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  • My name is Tamar Gendler.  I'm professor of philosophy and cognitive science and chair

  • of the philosophy department at Yale University.  

  • So philosophy comes from the Greek term meaning love of wisdom; philo, love; sophos, wisdom

  • and every culture from time immemorial has had a philosophical tradition.  There are

  • philosophical traditions in western culture that have their roots in ancient Greece

  • There are philosophical traditions in eastern culture, great Chinese and Indian philosophical

  • traditionsThere are philosophical traditions in AfricaThere are philosophical traditions

  • in native cultures throughout the worldWhat philosophy does in every society of which

  • it is a part is asks the question why, why are things that way they are and should they

  • be that wayThe western philosophical tradition to which

  • my comments today will be restricted can be divided into two main segmentsOn the one

  • hand it has a descriptive component, which asks about how things are and how we know

  • that and on the other hand it has a normative component, a component which asks about how

  • things ought to beSo into the first category fall questions like what is the fundamental

  • nature of reality, does God exist, do we have free willThose branches of philosophy are known as

  • metaphysics, fundamental questions about what there is, and epistemology, fundamental questions

  • about how we know things. On the other side of the divide are the questions that I've

  • called normative  questions, questions about values and that segment of philosophy has

  • three main partsOne of them, aesthetics is concerned with the question what is beautiful

  • and what makes it soThe second part of that division of philosophy, moral philosophy

  • asks the question what is morally right or good and the third part of that division of

  • philosophy, political philosophy asks the question how should societies be structured

  • in order to allow human flourishing and what makes societal structures legitimate           

  • Perhaps the most accessible and exciting part of philosophy for people who have never encountered

  • the discipline before is political philosophy, which asks questions that we as citizens of

  • a democracy need to ask ourselves in order to be responsible participants in our joint

  • governance, questions like what is the best way for society to be structured in order

  • to allow people to flourish, questions like what is the appropriate division of rights

  • and responsibilities in a society, questions like how should the legitimate concerns of

  • liberty on the one hand and equality on the other be balanced and for those of you who

  • are interested in studying a subject that has practical import it may be worth realizing

  • that political philosophy brought you the world as you know it todayPolitical philosophy

  • brought the world Greek democracy.  It brought us the Magna CartaIt brought us the French

  • Revolution and the American RevolutionIt brought us communismIt brought us the

  • Civil Rights MovementIt brought us feminism and libertarianismIt even brought us the

  • Tea Party.  It was, as a result of thinking about these sorts of questions that these

  • movements came into being.

  • So I want you to start by asking yourself how you would answer these questionsShould

  • the State guarantee universal healthcareShould there be an inheritance taxShould

  • there be a draft army and should you be allowed to sell your vote

  • The three people well meet in the lecture are Thomas Hobbes who wrote a great book called

  • Leviathan in 1651, John Rawls who wrote a book called Theory of Justice in 1971 and

  • Robert Nozick who wrote a book called Anarchy, State and Utopia in 1974. It has been said

  • that political philosophy asks two questions, who should get what and who says so and you

  • might think of the three authors that were going to discuss as answering those questions

  • in different waysThomas Hobbes is primarily concerned with

  • the second question who says so, what makes the State legitimate and John Rawls and Robert

  • Nozick are in a conversation directly with one another about the question who gets what.

  • So Thomas Hobbes lived at the end of the 1500s and beginning of the 1600s roughly at the

  • time of Shakespeare and if you read Hobbes work in the original youll notice that

  • the language in which he wrote was somewhat archaic, but the questions with which he is

  • concerned in his great book Leviathan aren’t questions that just apply to his time, theyre

  • questions that concern us today as well. He asks the question what would the world be

  • like if there wasn’t a state and would that situation be better or worse than the situation

  • where there is some form of governanceIn particular, Hobbes famously asks people

  • to imagine what life would be like in what he calls the state of nature,

  • a situation in which there is no external governing body and Hobbes points out that

  • in the state of nature people are all roughly equal in the following relevant wayAll

  • of us, no matter how physically strong or intellectually clever are at risk of having

  • the work that we do disrupted by others, at risk of having the property that weve acquired

  • taken by others, at risk of having the things that we see as important to our lives destroyed

  • by others because all of us sleep and all of us go away from things that are important

  • to usAs a result says Hobbes, in the state of nature

  • people need to expand a tremendous amount of energy protecting their goodsthere

  • is no opportunity in the state of nature to do the sorts of things which human beings

  • think makes life valuable, things like develop relationships to individuals far from us,

  • things like Hobbes mentions creating the skills of navigation, writing poetry, making music

  • or any of the things that you find valuable in your lifeAll of those things Hobbes

  • point out are possible only because you have a kind of security and safety.

By contrast,

  • life in the state of nature says Hobbes, is solitary, poor, nasty, broodish and short

  • The question is how can we get out of the state of natureHow can we get out of this

  • situation of perpetual fear, for as Hobbes point out active war isn’t what disrupts

  • human activityThe fear of war is sufficient to disrupt human activityThink of the

  • ways in which after 9/11 your anxiety about your security was raised so that at every

  • moment you were attentive to things around you, hyper vigilant to what risks you might

  • faceSo Hobbesidea in arguing for the legitimacy of government is to begin by asking

  • what would it be like if there were no government and to point out that that’s a state which

  • all of us find undesirable. There are says Hobbes, three things which

  • motivate people to try to leave the state of natureThey are, to quote directly,

  • fear of death, desire of such things as are necessary for commodious living and the

  • hope by their industry to obtain them”.  

