I need someone that is good with philosophy!!!!
- Explain the idea that society should be based on virtue by discussing Confucius, Plato, and /or Aristotle
- Explain at least one version of social contract theory
- Illustrate your understanding of the classical and social contract approaches to justice with illustrative examples from contemporary political life.
- Remember to explain specific theories with supporting citations from the textbook and online lectures. (Here is a guide to help you with APA-style citations.) Review and comment on the posts of other students and the instructor by the end of the week.
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What is Just? Political Philosophy
Political philosophy is concerned with the relationship between the individual and the state. Confucius (551-479 BCE) believed that society should be based on virtue. Plato (427-347 BCE) and Aristotle (400-320 BCE) were focused on the idea that a just state should foster just citizens, and vice versa. They believed that people have different talents and should therefore serve different functions in society. However, the classical Greek approach is not to be confused with the idea that political oppression on the basis of natural differences is justifiable. Augustine (354-430) and Aquinas (1225-1274) set forth a natural law argument that human-made laws should be modeled as closely as possible on divine and natural law, including the idea that all human beings are inherently equal. Augustine is credited with reconciling Plato’s philosophy with early Christianity, while Aquinas did something similar with Aristotle and Christian beliefs. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) believed that a social contract was necessary to reign in the natural tendency of human beings to be savage and destroy one another. John Locke (1632-1704) was a social contract theorist credited with influencing the American Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. He set forth a natural law argument based not upon divine law but, rather, the capacity to reason as the basis for equality. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) believed that a just society is one that fostered the greater good. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was also a utilitarian, but he emphasizes individual rights and the quality of the pleasure generated by an act/practice. John Rawls (1921-2002) built upon classical social contract theory and believed that justice should be based on fairness. He argued that we should imagine ourselves behind a “veil of ignorance” in which we do not know our social position in order to create a fair society.
What is Just? Social Philosophy
Many social identities can be the basis for oppression. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was concerned that industrialization and capitalism were leading to the alienation of workers. When workers have nothing to sell but their labor, they essentially become machines. If money and efficiency are emphasized over justice and quality of life, this leads to a situation in which workers are likely to be exploited. The economic and social gap between workers and the bourgeoisie, i.e. the wealthy who own the means of production, will grow. Race is also an important aspect of social identity. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) argued that one could embrace and promote one’s ethnic identity while also participating in dominant culture whereas assimilationists like Douglass and King argue for a more color-blind society. Separatists, on the other hand, argue that separate culture based on race is a better solution. Both separatism and assimilation recognize that any attempt to confront racism in one’s own mind must also involve active systematic change and thinking through the seeming neutrality of the various privileges we may enjoy. Then there is gender identity and sexuality. The early feminist movement prioritized political equality in a way quite similar to the assimilationist position in race theory. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) argued that differences between men and women are largely due to socialization and have no impact on the ability of either to participate in the political process. Beauvoir famously introduced a distinction between sex and gender when she claimed that despite biological differences between the sexes, there is no difference so marked as to justify the hierarchy of Man as Self and Woman as his Other. Feminists who recognize sexual difference argue that recognizing differences between people is not necessarily problematic; it is only when differences are understood as hierarchical that they become tools of oppression.
Income Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are some of the better-known socialist theorists, but many existentialists, including de Beauvoir and Sartre, also believed in socialist principles, including the idea that freedom for the individual can only be achieved by concretely working for the freedom of the whole community. Like Mill and Bentham, Marx (1818-1883) was concerned about the impact industrialization was having on the working class. Unlike a farmer working his/her own land or a shop owner, workers in the industrialized world were alienated from their labor, themselves, and other people. This is because industrialization coupled with a capitalist market led to a situation in which the vast majority of workers have nothing to sell but their labor. They essentially become machines. Consider a fast food worker, for example, who makes food on an assembly line in a restaurant owned by someone else and who gets paid hourly for the labor he or she puts in. This worker will likely not feel any connection with the food or the people who eat it, and may experience a disjunction between his working and personal lives. Contrast this with someone who makes and sells sandwiches out of her own food truck. Neither one may make much money by his/her labor, but the food truck owner will feel a greater connection to the work, the product, and the consumer, while the employee may feel alienated, even dehumanized. If money and efficiency are emphasized over justice and quality of life, Marx argued, this leads to a situation in which workers are likely to be exploited and the economic and social gap between workers and the middle and upper class people who own most of society’s wealth and own the means of production, what Marx referred to as the bourgeoisie, will grow. Marx believed that capitalism was inherently exploitative and called for a worker’s revolution designed to give the working class ownership of the means of production. Socialism tends to be looked upon unfavorably by some, in part because of the abuses and problems associated with the socialist nations that rose and fell in the 20th century. Socialism in practice tends to lead to rule by a tyrant or a political elite and the growth of inefficient bureaucracies that contribute to economic stagnation. However, as you evaluate socialism, it is important to keep in mind that socialism is a theory focused on the impact the structure of society has on the rights and experiences of individuals. Marx believed that the capitalist forces of his time