Absolutism is a nineteenth-century term designed precisely to address the mismatch between doctrine and power. The intellectual resources of absolutism were far older than the Renaissance and Reformation. The absolutism of monarchs was a contingent and temporary corollary of the principal juridical development of the early modern period: the emergence of the concept of sovereignty. Absolute monarchy was a free rider on a concept that would later unseat it. Theorists of absolute sovereignty drew heavily on Roman law, and often invoked the idea of the translatio imperii, the inheritance by modern monarchies of Roman imperial authority. The sovereignty of kings, seeking to trump the divine imperium of the papacy, masqueraded its jurisprudence as the divinity of kings. The “divine right of kings” was a theological meditation on a juridical concept, not a species of mysticism, and rarely did absolutists endow monarchs with magical or sacerdotal attributes. Absolutism conspicuously appropriated religious form when expressed as a theory of obedience. Absolutist theory offered an account of the origins of civil authority.
James R. Otteson
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein argue for “libertarian paternalism,” defined as the strategy to devise policy that will “maintain or increase freedom of choice” and at the same time “influence people’s behavior in order to make their lives longer, healthier, and better”. These two goals are often in conflict, and striking the right balance between them has proved difficult in both theory and practice. Where does Adam Smith fall in this debate? This chapter argues that Smith developed his own version of “libertarian paternalism.” It differs in important ways from that of Thaler and Sunstein, but it shares with them an attempt to balance respect for individual autonomy with a desire to help people lead better lives. Smith’s position accommodates the importance of both liberty and paternalism in enabling individuals to construct lives worth living, while avoiding some of the problems that have beset more recent versions of libertarian paternalism.
This chapter discusses key issues and questions about aesthetic experience and valuing of natural objects, processes, and phenomena. It begins by exploring the character of environmental, multisensory aesthetic appreciation and then examines the central debate between “scientific cognitivism” and “noncognitivism” in contemporary environmental aesthetics. In assessing this debate and the place of knowledge, imagination, and emotion in aesthetic valuing, it is argued that non-cognitive approaches have the advantage of supporting a critical pluralism that recognizes the variety and breadth of aesthetic engagement with nature. Interactions between aesthetic and ethical values are also discussed, especially with respect to their role in philosophical positions such as “aesthetic preservationism” and the call for developing aesthetic theories that are consistent with environmentalism.
James P. Sterba
Diversity instead of race-based affirmative action developed in the United States from the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision in 1978 to the present. There have been both objections to this form of affirmative action and defenses of it. Fisher v. University of Texas could decide the future of all race-based affirmative action in the United States. Yet however the Fisher case is decided, there is a form of non-race-based affirmative action that all could find to be morally preferable for the future. A diversity affirmative action program could be designed to look for students who either have experienced racial discrimination themselves or who understand well, in some other way, how racism harms people in the United States, and thus are able to authoritatively and effectively speak about it in an educational context.
Anarchism rejects the state as an inherently despotic institution that must be abolished in order for human nature to flower. This does not mean the absence of social order, however, for anarchism also contains a positive vision of the kind of community it expects to arise when political authority is eliminated. Although it shares liberalism's commitment to individual autonomy and Marxism's commitment to social justice, anarchism claims that it can implement those principles more fully and effectively without utilizing the mechanism of the state. Anarchism as a secular political philosophy originated as a product of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and anarchist thought was the cumulative product of a number of different individuals in different countries who elaborated its basic principles. This article examines the views of several thinkers on anarchism, including William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, and Prince Peter Kropotkin. It also considers the link between anarchism and terrorism.
In the ancient world, the idea that killing animals for food is wrong arose mainly from belief in a deep continuity between the animal and human psyche. The underlying thought is that the victimization of an animal is sinful and dehumanizing. Among the Greeks, orphic ritual and mysticism mixed with philosophy prescribe a vegetarian diet as a condition of self-purification. Perhaps the major extant work on vegetarianism dating from classical antiquity is On Abstinence from Animal Flesh by the neo-Platonist Porphyry, the student and biographer of Plotinus, himself a vegetarian. Peter Singer's immensely popular book Animal Liberation (1975) almost immediately generated a new movement for animal rights as distinct from a program limited to animal welfare, animal protection, and prevention of cruelty. This article explores the link between animal rights and political theory, focusing on the views of such thinkers as John Wesley, Bernard Mandeville, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham, Tom Regan, Immanuel Kant, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Charles Hartshorne.
Holmes Rolston III
We are now entering the Anthropocene Epoch—so runs a recent enthusiastic claim. Humans can and ought go beyond the natural and powerfully engineer a better planet, managing for climate change and building new ecosystems for a more prosperous future. Perhaps the Anthropocene is inevitable. But: Rejoice? Accommodate? Accept it, alas? Perhaps the wiser, more ethical course is not so much going “beyond” the natural as “keeping the natural in symbiosis” with humans, maintaining a tapestry of cultural and natural values, not a trajectory even further into the Anthropocene. Keep the urban, rural, and wild. Enter the Semi-Anthropocene! Basically Natural! Carefully!
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer and Chris Haufe
We explore the science of mass extinction, link it to industrial civilization, use the concept of the banality of evil to explain the ethical situation, and then explain the various ways in which mass extinction poses further ethical problems within that situation, especially of environmental justice and the loss of value. Overall, humankind risks a profound failure of autonomy, perhaps our greatest achievement. For those who want to take action, we recommend the project of anthroponomy and large-unit/deep-branching conservation.
Charles E. Butterworth
This article explores political philosophy within the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East, focusing on the contributions of a few thinkers including Alfarabi, Avicenna, Ibn Bajja, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd, Averroes, and Ibn Khaldūn. Political philosophy in general differs from political thought, on the one hand, and political theology, on the other, insofar as it seeks to replace opinion about political affairs by knowledge. Political philosophy in the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East differs from that in the medieval Arabic-Jewish or Arabic-Christian traditions in that it is beholden neither to political nor to theological currents, its occasional rhetorical bows to one or the other notwithstanding. Political thought, best exemplified by the genre known as “Mirrors for Princes,” is always limited by the opinions that dominate the setting and time. Political theology or, for medieval Islam, jurisprudence focuses on how the beliefs and actions set forth in the religious tradition elucidate the conditions justifying warfare or the qualities an individual must have to be considered a suitable ruler.
According to Aristotle, the “democratic” freedom treasured by the exponents of ancient Greek democracy has two marks, one personal and one political: (i) to live as one wishes and (ii) to rule and be ruled in turn. Though Aristotle is a critic of such freedom, it has been claimed that he has no notion of his own to set against it. This chapter counters this claim by showing the development within Aristotle’s Politics of a conception of “aristocratic” freedom that is richer than the democratic. By this aristocratic conception a person is free to the extent that he is able to live a life of politics and philosophy, and a polis is free to the extent that its institutions promote such a life for each and every citizen by removing the impediments to its realization such as unfavorable political institutions, lack of moral and intellectual education, and insufficient material resources.