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Slide #1 -> this course is: Political Science 225 - Fall 2008 Classics of Political Philosophy I: Plato through Machiavelli Professor: Jan Narveson [Emeritus,

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Presentation on theme: "Slide #1 -> this course is: Political Science 225 - Fall 2008 Classics of Political Philosophy I: Plato through Machiavelli Professor: Jan Narveson [Emeritus,"— Presentation transcript:

1 slide #1 -> this course is: Political Science Fall 2008 Classics of Political Philosophy I: Plato through Machiavelli Professor: Jan Narveson [Emeritus, U of W Philosophy]

2 Some points about the course: 1. Our selections are classics - BUT 2. We read them as being of perenniel interest - So, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the context in which they were written 3. We treat the subject as philosophy - not as an exercise in classical scholarship. So: often I will speak to an interpretation of the text which I will not try to support by extensive references to “the literature” (I will try to mention alternative possible interpretations...) 4. This is a lecture/discussion course. I do like people to raise objections and questions. note: I am also a talker! Please don’t let me steamroller the class! slide #2

3 Some points about the course (continued): 5. There is a lecture schedule, but it is tentative, not rigid. Keep abreast of things! 6. Your is a main method of communication. Do look for messages from me, and feel free to reply. 7. I do not have an office in the university, and it is difficult for me to do office hours. is much the best. I will make appointments as needed. 8. The course WEBSITE is on MY site. If you lose it, just: -> google Jan Narveson - my Home Page will be first -> go to “course materials” click ps 225 and you’re in business ! slide #3

4 Political Philosophy NOT (exactly) “political science” We are concerned with general, rather abstract arguments - about normative matters, that is: what ought governments to do? what are right and wrong political actions? How do we decide about such things? etc! For the rest, let’s just get started and see... Agenda for the immediate future: Sept. 14 [and maybe 16]: Plato’s Crito NOW: We discuss Socrates’ Arguments in the Crito.... -> slide #4

5 Plato ( B.C.) [author of the dialogue Crito] [scene-setting dialogues: Euthyphro; Apology; Crito; Phaedo] slide # 5 Socrates in the Slammer In the first of those dialogues, Euthyphro, Socrates discusses an important issue, which we’ll encounter later (the bearing of religion on morality) In the second, Apology, he explains to the court why he cannot accept their verdict of guilty (to a charge we’d consider spurious), nor their offer of a quiet exile rather than death. In Phaedo, Socrates discusses the immortality of the soul, and at the end there is a moving scene in which he takes the penalty (drinking hemlock, a lethal poison) Crito is the next-last. In this he discusses the question whether it is morally OK for his friends to spirit him away from the prison. That’s where we come in.

6 Plato ( B.C.) [author of the dialogue Crito] slide # 6 Socrates in the Slammer Socrates ( B.C.) [image by an unknown who did not know Socrates]

7 slide # 7 Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

8 Socrates’ Arguments in Crito The Question: what do we owe the state? [-> as a matter of moral obligation] -> Socrates’ answer (apparently): Everything! - almost?... - either always to obey, or (at least) to accept the penalty - even if it’s death! [note: I am imputing this answer to him - which is at least plausible. Not everyone agrees that Socrates does hold this.... We don’t concern ourselves with that scholarly question.] slide # 8

9 - Socrates argues in favor of keeping his “appointment” with the executioner -> Is he right in his reasons for this? - That’s our question. Distinguish: the personal issue from the general issue The personal issue is for Socrates: what will he do? [of course, we know the answer, for the actual historical Socrates] The general issue is for us all: what are we morally required to do in a situation where the law calls on us to do something we’d rather not do? Socrates does actually argue for this - he doesn’t just assert it. We are to examine these arguments. slide # 9

10 What are we morally required to do in a situation where the law calls on us to do something we’d rather not do? (a) where we can “get away with it” (b) where we can’t (we’ll get punished) - [Question: Is there a difference between (a) and (b)?? -> we are looking for the morally right thing to do - not just “what we’ll do”... - [But how are those related?? - That’s a very large question....] Socrates’ case, oddly enough, combines (a) and (b) since he’s voluntarily administering his own punishment when he could have just gone off with his friends slide # 10

