Essay moral philosopher political

We'll discuss the answers to these question that John Rawls and Robert Nozick have provided. Rawls argues that such taxation is just, since it would be endorsed under fair conditions in which people are deprived of knowledge of whether they happen to be rich or poor, talented or unskilled.

Nozick argues that redistributive taxation is unjust because on a par with forced labour. In addition, we'll consider their answers to the following questions: When it is unjust to constrain the liberties of some in order to prevent harm to others? What sort of equality of opportunity for jobs and university places does justice require?

Are people entitled to compensation for historical injustices? What are the just conditions of acquisition of unowned natural resources?

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In answering the last question, we will also draw on the writings of John Locke, whose related views in his Second Treatise on the legitimacy of government we will also consider, along with the Locke-inspired views of Thomas Jefferson. In addition to the topics mentioned in the above two paragraphs, which will form a major focus of the course, some topics in other areas of moral and political philosophy may also be covered.

Perhaps the best self—the ideal moral self—is the one that pursues the highest type of pleasure. We can perhaps see the point here by imagining what happens when, having said Sally is superior to Joan, we are next asked to rank Mary. If Mary is judged superior in beauty to both, then she is being placed between Sally and someone who is right at the top of the scale.

Fortunately, Bradley has an answer. In the passage from Ethical Studies quoted above Bradley said that in our theoretical attempts at understanding the world we want to make our set of empirical beliefs coherent, and since we assume as a working hypothesis that the external world is systematic, a contradiction in our beliefs would indicate we have not yet arrived at the coherence and consistency that is demanded.

In addition, our empirical belief set has to include all the facts, has to be comprehensive. Bradley claims a similar objective applies to intentional agents. We look to produce a self that is an organic whole in which all is related so as to render it a system rather than a mere collection of random acts and characteristics. To the extent that people consider the consequences of their actions they demonstrate that they do not see their actions as disconnected from other things they have done and might do, and they subordinate some ends to wider goals.

That is, ordinary people not only display a degree of prudence in making choices but also recognize that the value of some actions is that they are means to more important goals. In a word, normal lives of mature adults are at least relatively systematic.

Francis Herbert Bradley’s Moral and Political Philosophy

Moreover, if a person has become habituated to act in certain ways, has developed a disposition to act thus and so, then her actions will tend to be relatively consistent. There is, in other words, a structure to her actions suggesting her inner life—her desires, dispositions, values and so on—is unified.

In other words, in self-realization the ideal object with which the self will identify its ultimate satisfaction is a whole. First, when Sally wills something there is a particular process that occurs in which Sally deliberates, experiences certain desires or leanings toward one thing or another, eventually terminating in her doing such and such.

Bradley calls this the particular aspect of the will to indicate that volitional choice is geared toward specific actions in the world. Even if Sally cannot carry out her plans, say because she is paralyzed, her willing still targets doing something specific. On the other hand, when we say Sally has a will we are conceiving of her as persisting beyond any single specific choice, and seeing her as the owner and author of what she wills.

Bradley calls this the universal aspect of the will. The moral thesis of self-realization reflects the importance of both, for creating our moral character through our choices and actions entails both particular acts of will and a subsisting will that is developed through these choices.


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When this occurs the self is also realized because of its identification with this object. The full analysis reveals five necessary components:. The self that entertains the ideal object the intentional object and identifies its satisfaction with that object and that feels satisfaction when that object has become real in the world, must all be the same self.

This is the main point of saying that the will has a universal aspect. The thesis that we aim at being a whole is further illuminated by considering volitional choice from the inner perspective of the individual moral agent. Since both are felt to represent this person a tension arises along with a desire to resolve the tension; so there is, right at the heart the matter a kind of movement toward restoring the unity of the self by overcoming the dualism that necessarily exists in any volition.

Bradley next says that what we really desire is not merely to be a whole, but an infinite whole. This introduces a particular, and perhaps to some minds a peculiar, metaphysical doctrine: that if A is dependent on B then A is not real in and of itself—because it is defined by, or can only function through, its relationship to B. The real is independent; it is what it is in terms of its own features and functions.

Something which has no external relations that impinge on what it is and can do is infinite. By contrast, a finite entity has something that limits it. Of course, it is unlikely that the everyday moral agent has thought of her situation in these terms. But that is not necessary because each has a felt impulse which points her in the right direction.

The best way to appreciate this theory is to consider the nature of the most primitive stage of sensory experience. Some philosophers have held that in our initial sensory states we have a subject or self confronting and receiving information from an object—which might be either a physical object or a sense-datum.

