Shreyas’ Notes

Social and Political Philosophy

PHIL 370

fall, freshman year

Social vs Political Philosophy

“normative”, "should"s, ideals. can’t be studied in isolation from their context.


Is there an obligation to obey the law? §

  1. consent theory is more plausible than people realize
  2. precise and limited scope

Aim: find a sense of “political obligation” and “consent” such that it can be claimed that consent is (at least) a necessary condition of political obligation

correlatives political authority and political obligation

The Consent Theory

rebellion vs civil disobedience

political obligation and political authority are correlatives. political authority is a (not necessarily conclusive) reason for obedience.

“Political obligation”: a reason logically related to both political {obligation,authority}

The Consent Theory:

Consent: acceptance of membership into a state[2]

Naturalized citizens: explicit agreement to obey rules

Native-born citizens: implicitly agree when transitioning from political minors to adults (full citizens)

consent == agreement == promise (or analogous to promise)

questions of utility and of fidelity are distinct.

Benn & Peters: if consent necessary, what auth does the govt have over people who disagree with the basic principles of the constitution?

consent: acceptance of membership in the state.

agree with” vs “agree to obey

why would one not agree with, but agree to obey?

disagree & wish to disobey options:

“Government” serves important functions, caveats aside.

Secure under a system of laws, as compared to in a “state of nature”. Else, vulnerable.

System of laws: secure. Thus, obey the law?

‘Consent of (all) the Governed’: agreed, consented => obligation (even if wouldn’t otherwise be morally required)

Consent: clearly gives rise to obligation. answers both questions at once.

“implicit” consent is tricky

Agreement binding on you, if you agreed.

“Nobody agreed”, but is there something that has the force of an agreement?

Tacit consent vs Hypothetical consent

Equilibrium where it makes sense for everyone to consent.

No improvement for one party hurts other parties

Dependence on the state, benefited from the state. Alternatives?

Tacit Hypothetical
Plato Hobbes
Locke Rawles

Tacit consent relies on an awareness of the options/alternatives. Do any of us?

Is the state obliged to educate political minors in order to derive authority? —Adrian

  1. Is it possible to define the conditions for tacit consent? Yeah

    • convention. shared understanding.

    • ability to withhold consent

      In order to be able to say “yes”, you gotta be able to say “no”

      State: security. can it be refused? nope.

      “if you benefit from it, are you obliged regardless of whether you consented?”

    • voluntary

    Is leaving the territory a sufficient way of saying no? If you stay, are you consenting? Is that enough to satisfy the voluntariness condition?

    no ability to avoid all govt, but ability to avoid that govt? is that enough?

  2. Are those conditions satisfied?

what counts as giving consent? accepting the benefits the state makes possible.

​ voluntary, or nah?

The Peasant

is inaction consent?

no resources, ain’t on him?

if it were entirely his fault (not in this case imo)


The Principle of Fairness —Robert Nozick §

fairness argument:

​ [sacrifices: benefits: you benefit: you are obliged, morally, to do your part]

whether or not they consented

​ benefit > burden

Nozick: “only I can make the decision as to whether I’m obliged to one thing or another”

The Principle of Fairness —George Klosko §

When a number of persons conduct any joint enterprise according to rules and thus restrict their liberty, those who have submitted to these restrictions when required have a right to a similar submission from those who have benefited from their submission.

sacrifices of cooperators benefit non-cooperators as well (who don’t make those sacrifices). “unfair”. mutuality of restrictions

“the just distribution of benefits and burdens” —Lyons

“We are not to gain from the cooperative labors of others without doing our fair share” —Rawls

Fairness. Wrong for certain people to be exempt from burdens others must bear (in the absence of morally relevant differences bw them).

similar individuals: similar treatment.

  1. Exclude AA from benefits
  2. Free other members from the burdens
  3. AA bears similar burdens

1 and 2 must not be open to impose obligations to coop on AA

AA obliged if:

  1. they must unavoidably benefit from the coop while not coop’ing
  2. the benefits of not coop’ing can’t be extended to those coop’ing

kinds of goods:

cooperation is necessary for entitlement to excludable goods arising out of mutual cooperation.

AA is free to decide if they want to make the sacrifices, since they can be excluded. they incur obligations only if they choose not to be excluded. “voluntary associations”. application principle of fairness wrt excludable goods is straight-forward.

benefits of non-excludable goods are non-optional and non-excludable. individuals can’t decide whether or not to receive them. blurry, complex.

limiting argument: since benefits will be provided regardless of what AA does, they shouldn’t be obligated to participate in the labors.

since non-coop’ers receive benefits regardless, it’s in their interest to be free riders

prisoner’s dilemma. nn people must cooperate to receive a benefit.

solution (?): “mutual coercion”. not Just to coerce unless they have obligations to cooperate.

limiting argument sez: “principle of fairness does not create obligations for non-agreers to contribute to non-excludable schemes.”

