Hobbes, and the Injustice of the Sovereign

In the Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes posits the creation of a commonwealth by means of a social contract, and as part of that contract, Hobbes theorizes the creation of the office of a sovereign authority, the occupant of which is to act as the representative of the constituted wills of the individual parties of the contract. Hobbes insists that it is not possible for this sovereign authority to commit an injustice against those who have granted him his privileged position. This essay will briefly sketch the reasons Hobbes offers in defense of his position, and critically evaluate his arguments in light of some common objections.

Aristotle 101: The Zoon Politikon

Aristotle’s ‘political animal’ (zoon politikon) is not the creature we might expect today – a conventional construct enfranchised by legal edict and duty-bound only to his own individual happiness as a free agent in a democratic nation-state. Instead, what Aristotle had in mind was an animal that was best suited to realize his complete end or natural goal (his telos) in a community organized to that end as well. That community is known as a city-state (a polis). As an integrated part of a functional polis, man is a creature of the polis – a political animal.

Wilt Chamberlain, and The Debate Between Nozick and Rawls

In his book, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", Robert Nozick offers the Wilt Chamberlain thought experiment in order to demonstrate how a conception of justice based on “end-state patterned distributions” (as he put it) would require constant coercive interventions on the part of the state, in order to maintain the desired pattern. This, in turn, would undermine theories of justice that incorporated liberty into their framework. John Rawls’ theory of justice is one such example. I will briefly outline the thought experiment and the problem it poses, consider some objections to Nozick, and conclude that despite these objections, Nozick succeeds.

The Justice Of Market Outcomes – An Exploration of Desert

In any given exchange market (whether free or otherwise), goods and services are traded as a matter of course, in the pursuit of both individual and social goals. Those trades will result in substantive outcomes both for the individuals involved in trades, and more broadly for society as a whole. It has been suggested that some of those outcomes may be undeserved. If we assume this to be the case, the question then arises, are undeserved market outcomes are unjust? Any reasonable answer to this question requires a coherent idea of justice within which we could determine what is deserved and undeserved, and judge the justice of those deserts. In the interest of space, this essay will briefly describe two essential notions of justice, and rule one of them out as the less coherent of the two. Once an acceptable sense of justice is established, I will then proceed to render a decision on the question of desert and justice in the market.

Justice, Culture, and the Inheritance of the Enlightenment

A question is posed to me via my coursework: "Does justice require that anything be distributed equally? If so, what?" This is, of course, the bog-standard prompt for the student to explain the modern dispute between John Rawls1 and Robert Nozick2 . We'll get there shortly, but first I want to back up and ask … Continue reading Justice, Culture, and the Inheritance of the Enlightenment

What Does Marx Mean By Alienated Labor?

In his famous Paris Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argues that a society organized around the principle of private property and the commercial production of commodities forces man to stand in opposition to his own nature in order to subsist, and that this self-oppositional stance is best described as ‘alienated’ (or ‘estranged’) labor. To fully understand what Marx means by ‘alienated labor’, and under what circumstances labor becomes alienated, we must therefore first understand what Marx means by ‘human nature’. From there, we can understand what it means to be alienated from it, and the various ways in which this alienation is accomplished in a capitalist situation.

On Cultural Knowledge and Discipline

We're being robbed of our capacity for expression in more ways than just overt censorship. In the name of "liberation" from an ostensible "oppression" we are stripped of access to our cultural heritage, and denied the opportunity to learn the rules and principles that governed the creation of new art in previous generations. This is dangerous, and we ought to reject this.