy. This book provides an introduction to political philosophy by theorizing about public policy. Each of the chapters draws on the tools of political philosophy to explore a distinct area of public policy. Each case identifies some of the moral threads that run through the public policy debate; explains the philosophical positions taken by the various sides; introduces the academic literature that supports these positions; and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the competing views.

Chapter

Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

1. Doing Political Philosophy  

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

Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

2. Euthanasia and Freedom  

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

This chapter examines whether the state should permit an individual to end their own life. Physician-assisted suicide is only one way in which a doctor can hasten an individual’s death. In fact there are three ways in which a doctor may act. First, they can be passive by allowing an individual to die. Second, they can assist an individual by enabling them to bring about their own death. Third, they can be active in hastening an individual’s death by administering life-ending medication. The chapter argues that a doctor should be permitted to assist an individual to end their own life, as well as to intervene to hasten their death. It supports this view by appealing to the value of freedom, specifically the freedom to choose how to live and die. The chapter then considers the worry that it is wrong for the state to allow a doctor to assist an individual to end their life, since this is an affront to the sanctity of life. It outlines some implications of this argument for the design of public policy.