Klosko about Nozick’s examples: “concern the provision of goods of […] little value […] probably rhetorical […] substitute examples of schemes providing more significant benefits, the force of Nozick’s arguments will be blunted”

principle of fairness generates powerful obligations to contribute to non-excludable schemes if:

  1. worth the recipients’ effort in providing them
  2. presumptively beneficial
  3. have benefits and burdens fairly distributed

presumptively beneficial goods: “goods every person is presumed to want”. vague, difficult notion.

presumptive public goods (PPG): public analogies of Rawls’ primary goods. all members of a community want these, regardless of their detailed rational plans.

if a benefit is indispensable to AA's welfare e.g. physical security, we can assume that they benefit from it even though they didn’t seek it. importance of such goods. indispensable. obligated regardless of their consent

high level of benefit presumptive pub goods provide is necessary for generating obligations.

pickerel would give hypothetical consent, but his obligation arises because he receives the benefits. justification for not coop’ing? why are you special? none. indefensible, unless some morally significant difference between himself and coop’ers. free rider!

  1. exclude non-excludable, unavoidable
  2. extend benefits of noncoop’ing to coop’ers[3] essential. must be provided. indispensable. can’t be done away with.
  3. non coop’ers incur an obligation to coop

with non-PPGs (aka discretionary goods), the usual presumption of liberty is not overridden by the “non-strong” obligation. even if the benefit > burden_of_coop

Nozick’s examples turn on treating the weak obligations generated by the provision of discretionary goods as if they were much stronger

benefits of Gold’s noncoop (in discretionary scheme) can be extended to other members of the scheme. thus no obligation.

overriding of presumption of liberty

Are obligations to help provide PPGs enforcible??

does free riding justify punishment? can we be coerced into following rules that make PPGs available?

harm principle of justice. does free riding harm people?[4] if so, that might justify punishment?

not clearly, unless enough people free ride. “just taking advantage! not hurting ya 📈”

we all need it. harmed by someone who hinders the state from providing that. if no enforcement, enough people would disobey[5] (since people’d rather disobey some laws sometimes).

pollution example. each polluter contributes to pollution. accumulation. klosko: this is analogous. no single person undermines it enough to compromise, but if enough people did it, the cumulative harm would be large.

does this satisfy the harm principle? klosko: yes!

people that do tend to do their share be like: why do my share if the others don’t and i don’t end up receiving the benefit anyway?

[paraphrased] the provision of a single PPG triggers extensive obligations requirements to assist in many … in general (presumptive or nah) should not affect the degree of their obligation

What if someone doesn’t want security at all? What if someone wants the things that Klosko believes are absolutely unreasonable and undesirable? People making judgments about what’s in their own interest…

If the degree of benefits under the same obligations differ?

Proportional obligation?

Political Anarchism —John Simmons §

natural rights. sovereignty over ourselves. Simmons’ starting point. self. autonomous, free creatures.

Locke: we have a right to punish those who violate others’ right.

everyone’s rights impose duties on others. the only default obligation.

the only way we can obtain other obligations of any sort are if we choose to incur them voluntarily. voluntarism.

Simmons doesn’t buy the consent theory.

Philosophical anarchism: there is no obligation to obey the law

(explicit) consent precondition for political obligation

people in existing societies […] have moral duties that will overlap considerably with their nonbinding legal duties

we are not […] ought to act just whenever we have a right to do so

moral reason, even if no moral duty, to practice patience, courtesy, consideration, etc. Lockean Theory of Rights.

Each person also has the right to punish others who act immorally


types of restrictive laws (oversimplified):

  1. prohibit acts that wrongly harm others

  2. systems of coordination on morally permissible acts to prevent accidents

e.g. traffic rules
  1. prohibit harmless private conduct
deemed wrong|unnatural for reasons apart from "natural" morality

e.g. incest? e.g. victim-less laws
  1. require|prohibit acts to protect the govt/state
e.g. prohibit treason, require military service
  1. require payments to permit provision of public benefits etc
e.g. taxes

categories 1 and 2 are easily justifiable. state officers exercising their legit right to punish moral wrongdoing.

interfering with harmless private activities? not justified.

good govts not entitled to enforce people’s support or force them to protect its territorial boundaries

can’t demand or seize payment either. never auth’d to be the sole enforcers of morality

existing governments routinely wrong their “citizens”

dealing with a moderately good illegitimate govt. “not at war” with such governments

weigh the importance of the rights it violates against the consequences of our various possible strategies

contractual duty vs natural moral duty

can’t usually disrupt the workings of an illegit govt unless it does significant harm. moral reasons to support (or not actively interfere). pointless to just replace it with a worse alt.

morally permissible to disobey laws that are illegit’ly enforced against us. individual disobedience doesn’t usually have dramatic social consequences. including taxeshmmst—) conspicuous disobedience too, perhaps

press for change via legal means. lobbying. steps towards making the membership choice voluntary. right to self-govt restored.