11 The issue is: what authority do we attach to the laws and institutions under which we live? [i.e., What do we Owe the State?] Three possibilities: 100%: Do we owe them absolute loyalty? 50%± Or some loyalty? 0%: Or none at all? Assumption: being in prison (or dead) is, other things equal, not a good thing! Questions: what’s relevant to this more general issue, and what isn’t? General answer (and Socrates’ answer): moral requirements are decisive: only if they permit us to act on other reasons may we do so.... [But of course, then the question is: OK, what are those requirements? - - That’s where we come in. slide # 11

12 Crito slide # 12 The Argument 1. We must always be Just part of the cost: Reputation - Crito: “If you die, not only will I be deprived of a friend the like of whom I shall never find again, but many people will think that I was too cheap to save you. Surely there can be no worse reputation than that!” Status of Opinions - not much...! Socrates: “Why should we care so much about what the majority think? Reasonable people, to whom one should pay more attention, will believe the truth.” C: “But the majority can inflict great evils if one is slandered among them. S: “Not really. They act haphazardly, and cannot make a man either wise or foolish. “Consider, now, don’t you think it true that one must not value all opinions, but only those of the wise, ignoring the foolish?” C: Well, yes. [Why? presumably because the wise are more likely to be right?]

13 slide # 13 1a. Justice and the Health of the Soul: to be unjust is to have an “unhealthy soul”..... S: We shouldn’t care about reputation especially regardibg important things - such as just and unjust actions, and beautiful and ugly character: -if we don’t follow the path of wisdom and disdain the foolish, shall we not - harm and corrupt that part of ourselves that is improved by just actions and destroyed by unjust ones? [that is, the soul] C. Yes, you have a point there. S: And is life worth living for us if it is corrupted? Surely that part of us, whatever it is, is more valuable than the body, is it not? C: It is. S: Well, then, we had better examine whether it would be right for me to try to get out of here when the Athenians have not acquitted me. -> If it is right, of course, I will go with you. But if not, then I must surely stay Let’s begin at the beginning: namely, that we must never do wrong willingly - whatever the majority may say. Is that right? C: It is.

14 [Question: Is Socrates right that nothing can possibly be more important than justice? (or more generally, than considerations of moral acceptability) Question: What does he mean by ‘justice’? [What do we mean by ‘justice’??] Is ‘justice’ a synonym for ‘supreme good’ (whatever it is)? Or is it narrower than that? (I think most of us think of it as narrower. So: it is unjust to cheat at cards. But is it unjust not to become a violinist when you could?) Should we be ready to do anything rather than any injustice?? We won’t try to answer that one just now! - But as we’ll see, it may be rather important…. slide # 14

15 slide # The Non-Injury Principle: Justice says that We must injure no one S: if we are wronged, we must nevertheless inflict no wrong in return - contrary to what the majority seem to think. C: That seems right, yes. S: So if we are injured, it is still not right to inflict an injury in return? After all, injuring is wrongdoing, is it not? C: It is, and we mustn’t. [Question: (pursued on the next slide): is injury the same as “wrongdoing”??]

16 slide # 16 “Injury”: Do we ever have the right to injure? Injury is infliction of evil. But, there are two senses of ‘evil’: (a) evil = morally wrong (b) evil = something undesirable [e.g. pain or death] -- These are not the same! [your dentist inflicts some pain on you; but what he does isn’t morally evil (a), but only (b) - undesirable. So, we must distinguish these two questions: (1)Should we do immoral things to criminals? [plausible answer: No! Two wrongs indeed don’t make a right. But a wrong and a punishing reaction to it are not “two wrongs”!] (2) Should we do undesirable things to criminals? [plausible answer: Yes!] (I.e., in one sense, we may “injure” criminals; in the other, we may not)

