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Human Needs and Political Judgment

  • Lawrence Hamilton
Part of the New Waves in Philosophy book series (NWIP)

Abstract

In general, the best way to judge men is by their interests; and the best method of persuading them is to make them see their own interest in what you propose.

René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, marquis d’Argenson1

Judgment is central to politics and political theory. But it is also elusive. It requires and involves a wide range of skills, capacities, sentiments, values, and institutions. Some theorists respond to this elusive jumble of abilities, emotions, and forms of interaction by transcending them or abstracting from them. They resort to reason alone. This is particularly true of contemporary liberal political thought and its dependence on the odd coupling of “rights” and “preferences”.2 Rights, it is supposed, have a natural association with individual utility via the notion of subjective “preferences” (or avowed human wants): a properly instituted and enforced objective rights structure guarantees human life and liberty, and provides equal freedom for all with regard to their preferences and choices (Rawls 1996, pp. xli, xlviii). This is not only untrue (Geuss 2001, p. 148), but also detrimental to thinking about political judgment. In these terms a good political judgment becomes one that accords with a set of pre-determined, abstract rights. This jettisons understanding the various reasons or motivations for actions (rational or irrational) in favor of prescription: political judgment conceived in terms of maxims or principles for action, with rights acting as the universal criteria for judgment.

Keywords

Political Philosophy Moral Luck Political Agency Human Good South African Journal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Lawrence Hamilton 2009

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  • Lawrence Hamilton

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