Lockean philosophy […] is only philosophically, not practically, anarchic

Locke: life in a free, consensual polity is morally preferable to even a stable, structured society built on force and acquiescence.

foolish to pretend that actual societies are likely to change in [these] ways

“view our conduct in a new light”, “more sensitive to the […] moral issues in our lives”

The limits of liberty §

The Harm Principle —J. S. Mill §

per Mill some cultures aren’t up to the kind of liberty he defends. umm… okay Mill.

a legitimate govt may legit’ly place constraints on people’s liberty. not all constraints on liberty are equally legit.

the only legit reason for preventing one’s liberty is to prevent them from harming other people. governs reasons for legit prevention of liberty.

paternalism[7]. another form of paternalism is to interfere when it’s a matter of private conduct.

state may not interfere with liberty to:

mill: they can make decisions for themselves!

indirect, or not, the chain of harm should hold true. then, harm principle holds!

likelihood of harm to others. harm principle doesn’t comment on where this line should be, but rules out some (most) kinds of justifications for restriction of liberty.

mill thinks speech, opinions are protected by the harm principle.

censorship. mill: noooooo

sui, drunkenness seem self-regarding, but may not be. dependents, debts…

how many purely self-regarding activities are there anyway??

should the state have a role in protecting people from their own “foolishness”? why accept the harm principle? how does mill defend the harm principle? any better reasons?

is the harm principle compatible with capital punishment (deterrent)? coz mill did support capital punishment. how does that play with the harm principle?

harm principles focused on reasons. an action may be defensible if done for one reason but indefensible if done for another.

not just state interference, but also societal interference in the form of social pressure.

mill: cancel culture bad.

present laws are very divergent from the harm principle

mill: absolutist about speech.

mill: punish on grounds of the effect, not necessarily the cause.

mill’s exceptions to the harm principle:

if they’re in the possession of rational faculties, they should be allowed to make decisions for themselves.

in the corn dealer example, the mob is not in possession of rational faculties. tract sold via amazon: mill, uncomfortably: “um… okay.”

utilitarianism: tries to achieve best results for everyone overall regardless of who tf they are. maximize good consequences.

mill is a utilitarian. mill: harm principle is supported by the utility principle. is it though?

self destructive person.

more utility by paternalistic intervention. justify, mill, that this won’t be true in general. mill’s defense:

mill about social benefits of freedom of expression:

  1. a silenced opinion may be true. if you deny that, you assume your own infallibility. no one’s infallible.
  2. if the silenced opinion is erroneous, it may have an element of truth
  3. if the orthodoxy is completely true, it will be held in prejudice unless vigorously contested. unchallenged. lose contact with reasons for believing those opinions.
  4. meaning of the doctrine risks being lost. dogma, lack of conviction.

we win by allowing free debate. discovery of truth being important, let the truth prevail.


other (non-util) defenses of the harm principle:

Paternalism —Gerald Dworkin §

Kinds of paternalism:

if we no longer sympathise with this criticism this is due […] to a general decline in the belief that individuals know their own interest best. —Hart

mill does, in fact, acknowledge this criticism wrt govt econ interference. he also mentions a acks a few “very large and conspicuous” exceptions.

mill doesn’t use a purely utilitarian argument for anti-paternalism.

a consistent utilitarian can only argue against paternalism on the grounds that it does not maximize the good.

mill’s other argument: “to be able to choose is a good that is independent of the wisdom of what is chosen” in Dworkin’s words.

mode of laying out [their] own existence is the best […] because it is their own mode —Mill

perfectionist argument. “privilege and proper condition of a human being”

mil’s response to the “sell-self-into-slavery” example. “it is not freedom to be allowed to alienate [their] freedom”. Le “narrow principle”

future exercise of freedom is foreclosed. interference justified when action would bring greater loss of future freedom. everything forecloses some freedom?

amount of liberty lost: number of choices possible. permanent foreclosure of future liberty.

e.g. extreme sports.

“negative balance of liberty”

threatening punishment: don’t want to follow through, but if the threat is ineffective then they do it anyway and you still gotta punish.

  1. protection of future freedom test

  2. prospective test: some things are so important that they’d agree in advance to have their liberty restricted to preserve em

    health, life, freedom. “presumptively beneficial good”

  3. retrospective test: if they get screwed, they’d look back and nod their head ashamedly lol. lame.

    what if the bad thing doesn’t come about? why is the judgment more/less authoritative than if it didn’t come about?

    preferences|attitudes warped after the decision, perhaps.

perfectionist language sometimes a disguise for prejudice

mill’s prohibitions against paternalism are pretty absolute relative to his views on other things like govt interference with the economy, justice, and prohibition against lying. why? mill’s lines of arg:

non-rational behavior:

mill’s admitted exceptions:

Paternalism is justified only to preserve a wider range of freedom for the individual in question.

