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24 April 2007

Philosophy post 5: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

On to the fifth major field of philosophy: Political Philosophy or Political Science, “The branch of knowledge concerned with politcal activity and behaviour.” (OED). The overarching questions of this enquiry are:

Is Utopia possible? What is the best form of government?

Some other questions that are relevant to this study include:
- How should societies be organized?
- What laws should civilizations legislate and enforce?
- Are people basically good or evil?
- How much do people need to be restrained?
- How much freedom should citizens have to do whatever they please?
- Should the government legislate, dictate, or restrain religion or religious practices?
Instead of answering particular questions this week, here is what I would like you to do. Describe your concept of the ideal state.
Start simple and build up the details. Begin by describing the form of government. Who would rule? How many people? How would they be organized? Explain whether your system is a known form of government—monarchy, dictatorship, democracy, republic, oligarchy, anarchy, etc.—or if you think you have invented a new form. Next, explain the role of the individual in this system. Then begin getting into specific results of your system. What would you do for education, laws, punishments, judicial system, etc? Would you legistlate your ethics—in other words, make laws enforcing your personal morality?
If that task seems too overwhelming, try this one instead:
Write a new Bill of Rights. List ten or so basic rights that you believe all people should have. Make a general rule, but then also (this is important!) explain how you would apply this general right to specific situations. In other words, suppose that you retained the “right to free speech.” How would you apply that to hate speech? Public or media profanity? Libel?
You get the idea.
Please add other thoughts as they come to you, including descriptions of utopias you may have encountered in movies or literature.

Do you think Utopia is possible?

What kind of government do you personally believe the Bible suggests or commands?

Have fun.

8 comments:

RawkChick said...

ok...im gonna try to form my own ideal state. here goes...

rulers: one commander-in-chief, with 'committees' under him (the bible says men are to rule over women),for the lack of a better word, (there is that saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee). i believe in having 'committees' to keep the commander-in-chief in check, so he can't become a tyrant, doing anything and everything he wanted to make life miserable. the limit would be 2 4-5 yr terms.

form of government: democratic republic (gee...do you think i like how our founding fathers organized our government?)

role of the individual: the individual would be made responsible to the government, but he/she would still have the freedom of speech/religion. i think the government would eventually dissolve if they tried to control the 'subjects' too much (gun control: the police will always be there for you, you dont need your own gun! *sarcastically*)

education: there would be public schools made available, but people would be free to choose private or homeschooling. if they homeschooled, they would still have to send in portfolios, but the school district wouldn't be able to make stupid demands or the parents.

laws: no stupid ones...thats all i have to say. like gun control. or the 'no tolerance' thing in schools. or abortion.

punishments: they shouldn't be excessive, but yet they shouldn't let criminals get away w/ raping, theft, murder, etc.

judicial system: there would be different levels, since the courts would be flooded if all cases went to one level or court-ism. there would be county, state, and federal. also no laywers. or at least they couldn't be paid a lot.

would i legislate my ethics?: yes, although if they didn't get passed, i wouldn't throw a hisssy fit and bypass the laws.

so there it is...my own ideal form of goverment

Sarah said...

I don't really think that there can be such a thing as an 'ideal' state, we could perfect everything in any government system we could think of, but I don't feel it would work, there will always be people who will oppose something in it, which goes back to the first week of philosophy, none of us could agree on anything. But let's say that everyone could agree on a system and everything else, I still don't believe it would work, because man is not good.Anything we try to create can not be perfect because we are not perfect, ultimatly we will fail.

Darlin' said...

Being as we are all fallen people (meaning we all sin & fall short of the glory of God), I believe that a “utopian” society or government is impossible to achieve.

With that being said: no plan for government could ever be flawless or perfect, and therefore there is nothing that will work a 100%. Or fully satisfy everyone. As we have discovered in class, no one can agree on everything if at all one thing.

Therefore out of the choices and paths made among our world we must pick what will work best for the majority of people.

I think that the government we have in America now, is what works best, when indeed perfection in impossible.

We need a balance of Power.
And I believe freedom is important. Including freedom of speech. But I do not feel we could make “hate speech” illegal; even if one personally thinks it is wrong.
What kind of freedom is it if it is limited? Whether one chooses to use speech for it’s proper usage is up to the individual, and for God to punish if they abuse it.
There are limits against things like “hate speech” && there are laws against verbal abuse.

I am against abortion- and I believe that abortion IS murder. Some may argue that the “fetus” isn’t a baby until it is born and therefore it is not murder…. But it IS a baby and taking its life it wrong. I believe that abortion should be illegal.

I believe that man works only for himself and personal self-interest. If we (the people) could follow the “golden rule”: “love thy neighbor as thyself” and work just as much for one another as ourselves or work for “us” instead of “me” we would be a lot more prosperous.

However things like the golden rule cannot be forced. You cannot force someone to have a certain attitude. So I believe that the people decide the prosperity of a country and that laws can only do so much- it is individual choices of many people that decide the final outcome.

