[1.1.] Governmental Control.
Question 1: What is a Political Society? I.e., when does a group of people count as being a political society?
Here's a tentative definition: a political society is one with some system of government
· This is a purely descriptive definition, i.e. it's non-normative, in that it implies no value judgments. In particular it does not imply that a political society is better or worse than a non-political one.
· It implies that a wide range of societies, from relatively free (e.g., our own representative democracy) to relatively repressive (e.g., Iraq's authoritarian dictatorship) count as political societies.
· It implies that a non-political society is, by definition, in a state of anarchy (the absence of government)
· It leaves the following question open:
When is governmental control rightful (legitimate) rather than wrongful (illegitimate)?
· This is a normative question -- it involves the evaluative concepts of rightfulness and wrongfulness (or legitimacy and illegitimacy).
· This is probably just another way of asking question 2 (what is the source of (rightful) political authority). At any rate, it's a very, very closely-related question.
[1.2.] Normative vs. Descriptive Authority.
To better understand what this question is asking, consider these examples of different sorts of non-governmental control:
· rightful (non-governmental): the control parents have over their toddler
· wrongful (non-governmental): the control a kidnapper has over an abductee
DISCUSSION: What are the differences between these two sorts of control? Which one more resembles a government's control over its citizens?
When is government control rightful?
A tentative answer: Rightful control stems from rightful authority:
· an entity with rightful authority is entitled to rule
· those who are ruled have a strong prima facie non-prudential obligation to obey the ruler(s)
· prima facie: "at first look" -- in ethics, a prima facie obligation is a real obligation that can be overridden or "trumped" by other, stronger obligations
· prudential: a prudential obligation is an obligation stemming from self-interest; if you have a prudential obligation to do x, then you will be better off doing x than not doing x.
We need to distinguish the concept of rightful authority from:
(descriptive) authority: actual power -- X does in fact exercise authority over Y (that authority may or may not be rightful/legitimate)
To distinguish normative/rightful/legitimate authority from descriptive/actual authority, I'll use the subscripts "N" and "D": "authorityN" and "authorityD".
This page last updated 1/8/2003.
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