Running Head: Traditional versus Modern Ethics Response

Bradley rejects this, arguing that there is level of a non-cognitive experience at the foundation of all cognitive experiences. At this logically prior level conscious experiences have no objects. Being in pain is often offered as an example of this sort of mental state. The reason Bradley advances this view of immediate experience lies with his analysis of the structure of thought.

Operations of this sort must be working on experience that is a non-relational unity. In a sense then, the argument for immediate experience is transcendental, in the Strawsonian sense that it can be shown to be a necessary condition of the mental operations we can and do perform.

Finally, at some point the subject-object or experience-experienced dichotomy has to arise. This is relevant to the question of why there is an impulse to become an infinite whole: it is because we carry a residual feel that all reality is a systematic non-relational unity. And when we consider this along with the theory of the nature of thought, we recognize that these experiences as they are expressed in statements actually leave out other aspects of the given and so are incomplete. In this way judgments are never completely accurate and only partly true.

The consequence of this line of thinking for moral theory is that we have a test by which to determine whether we have realized ourselves in a particular case: namely, have we arrived at a greater unity, which means fewer felt contradictions or explicit contradictions in our desires, our dispositions and the like?

M. G., Broad’s Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy - PhilPapers

The ideal moral self is achieved when we arrive at a point at which it has no limiting relations, which is to say, when we are an infinite whole, a systematic organic unity. That we can be part way along in this progress toward the ideal moral self, and in our understanding of what the ideal moral self demands, reflects what will later become his theory of degrees of reality.

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In the case of morality, one step on the road to perfection occurs when we stop thinking of other people in our community as forces or wills pitted against us—that is, when we stop seeing our relations to them as external—and begin to see others as internally related to us. Being internally related to others in our community means that our relations to others are essential to us, in the sense of defining who and what we are.

By contrast, external relations make no difference to their terms. For example, my being in front of the Eiffel Tower is usually said to be an external relation I bear to that object—it does not make me a different person.

Essays on Moral and Political Philosophy

Put roughly, the difference between a mere collection of people—such as those who went to the parade yesterday—and a community or social unit such as a family—lies in whether the relationships each person bears to the others in the group makes a difference to who and what they are. The next task is to show what provides the moral content for practical deliberations and choices about how to act. Most importantly, we want to know what specific types of actions or goals will allow us to realize ourselves.


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Here Bradley turns to historical ethical theories to determine whether they can supply what is wanted. Bradley examines teleological hedonism and deontological theories and finds both unacceptable. Deontological theories fail because they place no constraints on what can be willed by a moral agent and so no specific end is indicated and none barred. Deontology is one-sided and abstract: it has focused on the universal aspect of the will and disregarded the other, equally important particular element.

What is in fact missing is any adequate psychological account of desire which explains how we are motivated to do specific things, to make specific choices. By contrast, ethical hedonism makes the opposite mistake of focusing on the particular to the detriment of the universal side. Classical Utilitarianism, for example, sees particular pleasant states as the goal of action but cannot present any of these as having any intrinsic value, for they are only means to the maximization of pleasure and could be replaced by any other means that were more, or equally, effective.

Moreover—and this is an objection raised by all the British Idealists against hedonism—since pleasant states perish there is no sense in which a number of them can be enjoyed together as felt states rather than merely remembered. So, a sum of pleasures or a maximum of pleasures cannot be the end moral agents are to aim for. There is another reason the British Idealists believed that pleasure could not be the end of moral action.

The debate Green is weighing in on concerns what can and cannot be the intentional objects of desires. This misses the point. Applied to pleasures, the issue is whether there are naked pleasures, as it were, and whether one can attach any meaning to the idea of a pleasure detached from the activity or whatever it is that is the pleasant experience.

In a word they have no content: they are states of us, but they have nothing for us Ethical Studies , p. If we cannot characterize pleasures—because they have no meaning or content in and of themselves—then we cannot identify with them and so they could not be the objects aimed at in rational choice, as Green had said.

Mill had in effect rejected this view by accepting that pleasures display qualitative differences. Bradley recognizes that we talk as though they do, using expressions which appear to entail that pleasures and pains have immediately given felt qualities but he offers an explanation of why this is.

If this is true, it offers a reason why we might mistake a quantitative for a qualitative difference, namely, that we mistake variations in sensory intensities and intensity-patterns over time, with which pleasure is attached or attendant, for qualitative differences in the pleasures themselves. Given that further features of the overall experience are said to be attributable to the powers of the sensations, these—rather than the pains and pleasures—appear to be the causal agents.

If this interpretation is correct, pains and pleasures are epiphenomena.