17 Socrates: C1 therefore we must not injure the state Question: Do we injure the State by disobeying its laws? --That’s a tricky question, at least.... (a)Suppose we are not injuring any person by disobeying law L (b)Might we nevertheless be “injuring the state” by disobeying law L? [a further question - which we’ll get to: Regarding (b): If (a) is the case, then would it matter??] [Later: we’ll discuss the claim that disobeying the law is “destroying” the State...] Meanwhile, back to the text: Socrates will try to show that We are “injuring the state” in that we “break our agreement with it” … slide # 17

18 Keeping Agreements S: Then let us move to the next point. When we have made a just agreement with someone, should we fulfill it, or do we get to cheat on it? C: Clearly, we must fulfill it. S: Well, but consider: if we leave here without the permission of the Athenians, are we not injuring people, people whom we should least injure? Would we be sticking to our just agreement, or reneging? C: Gosh, I’m not quite sure! [Question: are we “injuring people” by leaving without permission? Which people? How?] [important further question: does it injure someone to have someone else break an agreement with him??] slide # 18

19 Comments on Keeping Agreements (1)Is it always wrong to break agreements? [no - think about it...] (1)Socrates says we must not break our “just agreements” (2)- well, which among agreements are “just” ones? (3)Q: Is a “just agreement” an agreement that it would be unjust to break? -if so, that just takes us back to the question, which of our agreements are unjust to break… (4) Suppose we agree to do something evil. -Does justice require us to keep that agreement?? - [presumably not...] (5) What if we innocently make agreement A1, and another one, A2 -and it turns out that we can’t keep both. Are we being unjust, no matter what we do? -E.g., I agree with my boss to attend a meeting at 5:00, but then it turns out I have to take my little girl to ballet lessons at the same time… now what? Am I being unjust - no matter what I do? -that seems a bit much! slide # 19

20 “Keeping our Agreements” - Is disobeying the law unjust because it is a violation of an agreement? (1)Does justice require that we “keep our agreements”? [as we saw - Not always] (2) In any case: Did we agree to obey the laws? Re (1): Distinguish these two: (a) Justice requires that we “keep our agreements.” (b) Justice requires that we “keep our just agreements.” Obviously (2) is true. But is (1)? -If I make an agreement with you to blow up Hagey Hall, is it then just for me to do so? -I don’t think so! -So: if we did “make an agreement with the State,” then was it a just agreement? Or not? slide # 20

21 Agreements “with the State” S: Well, look - suppose that as we were planning our getaway, the Laws and the State were to confront us and ask: “Tell me, Socrates, what are you intending to do? -- Do you not by this action intend to destroy us, the laws, indeed to destroy the whole city, as far as that goes? Or do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of its courts have no force but are set at naught by private individuals?” Well, what shall we say to them? Shall we answer, “But the city wronged me, and its decision was not right!”? C: Well, sure -- that seems the right answer to me. S: But what if the laws then say, “Was that the agreement between us, Socrates? Or was it, on the contrary, to respect the judgments that the city came to?” slide # 21

22 Socrates’ claim about injury: In disobeying the law, one is "trying to destroy the State, so far as one is able". 2 questions: (a) Is it true? And (b) even if true -- is it relevant? Re (a): How do you tell whether someone is “trying to destroy the State?” - sometimes they’ll just say so. But more likely not… - and sometimes they do things which tend to do this, perhaps - (sometimes unintentionally too - does that count?) - how do we even tell that? --- If someone tosses a bomb in the Post Office, maybe he’s trying to do this --- But jaywalkers - are they doing that?? - Are ordinary crooks “trying to destroy the state”? --- Surely not! (More later about this…) - Take the drug dealer, who would be out of business if drugs weren’t illegal! - Re (b) Mightn’t some States deserve to be destroyed? -[Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe…] slide # 22

23 “Taking the Law into our own Hands” slide # 23 [a familiar idea about why we should obey the government...] Socrates thinks this would be terrible because it would (tend to) “destroy the state” How? Why? An essential distinction: (i)everyone’s doing so would destroy the state [true!] (ii)anyone’s doing so would destroy the state [false!] We’ll assume that ‘taking the law into one’s own hands’ means that one uses one’s own judgment whether to obey it; one doesn’t just automatically obey the law... note: -> some ignore the law simply by not caring about it at all -> others, however, ignore the law “conscientiously” - having decided that it would be a morally better thing not to obey this law, on this occasion. Socrates seems not to distinguish... Next Slide: a graph, relating disobedience to “destruction” ….