“social insurance policies”. odyssey example. where’s the line. admittedly, there’s a risk, therefore there have to be “carefully defined limits”

PPGs? even those may sometimes be overriden by competing values. e.g. christian dude and blood transfusion.

can there be a notion of irrationally placing weights on values?

  1. “irrationally” place more weight on some values
  2. neglect to act in accordance with one’s beliefs/preferences
  3. evaluative delusions e.g. floating-upwards-man

we’re more reluctant when evaluative diffs are the issue

actions that irreversibly affect (future) rationality. permanently screws you up. “insurance policy”

  1. far-reaching
  2. potentially dangerous
  3. irreversible

psychological/social pressures.

enforced waiting period. “cooling off” period. “suicide board”

dangers not fully understood or appreciated.

drawing the line, as usual, is challenging

depends on the nature of the deprivation and its effect on the person’s participation

  1. burden of proof on the authorities (arguing for intervention)

    • burden of going forward
    • burden of persuasion

    high standard of evidence of harmfulness. “better 10 [people] ruin themselves than one [person] be unjustly deprived of liberty”

  2. principle of the least restrictive alternative

    alternatives, when available, even if expensive (in whatever sense), should be chosen over restricting liberty.

possible defenses of harm principle;

harm: decrease someone’s general wellbeing. “make worse off”. wellbeing w/ action vs w/o action. conjecture. value-neutralish.

economic competition: harm??

speech is always protected under the harm principle. still possible to harm with speech. offensive/hate speech? to mill, offense isn’t harm.

actions depends on belief. belief may be influenced by speech.

speech which leads to false beliefs leads to poor actions? harm principle?? second-person harm. judgment intervenes, lies between the speech and the harm that arises. mill: harm iff other person’s judgment doesn’t intervene.

worsening is harming, but the question is “how well should’ve the other person been” (what you should’ve done) instead of “how well they would’ve been”. duty. no longer independent (of, say, the concept of obligation)


The Moral Limits of Wrongdoing

A Ride on the Bus, Feinberg.

  1. value for autonomy

    “they know best” etc

  2. respect for autonomy [non-contingent arg]

    even if they plan to shoot themselves in the foot, respect their autonomy anyway

Beyond Neutrality —George Sher §

argues for a moderate (mixed) form of perfectionism. neutrality bad, subjectivism bad. what sort of values should the govt promote?

perfectionism be like: some activities, traits etc are objectively better than others (and others are objectively worse than others). perfectionist arguments are legit reasons for state action and interference with liberty. not necessarily good reasons. bad reasons:

perfectionism: (relatively) easily abused. prejudice or perfection?

may agree about the objectivity, but disagree about whether the state should do anyth about it.

neutralism be like: perfectionist policy-making sucks. state has no business enforcing views about le good life. state should be neutral about le good life (usually perfectionist views).

strong vs weak neutralism: have the effect of promoting vs in order to promote. consequential vs justificatory neutrality

neutralism can be defended in three ways. non-neutral govt decisions:

  1. violate citizens’ autonomy
  2. pose risks of oppression, instability
  3. rest on value premises that can’t be rationally defended

value of autonomy vs respect for autonomy

main conclusions:

  1. govt may and should take an interest in the goodness of their citizens’ lives
  2. fundamental value-claims are true

… thus govts should act to further the favored traits and activities.

  1. rejects the fact that govts must remain neutral (in terms of judging what is “good”)
  2. traditional perfectionist view[10] > subjectivism

Neutralist arguments:

  1. individual’s autonomy (value for autonomy)

  2. owe each other the respect to allow individual decision-making (respect for autonomy)

  3. perfectionists in power may oppress those that don’t share their outlook. also, instability: opposing factions argue.

    • perfectionism isn’t the only avenue for oppression. competing views about *

    • oppression doesn’t need a perfectionist “excuse”. oppression is a problem regardless of perfectionism.

      • more of a problem!
        • ack. protection necessary. legal frameworks.
  4. maybe the state’s conceptions of “the good life” are mistaken

“what is the good life?? how can you know?”

Harm principle \leftrightarrow Neutralism

Justice and the Market Domain —Margaret Radin §

“The wall” vs “Everything’s a commodity”[11]

wall: sex, organs, babies, votes. perfectionist reasons.

args for the wall (all perfectionist):

domino effect too general to carve out a few exceptions. “where do we draw the line?”

“why just these?”

“commodification isn’t all that corrosive”

some people really do need the money and don’t have other viable alternatives.

the kind of work that we hope to have […] is that which we would do anyway

work vs labor: work has noncommodified component. labor is fully commodified.

alienated | unalienated

wb “busy work”? not fulfilling. pays the bills, but not rewarding.

incomplete commodification is also possible

foster the nonmarket aspect of what we buy and sell

Punishment §

treating people in ways that wouldn’t typically be morally permissible

A Utilitarian Theory of Punishment —Jeremy Bentham §

utility. deterrance. systems of punishment, not individual cases.