  • So the puzzle the Hobbes raises is how can we get out of the state of nature and in subsequent

  • years game theorists who work at the intersection of what you might think of as philosophy and

  • economics have developed a way of representing the problem which Hobbes thinks we face in

  • the state of nature.

  • Life in the state of nature, according to Hobbes, embodies what is sometimes called

  • a prisoner’s dilemmaThe prisoner’s dilemma gets its name from a famous example

  • .  A small town police officer has captured two criminals and he wants to entice them

  • to confess, so what he does is he creates a structure of prison sentences where it’s

  • advantageous for each of the prisoners to confess regardless of what the other one does.

  • We can illustrate a prisoner’s dilemma by thinking about the situation of the United

  • States and the Soviet Union during the Cold WarBoth sides would have preferred de-escalation

  • in terms of armamentBoth sides would have been happy to use the money that they were

  • building missiles with to build schools and highways and hospitals, but both sides also

  • realized that if they engaged in unilateral disarmament they would be at riskLet’s

  • look at the structure that governed the choice that those two countries faced.

  • The United States couldn’t choose whether the Soviet Union disarmed or notIt could

  • only choose whether it disarmedThe Soviet Union couldn’t choose whether the United

  • States disarmed or notIt could only choose whether it disarmedFor both countries

  • their first choice was that the other country disarmed while they kept their weapons

  • Because of that what was rational for both countries to do was to keep their arms

  • What that meant is that the rational choice for both parties was to keep their arms rather than ending up in their

  • second choice situation, the situation where I have money to spend on my schools and hospitals

  • and Russia has money to spend on its schools and hospitals both countries in order to be

  • rational needed to spend resources on armamentThis structure occurs over and over again

  • in human transactions. So unless there is some sort of enforcement mechanism in place

  • we will end up like the US and the Soviet Union during the arms race, with our third

  • choice situation.

So the general problem with which the prisoner’s dilemma confronts

  • us is that if we behave in rational ways we will always end up not cooperating and the

  • puzzle that Hobbesconfronts in his political philosophy is the question how is it possible

  • to bring human beings into their second choice situation, where they cooperate with one another

  • rather than competing. It turns out that in lots of small local interactions

  • human beings do manage to find a way out of this scenarioFamously, during the First

  • World War when soldiers were engaged in trench warfare the Germans and the Americans developed

  • a kind of truce whereby soldiers from one side could leave their trenches and get some

  • fresh air without getting shot and then soldiers from the other side would leave their trenches

  • and get some fresh air without getting shotThe idea was that as long as the other side

  • was behaving peacefully it was rational for you to behave peacefully as well

  • If you fail to cooperate or if it seems to me that you have failed to cooperate I will

  • retaliate by not cooperatingBecause of the possibility that informal modes of cooperation

  • can breakdown Hobbes insisted that in order to get out of the state of nature we need

  • not only informal arrangements with one another, but a body that regulates human interactions

  • Hobbes concludes that it’s in our rational self interest to submit our will to a sovereign

  • whom he calls the Leviathan and thereby to get ourselves out of the state of nature.

  • Let’s fast forward 300 years. A half century later philosopher John Locke writes another

  • book about social contract theory and 50 or so years after that the philosopher John Jacques

  • Rousseau writes a similar work, each of them refining Hobbesnotion of the social contract

  • Together these three pictures of what makes a state legitimate allow the thinkers who

  • lie at the heart of the American and French Revolutions to articulate a picture of human

  • rights that makes those revolutions legitimateFrom the French and American Revolutions which

  • give voice to the citizens we move through the 18th century to the emancipation of the

  • serfs in Russia and a general democratization of society, a recognition that individual’s

  • votes should not be dependent upon them being landholders, but should rather be open to

  • people of all social classesExtending this idea Karl Marx writes the Communist

  • Manifesto and an entire enormous nation, Russia in 1917 reshapes the fundamental structure

  • of its society in response to a work of political philosophyAt the same time the tradition

  • which gave rise to the revolutions in the 18th century, one that says all human beings

  • have the right to have their voices heard, gives rise on the one hand to the women’s

  • voting movement in England and America and then to the Civil Rights movement on United

  • Statessoil expanding and expanding out of Hobbesfundamental idea that a government

  • to be legitimate, must be in response to the needs of its peopleWe get during this

  • 300 year period an incredible opening up of political rights of a sort unknown in the

  • history of civilization. Political philosopher John Rawls was born

  • in the early 20th century in the American southHe was of a generation where he and

  • all his friends went off to serve in the Second World War and returned from that war concerned

  • with how it’s possible to create a stable and just societyRawls spent most of his

  • academic career thinking about that question as a professor of philosophy at Harvard University

  • and when he was in his early 50s in the middle of the 1960s and early 1970s as the Vietnam

  • War was raging, as social protests were going on around him, as American society was reshaping

  • itself in ways that voice was given to the needs of the disenfranchised, Rawls tried

  • to articulate in the great social contract tradition a picture of what a just society

  • looks like and how a just society should be structured.

  • It’s in this time that John Rawls sets out to write his work, The Theory of JusticeIt’s

  • worth listening to the extraordinary opening words of RawlsbookHe says, “Justice

  • is the first virtue of social institutions as truth is of systems of thought.”  

  • Rawlsfundamental assumption in articulating what a just society looks like is that each

  • person possesses a certain inviolability which cannot be overridden even if doing so would