24 slide # 24

25 Is it true that (1)if Individual A disobeys the law, then A is "trying to overthrow the State"? [not obviously] (2) insofar as A disobeys the State, A is a “rebel”? [not necessarily] Major issue: If we were intending to overthrow the State, would that necessarily be unjust? - Might the State deserve to be overthrown? slide # 25

26 The Mom & Pop Factor - 7.the agreement to obey the state is a case of filial piety: we owe loyalty to our parents [Socrates, continuing: ]... To which they add, “Socrates, what accusation do you bring against us and the city, that you should try to destroy us? Was it not through us that your father married your mother and thus enabled you to be born at all? Do you have a criticism of our laws of marriage?” -- To which I would have to admit that I do not. “And then, what about those who nurtured you in infancy, and educated you later on? Do you claim they have wronged you?” I’d have to admit that they did not -- quite the contrary! “Well then”, they would continue, “can you deny that you are our offspring and servant, both you and your parents? If so, do you think that we are merely on an equal footing with you as regards what it is right for you to do to us? Do you really claim a right of retaliation against your country and its laws? slide # 26

27 Question: In what sense, if any, does the State get the credit for our parents’ bringing us into existence? -It seems basically a biological (and psychological) matter, rather than a legal one -No? How is it that marriage laws enable people to get married and have children?? -Surely it’s not at all like the sense in which people’s sexual apparatus enable them to do do. -And - couldn’t marriage laws actually interfere with reproduction? [ take China, for example: the State forbids people to have more than one, and will compel abortions for second children… On the other hand, Quebec will pay you (a bit) to have more children! Suppose you are one of the children in Quebec whose parents had you because the Province paid you to do so. Would you feel incredibly grateful to the State for “enabling you to be born”?? ---- slide # 27

28 [Socrates has the Laws continuing:.... Virtue and Law-Abidingness: 8.the state is like our father and mother (only more so!) Laws: Do you think that if we undertake to destroy you, thinking it right to do so, you in turn get to destroy us, as far as you can, in return? You claim to care a lot about virtue: well, what would be virtuous about that kind of behaviour? Indeed, is your country not to be honoured more even than your mother and father? If so, you must either persuade it or obey its orders, and endure whatever insolence it tells you you must endure; and if your country goes to war and demands your services, in the course of which you are wounded or killed, you must nevertheless obey. To do so is right, and not to give way or leave one’s post. If it is impious to bring violence to bear against your mother or father, it is surely much more so to use it against your country. No?” Socrates: Well, Crito, what could I say in reply to that? Do the Laws speak the truth, or don’t they?” C: I believe they do. slide # 28

29 The "argument from filial piety": The State is “like our parents, but even more so.” -Is this true? -Did the State “enable your parents to have you”? -[no: biology does that…] Do we owe our parents absolute obedience? (“My mother, drunk or sober!”) (“my dad, the terrorist…”?) “Here, son, go out and murder this guy … “Yes, Dad…” - Is that the right answer??? slide # 29

30 Goodies from the State?... S: And then the laws might continue, “If you grant all this, how can you be treating us rightly by planning to run away now? We gave you birth, nurtured and educated you, gave you and all citizens a share of all the good things we could. Moreover, if you didn’t like this, you were quite free to leave, as you know, and take your possessions with you, too. But you didn’t do that - instead, you chose to stay. Well, we say that if you stay, then you have as much as agreed to our conduct of trials and the other things we do to manage your country. We say, in fact, that the one who disobeys us does wrong, and does so in three ways: First, because in disobeying us, you disobey your parents, indeed those who are really superior to your parents. Secondly, you disobey those who brought you up as well; and 9.the state has done us a lot of good things Third, despite the agreement we pointed out before, and which you accept, you neither obey nor do you even try to persuade us to do better -- and we do, after all, allow you to try to persuade us of our errors, if such you think them. slide # 30