In order to benefit ourselves we must help others promote themselves. So in conclusion: Do unto others, as you would have them do onto you.


It is so sad philosphy clas is over! I greatly enjoyed taking it this year. You've been a great teacher.

Rosie Perera said...

RawkChick, I'm not sure if you're still reading this blog, as I know the philosophy class is over. But I cannot leave this one comment from you without replying to it: "i think the government would eventually dissolve if they tried to control the 'subjects' too much (gun control: the police will always be there for you, you dont need your own gun! *sarcastically*)"

You seem to be ridiculing the gun control position by oversimplifying it. The reason I don't have any desire to own a gun and would prefer that fewer Americans owned guns isn't that I think the police will defend me. It is that I believe owning a gun is more dangerous than not owning one. Sure, I could get all the training to learn how to use it properly and store it safely, etc. But the increase in gun ownership will not make this country a safer place. If, God forbid, I should be confronted by a burglar (or worse), I would rather do the old common sense thing and let him have my money than try to pull a gun on him. The latter would more likely lead to a more violent crime being committed against me. The fact that many people in the US do own guns to defend themselves does not prevent crimes. It only makes criminals more likely to want to arm themselves too, escalating the overall level of violence in our society. One reason America is still (knock on wood) a more pleasant and safe place to live than Iraq is that everybody and his brother doesn't own a gun (yet). If more people start owning guns to defend themselves, our precious nation is going to turn into the Wild West all over again, with everyone taking the law into their own hands and shooting each other. Not the kind of place I want to live.

We have increasingly high-stress lives these days, and the slightest irritation at work or on the road or in the family can cause almost anyone to snap if they haven't had enough sleep, or have had a bit too much to drink. It would be very dangerous to have a gun on hand at such a time. People who are normally rational might fly into an unexpected rage and shoot someone and then regret it later. This is not idle speculation. It happens more and more often these days.

Statistics show that states where gun laws are stricter have lower rates of gun homicide than states with more lax laws.

I am in favor of the very strictest possible controls on obtaining firearms. I think guns should still be legal (e.g., for hunting and sport shooting) but people with any history of mental illness, domestic violence, animal abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, etc., should not have access to them. The linkages between databases that have this information should be improved. Longer waiting periods should be enforced in all cases. People should be required to answer a form which asks why they are buying the gun, and if the reason is apparently to commit a violent crime, then the person should have to submit to further interviews, personality testing, possibly counseling, etc. In other words, it should not be easy to get a gun. People should really think twice or three times before attempting to get one. There are so few legitimate reasons to need one. I think we'd all feel safer if there were fewer guns.

The old line of "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" has never convinced me of the gun lobbyists' side of the argument. Outlaws have guns already now. They will still have guns if the rest of us voluntarily decide not to own guns, by giving our government (which is "of the people, by the people, and for the people" and thus totally at our service) the authority to regulate them. The only difference will be there will be fewer guns lying around to be accidentally discharged or used rashly by someone who would never want to kill anybody. Criminals who have guns will be less likely to use them, since they won't feel as threatened by the people they intend to rob from or attack. They're going to do these bad things anyway. Let's just not fool ourselves into thinking we can defend ourselves against them if we're armed with dangerous weapons.

The second amendment isn't about protecting rampant gun ownership for personal self defense. The "right to bear arms" it talks about is in the service of "a well regulated militia" which is "necessary to the security of a free state." I'm not against individual states keeping their own trained militias in case (God forbid) our national goverment ever gets tyrannical and the people need to rise up against it. But I don't think this amendment is intended to be a green light for the kind of gun violence we have in our country.

Watch "Bowling for Columbine" if you haven't already.

As Christians, we ought to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. Apart from the one controversial passage in Luke 22:35-38, the overwhelming body of evidence suggests that Jesus demonstrated and calls us to pacifism in the face of our enemies.

I have often felt that reasoning with or talking kindly to a person who is threatening you would be more disarming than pulling a gun on them. Thank God I've never been in the situation, and I might not be able to think clearly if I ever were, but I practice in my mind the conversations I might have. Thieves and rapists and other sordid criminals must have had a pretty rotten life to have gotten to where they are now. If I could, in just a few seconds, convey that I understand where they're coming from, it might be such an unexpected response as to give them pause, long enough for me to talk them out of doing harm to me. Yeah, I know. Maybe I'm being naive. I'd still rather give it a try than kill someone, though.

Hannah said...

I completely agree w/ the point that we should try to get it to be harder to get firearms (within reason), but if we make it complelety illegal to get guns, the people who got guns illegally will still be able to get them from their "sources". I would also try to talk the person out of it, but at least i would have a gun as a last resort (although I can't carry, I'm only a teenager) I would advise (for the lack of a better word) you to check out the national rifle association website. They have stories of people who protected themselves and other people because they had a gun. Among other things.

the national rifle association website: nra-ila.com

Rosie Perera said...