were failing to promote a just society, and thus sought to overthrow capitalism. As such, Marxism is a critique of capitalism, not necessarily democracy. Many democratic nations have both socialist and capitalist programs. Race and Ethnicity The vast majority of Americans are descended from people who immigrated after the founding of the United States. Thus, it is fair to say that ethnic history is American history. Despite this, we tend to group all Caucasian people into a single group of “white” Americans, and similarly erase the very different experiences and histories of people of color. The very idea that all whites comprise a single race is in fact a recent concept, in that whiteness as a unifying concept was enacted to resolve class conflicts between land-owning, mostly British Americans and Irish immigrants. While racial difference has historically been used as a tool of racist institutions such as slavery, class also plays a role. The Human Genome Project has shown that human beings are fundamentally the same at the level of our genes. While there are subtle biological differences between the races, the vast genetic similarity of human beings suggests that race is at least as much of a social category as a biological one. We live in a country with a complicated history of racial oppression and human rights. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) argued that one could embrace and promote one’s ethnic identity while also participating in dominant culture whereas assimilationists argue for a more color-blind society. Separatists, on the other hand, argue that separate culture based on race is a better solution. The contrasting approaches to race-based oppression in the 19th century can be seen in dialogues between Martin Delany and Fredrick Douglass. Delany argued that the racist beliefs about natural racial differences that were used as a justification for slavery were too deeply engrained in American culture to be overcome through mere persuasion or political protest, and advocated for a separatist position. Douglass, on the other hand, believed assimilation was a more pragmatic and appealing solution, evoking Locke’s account of natural rights and the Declaration of Independence as the basis for his position. This dialogue continued well past the dissolution of slavery as a legal institution, as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. occupied similar opposing positions. Racism does not only occur in the context of slavery, as we see in the farmworker’s movement spearheaded by figures like César Chávez. Chávez took an approach of peaceful resistance similar to that of Dr. King. This movement also illustrates the reality of intersectionality, in that ethnicity and socio-economic class were both used as sites of oppression. Both separatism and Page 3 of 3 Introduction to Philosophy ©2016 South University 3 What is Just? Social Philosophy: Social Philosophy assimilation recognize that racism is not merely a matter of personal, or even communal, prejudice but, rather, a system of oppression that is sustained and maintained both by individuals and by institutions. Thus, any attempt to confront racism in one’s own mind must also involve active systematic change and thinking through the seeming neutrality of the various privileges we may enjoy. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality The term “feminism” is generally traced back to the late 19th century, beginning in France and rapidly adopted throughout Europe and North America. The term initially referred to the social and political movements to secure the right to vote and other forms of social and political equality. It has become common parlance to refer to these early feminist movements and ideas as liberal feminism. Philosophers like Mary Wollstonecraft and suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were concerned with challenging essentialist ideas about women. Remember the avocado and artichoke from Week 2? Well, essentialism is a version of the avocado self, and gender essentialism assumes that women’s essential or fixed nature is determined by their biological function and serves as justification for their subordinate position in society. Because they are focused on overcoming the basic oppression of women and emphasize the essential sameness of all people regardless of sex, liberal feminists fail to critique the basic assumptions of the avocado idea of the self. Critics of liberal feminism acknowledge the importance of political, legal, economic, and educational equality, but also recognize that liberal feminism erases sexual difference altogether. Simone de Beauvoir is an important critic of liberal feminism, and her book The Second Sex is arguably the most important feminist treatise of the twentieth century. Beauvoir entered into the project of writing a book on woman not as a feminist per se, but rather as a philosopher, and an existential one at that. Her idea was to write a book in response to the backlash against her partner and fellow existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre by writing a semi-autobiographical justification of the existential ideas laid out in Being and Nothingness. But she found that doing so required her first to recognize herself as a woman; thus, she decided to write a book on woman. The central claim of The Second Sex is that biology is not enough on its own to make someone a woman. Furthermore, all human characteristics are dependent upon situation. Beauvoir famously introduced a distinction between sex and gender when she claimed that despite biological differences between the sexes, there is no difference so marked as to legitimate gender hierarchies. Beauvoir is not making any universal claims about sex or gender; rather, she is making the phenomenological assertion that we do distinguish two sexes, and that these distinctions influence all aspects of our daily lives. This distinction is a hierarchical one in which the male is established as the subject (as we saw in some formulations of the avocado self) whereas woman is his Other. While biology is not destiny, if one is treated as inferior one will in fact become so. To overcome gender inequality, we thus have to inquire into the different historical, cultural, and social factors that have contributed to the practical and theoretical oppression of women. While Beauvoir does make some general comments about the status of women, she always falls back against the existential principle that “existence precedes essence”; therefore, while her attempts to speak for all women might fall short, there is nothing in her philosophy of difference that excludes the possibility of women experiencing their oppression in a multitude of ways, or not at all. Feminists who recognize sexual difference argue that recognizing differences between women, and between women and men, is not necessarily oppressive; it is only when differences are understood as hierarchical that they become tools of social and political oppression. As biologist Julia Serano (2007) puts it, despite the very real biological difference between how hormones are expressed in men and women, there are also significant variations between the hormonal realities between men, and between women, and these levels can even vary over the course of one person’s lifetime (consider menopause, for example, and the fact that many men lose testosterone as they age). Instead of thinking of the genders as opposites, Serano argues, it might be more accurate to think of gender as a continuum (73-74). Serano, Julia. (2007). Whipping girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Berkeley, California: Seal
