Readings in Political Philosophy

Readings in Political Philosophy

Readings in Political Philosophy

Readings in Political Philosophy

Excerpt

Dominant interest in the study of political questions is usually in practical or technical aspects of the study. Many practical and technical political problems require for their solution, however, reasoning in terms of general theory. Whatever our formal laws and precedents may be, and however fully and precisely we may record, systematize, and compare our observations of experience, we cannot speak intelligently of the success or failure of this or that governmental device, or of the justification of the state's entrance into some new sphere of action, until we attain somewhat clear ideas as to what in general we expect to accomplish through the agency of civil government. This is a plea not for merely abstract speculation, but rather for a neglected side of practical reflection concerning our expectations from political action. Discussions of practical questions of government are generally impractical unless the argument proceeds from and tends toward general propositions as to the character and province of government.

Why do we have political government? What in our present condition do we owe to it? What future advantages may we properly expect from it? What are its best forms? Who should control it? What is its proper relation to the ideas and sentiments of the people? What spheres of individual and social life is it incompetent to enter beneficially? Numerous writers have sought to answer these questions in abstract terms. In other words, their answers, although in many instances strongly influenced by an interest in special cases within their view, have been intended as statements of general truth, conceived apart from such cases.

The study of the reasoning on such questions is the study of political philosophy. Obviously, advocates of this study should not rest its claims for attention upon any pretension that it can alone supply the key to the solution of political problems of our time. As with other historical and philosophical studies, its . . .

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