  1. groundless


    • harmless
    • harm outweighed by benefit

    agreement enough to make sth harmless

  2. inefficacious

    ineffective. threatening to punish ain’t gonna deter.

    some people in some situations can’t be deterred by threats: kids, delusional people, “idk that i’m doing sth illegal”, people under greater counter-threats

    delusional person vs sane wrt utility/consequentialist. what’s the difference? >same deterrence, but different amounts of happiness >inefficacious—can’t deter them anyway.

    ^different justification from that of the retributivist.

    “strict liability”

  3. unprofitable

  4. needless

punishment is justified when and only when it justifies the maximization of pleasure and pain

  1. deterrence
  2. incapacitation

have done, or will do? hypothetically, what if we knew that they will commit a crime, but they haven’t yet?



A Retributive Theory of Punishment —Herbert Morris §

“impure retributivist”. institutional. no desert.

“primary rules”.

noninterference by others with what each person values, such matters as continuance of life and bodily security. These rules define a sphere for each person then, which is immune from interference by others.

burden: self-restraint.

contrast with “therapeutic model”. “therapy world” device. pathological conditions. “carriers”. morris: this bad.

  1. abnormal
  2. causes for the abnormality that explain the symptoms
  3. interfere with the normal functioning of an individual
  4. abnormality is a part of the individual
  5. the abnormality arises from within the individual

“right to be punished” (as opposed to the therapeutic model). the criminal justice model grants a sorta respect to the criminal. “you knew about the terms beforehand. you had a choice. you’re responsible”

treats the criminal as a responsible agent. “humane”

fairness” (@Klosko), burdens/benefits. restoration of balance: moral requirement to correct imbalance. owes. thus punish.

matters are not even until this [unfair] advantage is in some way erased. … owes something to others for he has something that does not rightfully belong to him

what’s the point?

principle of fairness. re-achieve balance.

  1. fundamental right to punishment
    1. punishment for wrongdoing
    2. control of dangerous individuals
  2. (1) stems from our right to be treated as a person
  3. this right is natural, inalienable, and absolute
  4. the denial of this right implies the denial of all moral rights, duties

evil of punishing the innocent > evil of not punishing the guilty

because the punishments prescribed … are publicized … there is some plausibility to the exaggerated claim that in choosing to do an act violative of the rules an individual has chosen to be punished.

  1. set of rules governing behavior → spheres of interest immune from interference
  2. if one breaks rules → deprivation of valuable things
  3. (2) is justified by their breaking of the rules
  4. the deprivation is linked to rules that “fairly distribute benefits and burdens”

the case of the repeated victim. loss. extra burden equalized by “free crimes”? lmao

what determines how much punishment a criminal deserves

how much burden?? hmm

by renouncing what others have assumed, …

people who have restrained themselves from more attractive crimes have undertaken more burden.

amount of punishment \propto restraint other people have exercised

“the more appealing crimes aren’t the worse crimes” —Jack

e.g. murderer vs shoplifter

perp’s benefit | victim’s loss

A Paradox[12] About Level of Punishment —Alan Goldman §

“mixed”: combination of ret. and cons.

  1. deterrence
  2. guilt

retributive concept: “forfeiture of rights”. criminals forfeit their right not to be treated like shit. this justifies punishing them. forfeit only as much as you violate.

per this, capital punishment justified.

“equivalent right”—what the average person would be willing to give up. but importance of right isn’t necessarily equivalent to how much one values the right. also, finding equivalences may be tricky.

can avoid punishment of the innocent, but cannot avoid excessive punishment of the guilty.

The amount of punishment necessary to achieve sufficient deterrence is often more than the amount of suffering endured by the victims of the crime in question. […] This is the paradox of punishment: the retributivist principle of equality of punishment—the idea of punishing criminals exactly as much as the suffering of their victims—contradicts with the utilitarian goal of punishing at least as much as necessary to achieve sufficient deterrence.

exactly equivalent punishment often doesn’t capture the trauma or indifference of the victim

Secession and stuff §

Theories of Secession —Allen Buchanan §

  1. minimal realism

  2. consistency with morally progressive principles of intl law

    principle of territorial integrity of existing states

  3. possibility/effects of incorporation into intl law

    buchanan: states have morally legitimate reasons to resist disintegration!1!1

    • protection of individuals’ physical security, rights, stability of their expectations

      territorial integrity → effective jurisdiction

    • structure where individuals have incentives to participate in govt processes

  4. exacerbates problems rather than solving them

  5. state may oppress the groups to prevent secession

principle of territorial integrity. benefits from fixed boundaries.

principle of territorial integrity

consequentialist. rights may override the weight of these consequences.

