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Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (2003)

by David Miller

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Series: A Very Short Introduction (97)

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401263,866 (3.56)None
"This short text introduces readers to the concepts of political philosophy. It starts by explaining why the subject is important and how it tackles basic ethical questions such as, 'how should we live together in society?'". -- Publisher

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Very short, very clear, very fair. Well done! ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
I guess it is always a little problematic to take a book like this which has in its title "A very short introduction" and expect to get a good grasp of a subject by reading the 130 pages. However, David Miller does a reasonable job...covering off:
1 Historical ideas of good government
2. Political authority ....kings, despots, democracy, states, etc
3. Democracy..and it's problems...minorities, uninformed voters etc
4. Freedom and the limits of government...trading off one group's freedom for another groups rights etc
5. Justice...and fairness...The role of governments and the concept of social justice such as health and distribution of incomes
6. Feminism and multiculturalism....changes in attitudes about what is fair, and about freedom and justice
Nation States and global justice....discussing the slow move to international systems ....over-riding the Nation State systems.
He makes his own views fairly transparent and is clearly a supporter of Rawls theory of justice.
But he also certainly made me think a bit more.He poses the question....."Why was it , that for many centuries the relations between men and women and the position of minority groups were routinely ignored in the treatises of political thought?" (He might have written "for thousands of years"). And his answer is that the dominant groups in society kept them off the agenda.
And, of course, nothing is ever straightforward. Does freedom of religion mean freedom for some to proselytise and try to convert others to their religion. (What about the freedom to be protected from proselytizers?) and so on.
He suggests (as a first shot) that a person's freedom depends on the number of options open to her and her capacity to make a choice between them. And then goes on to demonstrate that the "capacity to choose" is not straightforward. He talks about human rights and the gradual growth in this field since the UN endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Anyway, bottom line for me was that Miller underlined my own ignorance about much of the field of Political philosophy ...despite my studies of history and philosophy and ethics. Though I must say I wonder about the lack of perspective with political rights by virtue of the fact that they ignore humans situation as just one species (among billions of species) ....and hence ignore animal rights more generally. And maybe environmental rights entirely. And on the other hand I have often thought that there were no natural rights other than those which either we were strong enough to grab for ourselves or somebody else was gracious enough to grant us (maybe it was in their interest to grant us these rights anyway). To get to a point where you accept concepts like universal rights (for humans) you need a starting point like "fairness". And, for most of history...and even today .....life has not really been very fair to most people. Guess I'm reminded of Thrasymachus when being interviewed by Socrate's who says that justice is whatever benefits the ruler.
Anyway, I think he does an admirable job in this short introduction to political philosophy. Four stars from me. ( )
1 vote booktsunami | Sep 28, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Millerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Atkins, PhilipCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is a small book about a big subject, and since a picture is proverbially worth a thousand words I want to begin it by talking about a very large picture that can help us to see what political philosophy is all about.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"This short text introduces readers to the concepts of political philosophy. It starts by explaining why the subject is important and how it tackles basic ethical questions such as, 'how should we live together in society?'". -- Publisher

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