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Social and Political Philosophy: What is the Best Society? PowerPoint Presentation
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Social and Political Philosophy: What is the Best Society?

Social and Political Philosophy: What is the Best Society?

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Social and Political Philosophy: What is the Best Society?

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  1. Social and Political Philosophy: What is the Best Society? States and Societies

  2. One of the major issues in Social and Political Philosophy relates to property ownership. • The wanting and having of material possessions can lead to inequality in society and politics. • For example, it is usually the case that the wealthier citizens have more of a say in governing society and live easier lives than the poor. Often, the poor resent this and engage in activities like peasant uprisings or political revolutions to topple the existing socio-political order. Socialism and Nihilism

  3. The utopias of Plato and More addressed this concern by imagining the banning of private ownership, replacing it with communal or common ownership. In its most basic form, this is known as communism.

  4. many forms of communism, and many varieties of communist utopias • most basic, communism involves living communally, a group of people (a community) sharing all resources (in common) • the emphasis in communism is on the material equality of all-no one is richer or poorer than anyone else, and all work and profit is shared equally

  5. The communist ideal has strong roots in Christianity, and examples of communalistic societies include Christian monks and nuns, and Mennonite colonies • Other examples of communist solutions are the Kibbutzum of Israel, as well as the hippy communes of the 1970s

  6. During the 19th century, the term socialism was used to describe this sort of society: • a socialist society will include communal ownership of property. Socialism is the political expression of a communist society

  7. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the 18th century, created vast wealth and vast inequality between classes. • The ideology of laissez-faire capitalism, in which there were no regulations regarding how wealth could be made and no protection of the workers, allowed the upper classes to make tremendous amounts of money from the new technology, while the working classes grew impoverished.

  8. This created class conflict between rich and poor and led to a string of political and social revolutions in European countries that lasted from the time of the French Revolution (1789) until the end of the Second World War (1945).

  9. A more radical solution to the problems caused by unequal ownership was anarchism, a term which means an absence of government. • Anarchism tends to be associated with nihilism, the belief in nothing. Nihilists feel any and all values are meaningless and should be avoided. • Only by holding nothing valuable, neither material possessions nor moral values, can we be free to create ourselves as we wish to be. Anarchism

  10. Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) argued that "Property is theft", because your private ownership of something (a car, a house, an iPod) steals its use away from the rest of society. • Russian Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) had a simple message to address inequality: "destroy everything". Fixing the problems of society using socialist methods would not work; all had to be swept away. To anarchists, society itself is corrupting.

  11. Handout on Communism and Fascism • Charlie Chaplin – Modern Times

  12. The politically tumultuous 20th century led many to abandon thinking about theories of the ideal society. • There had been plenty of examples of utopian theories put into action and the result was a century of anxiety and a horrific global crisis brought on by two catastrophic world wars and the Cold War. • However, in the 1970s, one philosopher revitalized the debate about utopianism and came to dominate contemporary thinking about the "best society". Contemporary Utopianism

  13. Rawls (1921-2002), an American philosopher, was the most influential political theorist of the later 20th century. His 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, redirected discussion about the ideal society. • It was tremendously influential, and many other philosophers became involved in the questions it posed, both in agreement and opposition.

  14. While Rawls was a member of the "social contract tradition" (which will be discussed later), he used the idea of society as an agreement among its members in a radically different form than it had been previously put forth.

  15. For Rawls, as for Plato, the ideal society would be a just society, fair to all its members. In trying to establish guidelines for the ideal society, Rawls began with a thought experiment called the Original Position.

  16. This thought experiment was a completely abstract exercise, and Rawls pointed out that it was unworkable in practice. It was designed only to demonstrate what principles people would naturally choose if they had to design the just society.

  17. In the Original Position, people would have to decide what kind of society they would want to live in, without knowing what position in society they would occupy. • This lack of knowing where they would be in society is known as the "veil of ignorance". The designers could end up anywhere in the new society. For example, they could end up in the ruling class, or they could end as someone severely ill, in a hospital. They could have a "nice" job or a "dirty" job. There would be no way to know.

  18. Rawls argued that people would design the ideal society based on a decision-making principle called maximin (or minimax), which involves maximizing the minimum benefit you would receive. • Thus, if the veil of ignorance kept you from knowing what you would get from this new society, you would want to make sure that no one in the society was too badly off, because you could just be that person.

  19. For instance, you would want to make sure that the people doing the less desirable "dirty" jobs had some chance for happiness, even if it cost the people doing the "nice" jobs some of their benefits. • As well, you could not know if you were to be sick or healthy, so you would take care to ensure adequate health care for sick people. Since people would not want to gamble with their life and place in society, they would ensure that if they occupied a less desirable position, society would be structured so as to be appropriate concerned with the welfare of all of its members.

  20. Using maximin would lead to what Rawls called the liberty principle, which would be that the ideal society would maximize the rights of all its citizens. • It would lead as well to the difference principle, which would mean that, so much as possible, the ideal society would allow equality of opportunity and material wealth-no one would be terribly advantaged or disadvantaged.

  21. However, some would have more than others, due to their positions in society and Rawls accepted that there would be inequalities that were inescapable. To lessen this injustice, Rawls argued that this difference should be minimized by allowing for maximum opportunity. • For example, if you were born poor, you should not be stuck in poverty, but be able to work your way out of it into a more comfortable life. As well, Rawls did not agree that making life better for the least well-off should be done at the expense of the better-off (so that society reduced their incentive to create and produce)-a balance would need to be found.

  22. Rawls argued that the Original Position, based on the maximin theory, would result in a society based on the notion of justice as fairness. • However, the Original Position is just a thought experiment, and the veil of ignorance merely a handy device to help us envision what the hypothetical just society would be. To put into practice the principles of the justice as fairness society that the Original Position helped reveal, Rawls argued that the state must intervene to help the disadvantaged. • This distributive justice would smooth out the inequalities that our actual society has and lead to greater fairness, in keeping with what the Original Position revealed is the ideal society.