rights are supposed to impose limits

rights of groups vs rights of individuals

self-ownership → jump → territory ownership

state’s right over territory. people’s right over territory

if oppressed, seceding may be difficult—revolution may be the only option. they may still have a right though. oppressed, but willing to let minorities break-off. the seceded group may not have resources.

what counts as “oppression”?

how important is group membership to one’s identity?

buchanan: primary right theories

Minority Cultures and the Cosmopolitan Alternative —Jeremy Woldren §

By a “cosmopolitan vision of the self”, Woldren refers to a vision similar to that defended by Rushdie wherein one’s values, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped by a combination of several cultures. People, under this vision, evaluate and choose various aspects of their lifestyle and belief system from several available choices, as made possible by a lack of obligation to be loyal to any single culture. This is as opposed to a vision where the self is defined primarily by the influence of a singular cultural structure of which one is a member.

relevant to the discussion of ascriptive rights theory

deflationary view of the importance of cultural, ethnic, etc groups.

group membership ain’t as important as the ascriptive gang makes it out to be.

defends the cosmopolitan alternative. shaped by several different groups, not necessarily cultural etc. selves.

“hotchpotch”, “melange”, “hybrid”, “mongrelization”, …

being in groups affords protection and security —Charlie

scenario: cosmopolitan life and cultural life both permitted. govt doesn’t take a stance. >there be pressures from both sides against the other. >his comments about apostasy. >liberal culture may be a threat to traditional ones.

some cultures require an exclusivity that is incompatible with the liberal life. liberal culture makes everything a choice which is incompatible with traditional cultures. conflict.

args for le communitarian lyf:

In Defense of Nationalism —David Miller §

  1. belief that a nationality exists

    necessary, but not sufficient

  2. historical continuity

    tragedies and glories. obligation, duties, common effort. generational. link between past and future.

  3. active identity

    do things—decision-making, achieving, …—together

  4. geographically restricted

    supports Miller’s poltical self-determination point. state <=> nation

  5. “believed to share certain traits that mark them off from others …”

    e.g. cultural: shared {values,tastes,sensibilities} “characteristics which are generally shared by the members” may be merely intuitive

do national identities perform valuable functions?

miller: it answers the need for “solidarity”

miller: it ain’t a conservative concept.

contradictory to liberal cultural pluralism though, innit? miller: assumes that the culture that makes up a nationality must drive out everything else. “nationality is not … all-embracing”

balkan objection: can’t be practically realized—it’ll lead to political instabilitiy and bloodsheed.

miller: not about individual will, but about individual identity.

ethical communities, duties; justice under nationalism


  1. redrawing borders
  2. identity compatibility
  3. minorities left behind in the OG state

… national self-determination is a good thing, and that states and their constitutions should be arranged so that each nation is … able to secure its common future

Distributive Justice §

distribution of valuable goods in society.

  1. “which goods?”

    e.g. inequality in distro of wealth >also dep. on “merit”

    opportunity distribution? equity?

    access to healthcare and other necessities. welfare & well-being

    equality & satisfacton are at odds. different needs and desires.

  2. “which principles ought to govern the distribution of those goods?”


    • priority to those who have less. egalitarian-ish

    • sufficiency: threshold important that everyone has at least “enough”.

    • maximize overall utility/well-being/whatever

    • “merit”-based. hardwork vs slacking. productivity.

    • “to each according to their needs” sez Marx

    • pluralist: different things distributed differently

      • necessities: need-based
      • opportunity: equality different people use 'em differently.
      • wealth: contribution, desert
      • surplus

      or: for any good, different factors ought to come into play

    • everyone’s mistaken. it ought to not be distributed according to any pattern. process. transitions. @Nozick


An Entitlement Theory of Justice —Robert Nozick §

starts off with lockean voluntarism-ish stuff. sovereignty to self → sovereignty over holdings (self-ownership → world-ownership). rights. per nozick, rights are constraint-based.

cake example, bike example—steal, gift. history-dependent (?)

forest, hunters, plants example.

entitlement theory:

  1. principle of justice in original acquisition of holdings

    unspecified. since most property is already owned, is it possible to acquire it anymore?

  2. principle of justice in transfer of holdings


  1. acquires in acc. with principle of justice in acquisition
  2. acquires in acc. with principle of justice in transfer from someone who held it in acc. with either principle
  3. no one ain’t entitled to nothing except by application of (1) and (2)

justice-preserving steps. historical, not hypothetical. depends on what actually happened.

if past injustice has shaped present holdings in some ways … what ought to be done to rectify these injustices? what obligations do the performers of injustice have … how if at all do things change if the beneficiaries are not the direct parties involved in the act of injustice … is an injustice done to someone whose holding was itself based upon an unrectified injustice? How far back must one go in wiping clean the historical slate of injustices?

hypothetical principle of rectification

historical principles vs end result principles

entitlement theory: historical. “how did it come about?”

in contrast to “current time-slice principles” aka “end result principles”


past circumstances or actions of people can create differential entitlements or differential deserts

patterned principles of distribution. effort, moral merit, …

the principle of entitlement ain’t patterned tho.

is unpatterned necessarily unjust? “no”. if people’s reasons for transferring holdings were arbitrary, we’d be in some trouble. but that isn’t the case. “most of the transfers under it are done for reasons”.

doesn’t mean that everyone deserves the holdings they receive.