Hannah, I checked out the NRA site. I will not try to downplay the stories they offer. Their research seems quite solid. But I would argue that there are just as many examples when people attempting to use guns for self defense didn't have such happy endings. Here's one such that I just read in the news today (about the shooting incident in Moscow, Idaho): "The injured civilian was identified Monday by his mother as Pete Husmann, 20, a senior UI mechanical engineering student from Coeur d'Alene. She said he was shot three times as he rushed from his apartment with a pistol to render aid after hearing the gunshots. He was in serious but stable condition and was to undergo another surgery Monday, she said."

Also check out the website of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, particularly their Gun Industry Watch page. The reason it is so hard to crack down on illegal sales of guns to criminals (the large majority of which are done by licensed gun dealers) is that the gun lobbying by the NRA is so strong. See also some of the factsheets at the Brady Campaign website, particularly the one on Women and Guns. Some sobering general statistics, such as:
* "The presence of a gun in the home makes it 6 times more likely that an abused woman will be murdered."
* "In 2002, suicide by all means took the lives of 31,655 people in the United States. Of this number, 54% (17,108) were completed using a firearm."
* "A gun kept in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting (4 times), a criminal assault or homicide (7 times), or an attempted or completed suicide (11 times) than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense."

Most people in the US, Christians included, are more aware of the NRA and its arguments than the opposing arguments, because the NRA is so well funded and organized and has such great name recognition. But we owe it to ourselves to be informed and balanced in the sources of our information. And to examine everything in light of what we know from Scripture: namely that killing or injuring people is wrong, even in self defense. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. That's a hard teaching to live by in this violent world, I know. It's very tempting to take up the weapons of the world and try to fight back. But we have weapons and armor that are not of this world. We must not contribute to the violence in our society but rather try to work against it by promoting peace: getting involved in training people to manage their anger better, learning and teaching conflict resolution, counseling in domestic abuse situations, volunteering to help mentor at-risk teens so they don't grow up to become tomorrow's violent criminals, etc. These are the sorts of things Christians and Christian groups ought to be focusing their money and energies on, not on defending the rights of all of us to wield guns.

RawkChick said...

i do agree w/ some of your thoughts, and that having a gun in the home means that a suicide would be probable, among other things. even though someone may get hurt protecting his family, property, other human beings, etc, its better tahn dying. unless of course the person is a chritian. cause heaven is better than anything earth can offer.

also, you have to take everything from any news source, such as cnn, w/ a grain of salt. they twist the story to look like the gun is the criminal. its the exact opposite.

my opinion is, is that although it IS wrong to kill, if its protecting other people, its alright. within reason. if i was palced in this situration, i would not be the 1st to shoot. i would only shoot if he shot 1st. nost of the stories in the nra are people going into harms way to protect others, not minding if they are in the line of fire.

but another view of this subject comes from a student at virginia tech. he said on his blog, rouhly this: 'i do own a gun and am trained in the proper uses of one. so if i was killed in the shootings, it would be the last of my college career. but if i had had my gun there with me, it also would have been the end of my college career, since its a criminal felony to carry on federal property.' i think this hits the nail on the head.

Rosie Perera said...

RawkChick wrote: "even though someone may get hurt protecting his family, property, other human beings, etc, its better tahn dying. unless of course the person is a chritian. cause heaven is better than anything earth can offer."

You've just given a really good argument for why Christians shouldn't try to defend themselves by violent means. If we die at the hands of a crazed murderer, so be it. We'll end up in heaven anyway. So why try to kill in self-protection? And ditto for protecting our Christian families.

On the other hand, it's not a very great logical leap from your position to that of the suicide bombers, who say, "It's OK if we die while defending ourselves violently from the enemy, because we're going to a better place." The difference is they think paradise is a reward for their violent behavior. I haven't yet heard Christians say that, but some amongst us unfortunately do justify the use of violence to further God's purposes on earth. E.g., bombing abortion clinics, etc. Hopefully these sorts of people will remain on the fringes. But it does worry me how many mainstream Christians buy into the NRA rhetoric of needing to protect ourselves with guns. NRA should stand for Not Righteous at All.

RawkChick goes on to say "if i was palced in this situration, i would not be the 1st to shoot. i would only shoot if he shot 1st."

Unfortunately, in many cases that would be too late. Which is what leads people to the next step of logic, justifying pre-emptive strikes. You see someone with a gun and think he might shoot, so you shoot him first to prevent that. Can you see where this leads? Violence breeds violence, no matter how you tally it up. Living in a country that tolerates more and more guns does not make me feel safer and safer, but the opposite. And I wouldn't feel any safer if I went out and bought a gun to contribute to the situation.

Jesus told Peter to put away his sword when Peter tried to use it to defend his Lord and merely injured a guard. How much more would he want us to lay down our guns rather than taking them up against those who would harm us. Our Father, may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven...and SOON. That we may forge our weapons into ploughshares and sit at table in the presence of our [former] enemies, fearing no evil.