Wednesday, February 24, 2010

234: The Ideal State, an intruduction

A new project! This time not as technical and abstract as epistemology, but nearer to home. Our project on Modern Theories of Ethics focused on the individual and his responsibilities as a social being.

A next step will be to look how all these individuals in their social setting and with their individual ideas of ethics try to live together in a group, a society, a nation. And so we enter the field of political philosophy.

We can define political philosophy as philosophical reflection on how best to arrange our collective life - our political institutions and our social practices, such as our economic system, related to the concept of property for instance.

The title of this project is THE IDEAL STATE, but we must be careful, because the state is already a well defined concept, while we also could focus on a more general term than we use in our title: the collective life of mankind.

Well…. here we are already in the middle of a debate, if we ask whether the collectivity of mankind is necessarily divided into states. Some areas are for instance divided into tribes for instance.

This immediate jump into a debate points at another aspect of political philosophy. Some political philosophers seek to establish basic principles.

Principles that will, for instance, justify a particular form of state, show that individuals have certain inalienable rights, or tell us how a society's material resources should be shared among its members.

This usually involves analysing and interpreting ideas like freedom, justice, authority and democracy and then applying them in a critical way to the social and political institutions that currently exist.

Others chose a completely different approach. They ignored the actual state of affairs and have painted pictures of an ideal state or an ideal social world that is very different from anything we have so far experienced.

Especially this second group of philosophers demands a normative or prescriptive status for political philosophy, but like their theories were often utopian, this claimed status certainly is.

This leads immediately to the question whether the principles that political philosophers establish are to be regarded as having universal validity, or whether they should be seen as expressing the assumptions and the values of a particular political community.

And this leads us back to the the question about human nature. In order to justify a set of collective arrangements, a political philosophy must say something about the nature of human beings, about their needs, their capacities, about whether they are mainly selfish or mainly altruistic, and so forth,

which leads us back to the fundamental questions of ethics, which directly relate to our theory of knowledge, which at its turn presupposes an ontology.

This course on Political Philosophy will integrate all these elements of philosophy. The backbone will be the historical route from Plato to Popper.

And while en route we may stop and dwell at some conceptual places, enjoying the view of an analysis of concepts like justice, democracy, freedom and so on.

So, as the captain of this ship I would say to you ….