31 “As a matter of fact, Socrates, you chose us so decisively that you have even gone so far as to have children and raise them here -- when you could have done so elsewhere. And in that fine speech you made to the jury [Recounted in Plato’s dialogue, Apology], you prided yourself on preferring death to exile. Yet instead of showing shame at the very idea, you now plan to sneak away, like the meanest type of slave, contrary to your understandings and agreement to live as a citizen under our care. What do you say to that, Socrates?!” - Well, Crito, what do I say? Have I any choice but to agree with these arguments? C: It seems not. S: And the laws might go on to say, “You’ve had seventy years during which you could have left any any time, if you didn’t like the way we do things. But you didn’t choose to go to Sparta or Crete, say, despite your going on about how well governed they are. Evidently we must be doing something right, eh? slide # 31

32 Re (2): Socrates needs the premise that we agreed to obey the laws. Did we? This brings up an important subject: The “Social Contract” (“contractarian”) theory of government. [One of the most important ideas in the history of political philosophy] [There are three versions of how to understand the “agreement” invoked in this view: - (a) literal; (b) implicit; (c) hypothetical (a)We literally promised - signed something, said something... (b)We implicitly promised - did what amounts to promising, without literally doing so (c) it would have been a good idea to promise - didn’t do either of above, but should have or would have [--- if what??] [that is, it would have been rational, from our own point of view, to agree] Variants attach various conditions to (c) - as you’ll see next term!] slide # 32

33 Questions/comments about these three theories: (a)First theory: We literally promised - Comment: But we didn’t (usually) (b)Second theory: We implicitly promised Comment: how do we tell?? does living in the area do the trick? (Socrates invokes that one) Or paying your taxes? Or … ? [note: Would an intended rebel not be the first to obey the laws??] (c) Third theory: it would have been a good idea to agree [discussion, next slide....] slide # 33

34 Questions/comments about these three theories: (c) Third theory: it would have been a good idea to agree [that is, it would have been rational, from our own point of view, to agree] [- this is by far the most important of the three versions, historically] Comments: (i)Would hypothetical agreement obligate?? -- Plausible answer: not obviously…. [this is a major problem for such theories] (ii)How do we establish rationality for this purpose? [Presumed general answer: all things considered, you would be better off if you agreed, even if you keep the agreement. Are there other good answers?] (iii) Would it be rational to agree to obey all the laws?? …. [see next slide] slide # 34

35 How much obedience is rational? Would we agree to this: ii(a): “I will obey all the Laws of our State -- whatever those Laws may be!” Or only this: ii(b): I agree to obey all of the Just Laws of the State -- Surely ii(b) is much more plausible. Argument: it isn’t merely “more plausible” when we consider the next point: iii. What if a particular law is unjust? Can this happen? -- Well, can’t it?? slide # 35

36 (Now the question is: What is a "just law"? We’ll get back to that one! But even without answering it precisely, we can make a distinction regarding unjust laws: --> two sorts of allegedly unjust laws: (1) laws requiring us to do what is unjust. (2) laws requiring us to do what the laws ought not to require us to do. If (1)applies, then, clearly Socrates cannot think that would be just (For remember his starting point: No injustice!] If we are never to do injustice, then we must not do it by obeying a law requiring us to do it (like the Nazi laws...) slide # 36

37 Does anybody (including Socrates) think that all laws are just in either way? A law requiring us to kill some innocent person, e.g. Would be unjust in way (1) -How about way (2)? Is there anything that laws may not require us to do even though just doing it is OK? -Example: require everyone to wear green shoes, for no reason... -(There’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing green shoes -But mightn’t it be unjust for the laws to require that??] -[more significant example: what is the laws require us to be Seventh-Day Adventists?] Jay-walking when there’s no traffic coming… isn’t that OK?? [The big question, of course, is: what is just and unjust?] -Socrates has said that we are not to injure anyone at all. -[more about that in The Republic…] Which we’ll be turning to next…. slide # 37

