Thanks to Sara for a thoughtful response to my initial post. Sara’s very reasonable, and I confess a certain deliberate provocativeness in the original post. Nonetheless, I want to push back on a few things.
Author: Michael Bennett
I am a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. I have worked on the justification of democracy, the relationship between democracy and the market, and the political theory of business corporations.
I think there’s something unintentionally revealing about the title of Frances Kamm’s book Intricate Ethics. Most people, I expect, would find it quite odd for intricacy to be a key selling point for a theory of ethics. Yet this actually makes complete sense, albeit not in the way Kamm intends. Philosophers need ethics to be intricate. If it were simple, they’d be out of a job.
It’s easy to get sick of politics. So much wasted effort. So many stillborn schemes and plans that go nowhere. So much running to stand still. But if you’re running to stay in place on a treadmill, and you stop running, you go backwards. And the same is true in politics. Seemingly wasted effort is often not really waste, because without it your political opponents would have gained (even more) ground. Of course, some forms of activism are more effective than others, and some may even be counter-productive. But the mere fact you have not achieved anything concrete does not mean you’ve been ineffective: your achievement may instead have been to hinder your opponents.
This year I decided to put some Chinese philosophy on our curriculum, and I’ve been enjoying getting to know that tradition. But there’s something frustrating about classical Chinese political philosophy. It’s the same thing I find so irritating about Plato.
The wisest should rule. This is the core of Plato’s political philosophy. It’s an idea shared by Confucius and indeed most of the classical Chinese tradition. But I think it’s largely meaningless.
Plato presents rule by the wise as the answer to a question of constitutional theory. Who should rule? Ancient Greek thought gives a menu of options such as:
Political theory hasn’t been neglected by the podcast boom, but it’s not always easy to know where to go. Here, I list (with links) the best political theory/philosophy related content in the podverse. (There are also some iTunes U courses and related suggestions below).