The Discussion

[13:16] Gemma Cleanslate: oh oh
[13:16] Abraxas Nagy: yar
[13:16] Justine Rhapsody: lol
[13:16] ZANICIA Chau: hehehe
[13:16] Repose Lionheart: ad astra
[13:16] Abraxas Nagy: mr Sulu warp 4
[13:16] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:16] herman Bergson: yes Repose but it is Per aspera ad astra
[13:16] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:16] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:17] herman Bergson: which means …to the stars through difficulties
[13:17] ZANICIA Chau: Surely the appraisal cannot pos be just universal-that would encompass too much as generalisation
[13:17] Repose Lionheart: starts?
[13:18] herman Bergson: stars...sorry
[13:18] herman Bergson: which appraisal Zanicia?
[13:18] ZANICIA Chau: Evaluation in general terms.
[13:19] herman Bergson: About political systems you mean?
[13:19] ZANICIA Chau: Help me out , people!
[13:19] ZANICIA Chau: Yes
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: i am not sure what you mean tho
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: zanicia
[13:19] herman Bergson: Well when I understand you correctly you refer to the problem we already ran into several times
[13:20] ZANICIA Chau: Well you referred initially to the collective
[13:20] herman Bergson: It concerns the validity of theories
[13:20] herman Bergson: yes..
[13:20] herman Bergson: In ethic we had the same problem..
[13:20] ZANICIA Chau: yes are we just treading old ground or did I puty it badly?
[13:21] ZANICIA Chau: put
[13:21] herman Bergson: are ethical rules and theories universal, or only related to a culture
[13:21] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: ah yes
[13:21] ZANICIA Chau: Indeed
[13:21] Repose Lionheart: they need to claim universality to be internally consistent, perhaps
[13:21] herman Bergson: In political philosophy we have to deal with the same problem
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: i think that problem occurs in every project we have been through
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: from the beginning
[13:22] herman Bergson: Are the ideas of Plato related to the greek culture only or can they be applied universally?
[13:22] ZANICIA Chau: true
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes Gemmma, well observed..
[13:22] herman Bergson: and it boils down to a fundamental problem of our days..
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: he claims they can be applied universally, but so does everyone else with a universal
[13:23] herman Bergson: the balance between relativism and skepticism and more objective knowledge
[13:23] ZANICIA Chau: skepticism?
[13:24] herman Bergson: YEs Zanicia...the idea that there is absolutely nothing certain
[13:24] ZANICIA Chau: oh I see
[13:25] herman Bergson: while relativism would claim that certain things are at least certain relative to a given context
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: I think all the philosophers we will discuss will admit that too
[13:25] herman Bergson: I think that in our Ethics project we succeeded in putting a real distance between our ideas an the relativist/skeptic view
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well Gemma, there always is that drive to find at least an indicaiton of some universality
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: And since we just had the Darwin year, we are more aware of some universality from an evolutionary point of view
[13:28] herman Bergson: An interesting research project is in this context forinstance the DNA research
[13:28] herman Bergson: an attempt to trace our roots back to where we came from
[13:28] herman Bergson: as a species
[13:29] herman Bergson: so while this DNA is at the bottom of all of it, the collective life we life may be called on top of everything
[13:30] ZANICIA Chau: Why is there growing concern ,do you think, professor, that DNA research is fundamentally flawed?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Is that so?
[13:30] ZANICIA Chau: Sorry, meant to say that last time!
[13:31] ZANICIA Chau: A growing concern
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: i read it is not as perfect as they thought
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: so far
[13:31] herman Bergson whispers: In what sense?
[13:31] ZANICIA Chau: generally ha ha
[13:31] herman Bergson: I see...then we have to look into that
[13:32] herman Bergson: well...the collective life will not depend on our knowledge of DNA fortunately
[13:32] ZANICIA Chau: yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: We'll start a journey through history and see how philosophers thought about the collectivity
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: interesting that it doesn't
[13:33] herman Bergson: and it will be interesting to keep the question in mind: in what respects do all these philosophers agree
[13:33] herman Bergson: or mdid not agree at all...
[13:34] herman Bergson: We'll look fromour perspective at their ideas and can wonder how valid they (still) are
[13:34] herman Bergson: So Plato will be as always our first guest
[13:35] herman Bergson: Check him out...his book Politeia, often translated as Teh Republic
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: Your homework for next Thursday ^_^
[13:35] Repose Lionheart:
[13:35] Zinzi Serevi: :)
[13:35] Zinzi's translator: :)
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: \o/
[13:35] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:36] herman Bergson: There is tons of info on this subject on the Internet
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: good
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: yes there is
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: wiki has alot
[13:36] herman Bergson: Oh yes... the complete text of the Politeia is available too
[[13:37] herman Bergson: two good sources are http:// www.
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: yep
[13:37] herman Bergson: and the other one I know is Adeleide university Australia
[13:38] herman Bergson: Adelaide it is I think
[13:38] herman Bergson: You have to google the name..easy to find
[13:38] herman Bergson: A lot of the philosophers we'll discuss have their texts online ^_^
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: good
[13:39] herman Bergson: Any questions left unanswered?
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: now all we need is the time to read it all
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:39] CONNIE Eichel: nope
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well ,,,then I hope to see you next Thursday when we'll discuss Plato's ideas about the ideal state
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:40] herman Bergson: Thank you for your attention
[13:40] Jeb Larkham: thanks Herman see you Thursday
[13:40] Abraxas Nagy: ty professor
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: bye
[13:40] CONNIE Eichel: thanks professor :)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Sorry Plato today..:)
[13:40] ZANICIA Chau: Enlightening and stimulating as always, thankyou
[13:40] Zinzi Serevi: dank u
[13:40] Zinzi's translator: merci
[13:40] Adriana Jinn: thank you all
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: see you guys next time :D
[13:41] Adriana Jinn: see you on thursday
[13:41] ZANICIA Chau: Bye
[13:41] herman Bergson: Bye all
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: it was really interesting even if i dont discuss
[13:42] herman Bergson: I hope you will enjoy it Adriana
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: it is really difficult for me but i want to go on to learn and listen
[13:42] CONNIE Eichel: bye all :)
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: surely i will
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: no pb
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: bye bye for now
[13:43] herman Bergson: dont forget the blog
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:43] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:43] Adriana Jinn: yes i will
[13:43] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: you always can review the texts
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ;-)))
[13:43] oola Neruda: Adriana.. that is where i am at
[13:44] herman Bergson: we still have to play chess Qwark
[13:44] Qwark Allen: ah
[13:44] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:44] Qwark Allen: will be fun

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