38 “The Laws” have another go: “And then, what good will you do yourself or your friends by breaking these agreements? They will then be in danger of exile, disfranchisement, and loss of property, too. In fact, your action may convince the jury that they made the right decision in your case. And when you get to one of those other countries, how will they regard you? Clearly, as a potential destroyer of their laws. Or will you instead choose to live in the wilds, lawless and “free”? We doubt it! “But in any even slightly civilized place, what will you do? Spend your time ingratiating yourself with people, and be at their beck and call? And will you bring your children along, and make strangers of them, too? “Really, Socrates, you had best listen to us who brought you up. Do not value either your children or your life or anything more than justice and goodness, so that when you arrive in Hades you may have all this as your defence before the rulers there. slide # 38

39 Now Socrates seems to be arguing that Athens, after all, is a better place to live than the other options -Suppose it is -[btw, who decides that?…] -But, is it better because of its laws? -Or is it perhaps better despite its laws?? [Socrates was convicted of “impiety” - a vague charge -and perhaps an outrageous one… -Does he want to claim that Athens is a better place to live because it convicts people on trumped-up charges of impiety?? If not, isn’t it questionable that a rational person would agree to obey all of the laws of Athens? -no matter what they are?? That doesn’t look too promising! Concluding Thought: The big question remains: What is justice? slide # 39

40 Henry Thoreau’s view: One idea about this is that justice is whatever the individual thinks it is That seems to be what Henry Thoreau ( ) thinks. [reading: excerpts from Thoreau’s Duty of Civil Disobedience] Thoreau and The “Right of Conscience” His (apparent) principle: “For any individual, A, if A believes that x is right, then A has the right to do x.” [or: (A)(A believes x is right, then it is right for A to do x) (translation: for any given person, A, and for any given act, x, if A believes that x is right, then x is the right thing for A to do at that time…)] Notice that the antecedent is about a belief, while the consequent in effect says that that belief is true slide # 40

41 Discussion of Thoreau’s view: Can justice be whatever the individual thinks it is? [or: (A)(A believes x is right, then it is right for A to do x) (translation: for any given person, A, and for any given act, x, if A believes that x is right, then x is the right thing for A to do at that time…)] Notice that the antecedent is about a belief, while the consequent in effect says that that belief is true Are all beliefs true? -obviously not! -Are all beliefs about justice true? - Why?? Does Thoreau think that the individual conscience is infallible? - Can there be Nazi consciences? [it seemed so....] slide # 41

42 Rights: What Are They? At least part of the answer is surely this: If A has the right to do x, others ought to allow him to do x. (More generally: ‘A has a right to do x against B’ ->‘A is such that B is required to at least allow A to do x (not interfere with A’s trying to do x) if A wants to and can’ Suppose: B believes that B has the moral duty to slit A's throat [note: this effectively prevents A from doing x!] More generally: Let B's action (of throat-slitting, say) be called 'y'. > Then y turns out to be, by this principle, both right and wrong >> Right, because B believes it is >> - and also Wrong, because it violates the supposed right to do x which (by hypothesis) A has because A believes he has. slide # 42

43 (Example: the abortion clinic bomber: Ms. A believes that abortion is right; Mr. B believes that B has a moral duty to bomb the abortion clinic in which A is getting an abortion. But if she does have this right, then B does not have the one he thinks he has. Therefore It cannot be true that we have whatever rights we think we do. A “general right of conscience” is impossible. So - where do we go from here? [answer: the rest of this course But in particular, to Plato’s Republic…. slide # 43

44 The question: What is justice? The idea that justice is whatever the individual thinks it is is popular among clever sophomores.... But it is plainly wrong, since it leads to contradictions Socrates holds that it is unjust to injure anyone.. - but that’s not obviously true, at least And he holds that it’s always just to obey the law but that now seems impossible > So, where do we go from here? Answer: let’s see what Plato says in The Republic.... slide # 44


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