What is Just? Intersectionality
Intersectionality is a framework through which to understand and address discrimination and oppression on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, class, and other characteristics and social categories. This framework understands human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social identities and experiences. The interaction of these identities occurs within a system of intertwined and overlapping power structures such as laws, policies, governmental, political, and religious organizations, and the media. It was coined by legal scholar Kimberle Williams Crenshaw in 1989, but the ideas that inform this framework can be traced back to many figures and movements in race, queer, and feminist theory. The intersectional framework is based in part upon the idea that power is relational. This idea comes from the French philosopher, psychologist, and historian Michel Foucault (1926-1984). There are two kinds of power for Foucault. Productive power generates and creates the very concepts that are then enforced by juridical power controls. Social identities like gender and sexuality are the result of productive power rather than a biological essence or a simple social construction. For example, the idea that heterosexuality is the norm is the result of productive power, as is the belief that women are inferior to men. These norms are then regulated and maintained by juridical power structures, such as laws permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. Power produces institutions, belief systems, concepts, and, in turn, social identities. These identifying categories are shaped, reproduced, and transformed by our communities, culture, and discourses. Nevertheless, our identities are also quite real and we do not all negotiate our social identities in the same way. As Audre Lorde notes, this means recognizing and appreciating not only the differences between individuals but, also, the different identities and communities we each hold within ourselves.
Intersectionality Intersectionality sounds like a fancy word, but it is really just a framework through which to understand and address discrimination and oppression on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, class, and other characteristics and social categories. This framework understands human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social identities and experiences. The interaction of these identities occurs within a system of intertwined and overlapping power structures such as laws, policies, governmental, political, and religious organizations, and the media (Hankivsky, 2014, p. 2). It was coined by legal scholar Kimberle Williams Crenshaw in 1989, but the ideas that inform this framework can be traced back to many figures in race, queer, and feminist theory. For example, César Chávez recognized that both ethnicity and socio-economic class could be sites of oppression, while Angela Davis often pointed out that racial justice will never be realized for the masses unless we also address sexism and income inequality. The intersectional framework is based in part upon the idea that power is relational. This idea comes from the French philosopher, psychologist, and historian Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Foucault’s entire philosophical system is centered around his notion of power and its affects on institutional structures, epistemology, and thinking. There are two kinds of power for Foucault. Productive power generates and creates the very concepts that are then enforced by juridical power controls. Social identities like sex and sexuality are the result of productive power rather than a biological essence or a simple social construction. For example, the idea that heterosexuality is the norm is the result of productive power. This concept is then regulated and maintained by juridical power structures, such as laws permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. Foucault’s archaeological approach to history reveals that history is not linear or progressive but rather discontinuous, broken up into distinct epochs. According to Foucault, concepts that we take to be facts are actually epoch-specific. Thus, for Foucault power is not wielded by individuals or even institutions but is rather an assembling of forces that underlie the relationships between individuals and institutions. In other words, power is not a possession but exists only insofar as it is exercised; it is not something an individual or entity has but something wielded. In fact, for Foucault, power produces institutions, belief systems, individuals, and concepts, including the social concepts that are contemplated by the intersectional framework. These social identities are also shaped, reproduced, and transformed by our communities, culture, and discourses. Yet they are not simply social categories. While distinctions between races, ethnicities, genders, and socio-economic classes are informed and reinforced by social aims and prejudices such as homophobia and racism, these concepts nevertheless play into the negotiation of self-identity. Each of us is a radically particular individual whose thoughts, feelings, actions, goals, and experiences nevertheless reflect and enact the personal gender, class, racial, sexual, and ethnic categories with which we identify. However, we do not all negotiate our racial, ethnic, gender, and class identities in the same way. For example, one can experience both privilege and oppression at the same time. As Audre Lorde notes, this means recognizing and appreciating not only the differences between individuals but, also, the different identities and communities we each hold within ourselves. Dominant discourses about gender, race, ethnicity, class, and other social categories determine identity, but we are also each a particular individual with a unique history. If we negate any aspect of our self (for example, if we only think about gender but not our racial identity), we become fragmented. To think philosophically about social identity, we must be prepared not only to reflect upon gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class but, also, to consider narratives and theoretical perspectives that might challenge some of our most cherished beliefs about identity and culture. As Cornell West notes in Race Matters, being oppressed or privileged does not in and of itself amount to an understanding of oppression and privilege, any more than occupying a position of privilege blinds one to discrimination (p. 96). References Hanikivsky, O. (2014). Intersectionality 101. Canada: The Institute for Intersectionality Research and Policy, SFU. Retrieved from http://www.sfu.ca/iirp/documents/resources/101_Final.pdf. West, C. (1993). Race matters. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.