Hayek and “distribution in accordance with benefit to others”. free capitalist society.

… individual aims of individual transactions. No overarching aim is needed, no … pattern is required.

From each as they choose, to each as they are chosen

relinquish/transfer holdings

was the chain unbroken? history has plenty of injustice.

labor can be traded. what if they’re handicapped? unfavorable market conditions.

inequality? also: undeserved, unfair coz people don’t choose their parents, for example. nozick: idgaf

third principle: rectification of justice

end-state principles vs historical principles

historical, but not desert

“liberty upsets patterns”. to preserve patterns, it’s necessary to interfere with liberty —Nozick

wilt chamberlain example.

Atomism and the Primacy of Rights —Charles Taylor §

Charles Taylor’s “atomism” refers to a theory which would make it plausible to defend the doctrine of primacy of rights—the idea that the rights of individuals are of a fundamental nature and that they ought to take precedence when they come into conflict with the interests and obligations of society. In other words, it’s the theory in the absence of which the doctrine of primacy of rights would hold no water. Taylor adds that atomism may be built up by asserting the self-sufficiency of individuals—that the presence of and obligation to a polity and society are not strictly necessary for a fulfilled human life.

Takes issue with the fact that Nozick starts with rights.

Communitarians: humans would be fundamentally different if they lived outside of society

Nozick: we are rational, self-determining choosers. autonomous agents.

Taylor: BS. atomism is false. therefore primacy of rights false.

  1. if rights are important, it must be because they protect something important. rights don’t exist in a vacuum.

  2. per Nozick, rights protect our ability to exhibit autonomous choice. sphere of autonomy. liberty.

  3. if this freedom is valuable, we must foster the conditions that allow autonomous choosing. liberal society. obligation. rights and obligations are correlative.

  4. atomism false.

  5. if rights are important, it must be equally important to sustain a society in which autonomous choosers can exist

  6. rights are not more fundamental than sustaining the society described in (1). rights don’t take priority over social obligations.

Nozick agrees that rights entail obligations.

Taylor: yeah but obligations also include promoting the things that rights exist to protect. rights entail social obligations.

leaving society its impact on obligations.

does taylor’s position say something about property rights? (property) rights ≪ societal obligations.

another condition for autonomous agency is ownership of property, innit? possession at least xx resources. taylor: aight, we’re also obliged to make sure everyone has enough to be an autonomous agent.

Equality of Resources —Ronald Dworkin §

  1. equality of welfare
  2. equality of resources ← Dworkin

not a “how-to”, but a sketch of what equality of resources would look like. analytical, not practical.

uses the state-of-nature device. what is a fair division of the island’s resources?

retention of equal distribution over time?

choice-sensitive. gg.

economic markets.

envy principle: once the division is complete, no one must prefer another’s bundle of resources to their own

distribution may be “unequal” for non-envy reasons e.g. preferences; different, hypothetical bundles

equality of resources: people should pay the price of the kind of life they wish to lead

auction system. equal purchasing power (“clams”). leads to an initial equitable distribution. people willing to pay in accordance with how much they desire things.

over time, equality upset.

luck: opposite of choice. dworkin: take it out of the picture. “luck egalitarianism”

equality of resources in light of option luck?

insurance. when insurance exists, brute bad luck cannot exist. only option luck exists. bad brute luck → bad option luck

issues at birth/childhood can’t be insured against tho. how much would you be living to insure against having to live with some such ailment? hypothetical choice. gen. estimate for how much others would be willing to pay for these things and then use this estimate to reimburse the victims with the amount that that premium would afford.

compensate you to whatever level you would’ve chosen to insure against

line b/w skill and option luck.

risk-taking ability linked to desires. “ability to lead the lives they desire”

handicaps. starts out with less resources. some nuance wrt insurance. separate market for insurance. auction adjusted to account for initial inequality introduced due to handicaps. treated differently from expensive tastes etc.

circumstances vs choices.

eq of resources fundamentally different from eq of opportunity.

dworkin: prosperity of one does do damage to others. single economy.

equality of resources devoted to whole lives

≠ starting gate theory

ambition-sensitive, but not endowment-sensitive

choice-sensitive, luck insensitive.

wants to “neutralize the effects of differential talents, yet preserve the consequences of one person choosing … [the kind of life they prefer]”

differential talents vs differential ambitions. intertwined though.

people differ in ability. also, some dimensions are marketable, some aren’t.

hypothetically, talent auctions. talents are also resources. but: autonomy over self violated. if you’re very talented, you could just bid on yourself? but then you’re forced to do only what you’re talented at because you’ll be out of clamshells. “slavery of the talented”.

tax the more talented? principle to determine level of taxation of the more talented. dworkin’s solution? insurance again. (relative) lack of talent := brute bad luck. similar to the birth-defect case.

movie star objection.

The Central Capabilities —Martha Nussbaum §


which goods, and how to distribute them.

expensive tastes, different conceptions of le good life. satisfaction + freedom to make choices (“capability”).

“What is this person able to do and be?”

combined capabilities

internal capabilities (diff. from innate equipment)

combined capabilities ≠ internal capabilities

combined capabilities = internal capabilities + “the social/political/economic conditions in which functioning can actually be chosen”


state’s efforts should be directed to both components.

capability: opportunity to select. starving vs fasting example.

options are freedoms, and freedom has intrinsic value

we say that capabilities, not functionings, are the appropriate political goals, because room is thereby left for the exercise of human freedom.

so… which capabilities are important? she avoids perfectionist arguments (or does she?). neutrality thesis. “public reason” idea—whatever everyone agrees to.

most agree about the importance of dignity (“degree of respect for one’s personhood”).

what is the criteria? nussbaum: worked out by democratic process.

dignity versus, like, satisfaction

irreducible heterogeneity

“tragic choice”

we ask what the best intervention point is to create a future in which this sort of choice does not confront peopel

architectonic role:

threshold. “ample social minimum”. sufficient. no trade-offs.

adequacy of capability vs equality of capability. equal human dignity, but that alone doesn’t imply equal treatment.

A Theory of Justice —John Rawls §

Chapter 1 §

Defends a moderately egalitarian version of a welfare state.

society: institutions and their rules.

political system, legal system (constitution), family as a social institution

principles that determine the justice of several systems at once, rather than approaching the justice of systems individually

system of systems as a whole

peace agreement was never an option

hypothetical consent. what principles would everyone agree to in ✨ ideal conditions ✨. what conditions? excludes some real-world conditions. “fair choice conditions”

veil of ignorance—morally arbitrary. increases odds of people reaching to agreements. everyone should have the same footing at least in abstract thinking. okay for the outputs, but not okay for the inputs, to be unequal. original position.

but then everyone’s an NPC lol. is it really a contract then? hmmst

rawls is pro-neutrality.

  1. the original position device
  2. rawls’ principles

rawls: some principles would be rational to choose. they would choose those and those ought to be the ones that are used to structure society.


principles (ordered by absolute priority)

  1. equal distribution & maximization of rights and liberties
  2. difference principle
    1. positions that offer more wealth must be open to everyone (“equally open to all”)
    2. equality okay iff the worst-off under the inequality would have even less if the inequality didn’t exist

wb. trade-offs—curtailing freedom to improve everyone’s situation, including the worst-off? rawls: BS.

how can inequalities between YY and ZZ lead to improvement of both their conditions? incentives (@Nozick) lead to productivity and overall level of resources which may lead to prosperity of both YY and ZZ.

how can the people in the OG position, though, make any choices if they don’t know their values?

rawls: primary goods. rational. some all-purpose means are necessary for achieving your goals regardless of what those goals are.

society should be organized such that everyone has a sense of themselves as an effective, worthy goal-pursuer

treats wealth differently from rights/liberties. no way in which inequalities in rights/liberties can benefit everyone. the same is not true about wealth.

real options don’t need to be equality either.

rawls’ method of argument. coherence. equilibrium between convictions and arguments/framework.

Chapter 2 §

justification of the principles rawls proposes:

no system for evaluating original holdings

difference principle. the worst-off. if those are equally well-off in multiple systems, work your way up the groups and compare their fate. lexical difference principle.

maximin rule. maximize the worst-case outcomes. avoiding bad principles. safeguard against the worst outcome. rawls: this is rational.

rawls: they don’t care much if they’re very good outcomes. re: if we don’t know their taste, though, how do we assume they feel this way. rawls: diminishing returns.

  1. existence of a political auth relationship is neither sufficient for conclusive reasons of obedience, nor necessary ↩︎

  2. Some theorists define it by participation in democratic elections ↩︎

  3. aka nobody cooperates, ditching the scheme entirely ↩︎

  4. necessary, but not sufficient condition for justified punishment ↩︎

  5. would they though? maybe not everyone, but probably enough people to cause disorder (?) ↩︎

  6. none have the right to enforce their laws upon their citizens (unless they voluntarily agree to them) ↩︎

  7. parentalism! ↩︎

  8. adults. ↩︎

  9. better to know your reasons for your beliefs than not to ↩︎

  10. neither the only legit basis, nor the most important ↩︎

  11. also, nonmarket interaction ↩︎

  12. ^WDilemma ↩︎