Eléments de méthode en philosophie politique



Il y a des individus qui s'enferment dans certaines intuitions morales et n'en sortent pas. Deux exemples fameux de ces intuitions morales sont le jus-naturalisme anarcho-capitaliste et la conception marxiste du salariat comme un vol de l'employé par l'employeur. Ces deux intuitions reposent sur des fondations qui ont quelque valeur. Il semble intuitivement vrai que la loi n'est pas supérieure à la morale, de même qu'il semble intuitivement vrai que les salariés ne gagnent souvent que trop peu par rapport à l'effort fourni. Les principes qui sont tirés de ces intuitions prennent malheureusement ensuite trop de place. Ils ne sont pas assez soupesés à la lumière d'autres intuitions et surtout ne sont pas suffisamment soumis au feu sagace d'arguments et d'exemples. Ils en deviennent des dogmes dans lesquels on se perd et on erre, des mysticismes.

Rawls nous enjoint au contraire de rechercher, comme idéal de la réflexion philosophique, un équilibre réfléchi entre nos intuitions bien soupesées et nos arguments bien questionnés. Cet équilibre nous permet de dépasser la fausse opposition entre déontologisme et conséquentialisme par le biais d'un conséquentialisme (ou utilitarisme) des principes où les bons principes sont soutenus par des arguments tenant compte des conséquences des arrangements institutionnels découlant des principes défendus. Dans ce mode de réflexion, intuitions et arguments se complètent et s'imbriquent sans que l'on puisse y échapper. Le fondement du raisonnement utilitariste est ainsi l'égale valeur des individus (moral equality), une intuition donc, qui sert d'axiome (avec d'autres intuitions) à toute la réflexion utilitariste.

Le raisonnement utilitariste a en outre comme conséquence intéressante d'amener une grande partie de la philosophie politique sur le terrain de la philosophie économique (du raisonnement et de la théorie économiques). En effet, du moment que l'on recherche la maximisation du bien-être des individus par des arrangements institutionnels, une partie de la réflexion devient une réflexion d'ordre économique.




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Methods in political theory



In this essay, I will first define the questions that I think that matter in normative political philosophy. Secondly, I will try to see how much different approaches to political theory can help me to answer these questions. The approaches that I will talk about are the ones developed and presented by Ronald Beiner, Ryan Balot, Margaret Kohn, Clifford Orwin and Joseph Carens. This choice of theorists is not random, as I chose to talk about approaches that I consider as the most connected to my interests and to the questions that I think that matter for political philosophy.

I will not talk about the questions that I think that matter for non normative political philosophy, although I think that one could only work at an ontological level in political philosophy in trying to elaborate and discuss the best definitions of political elements and notions. Nevertheless, it seems to me that normative political philosophers have to propose and defend (or simply presuppose) first definitions of certain political elements in order to be able to prescribe or evaluate then. From that perspective, it seems that normative political philosophy always implies ontological political philosophy (at least presupposed), but that the opposite is not true (indeed, one can practice ontological political philosophy without practicing normative political philosophy).


1. Central questions for normative political philosophy


I think that a central question for political philosophy has been identified by Robert Nozick in his famous book Anarchy, state and utopia:

“The fundamental question of political philosophy, one that precedes questions about how the state should be organized, is whether there should be any state at all. Why not have anarchy?

Indeed, if one has not answered this question first, then what is the point of writing about how the state should be organized? If the possibility that anarchy is a sound position remains, then the doubt about the utility of any reflection about how the state should be organized remains also

Nozick thinks even that if one finds out that anarchy is the best possible way of organizing the society, then it “undercuts the whole subject of political philosophy”. I disagree with him about that statement, because I consider that some important political philosophical questions still remain. Among them I would cite: What should be considered as a legitimate property in an anarchist society? Is (a form of) democracy justified to exercise collective (or majority) coercion against minorities in an anarchist society3? What should be the rights of people living in an anarchist society4? Is wage labor a violation of the rights of individuals? Would discrimination or social ostracism be, or not, a problem in an anarchist society5? Furthermore, a political philosopher could have proved6 the value of anarchy and still had a very essential task to realize in refuting all alternative claims and views on the subject7. After all, refuting alternative theses is a gain of knowledge, as Karl Popper defended it about the progress of knowledge in natural sciences.


However, what if this central question of the value or the non value of anarchy was answered (positively or negatively)? For example, Nozick considers that anarchism is not a valuable or sustainable position (because he thinks that a certain type of state can appear without violating any rights). Then the debate focuses of course about what is the justified size of the state. So we can say that the central questions for political philosophy are for Nozick to know if the state is justified at all and then to discover what size of the state is justified. I completely share here Nozick's point of view about the centrality of these questions for political philosophy. At the opposite, a philosopher like John Rawls begins his exploration of political philosophy in presupposing directly that a certain type of state (that he would call liberal and democratic) is justified.


In order to answer the central questions of political philosophy that has identified Nozick, I think that we need first to know how and if we can assert any political statements and if there is a point to assert these kind of statements. As far as I know, Nozick does not bring any answer to this important debate8, but he acknowledges though that: “Moral philosophy sets the background for, and boundaries of, political philosophy. (…) The moral prohibitions it is permissible to enforce are the source of whatever legitimacy the state's fundamental coercive power has9.” I would agree with him about the importance of moral philosophy if we want to be able to answer the set of fundamental questions for political philosophy that Nozick has identified and that I mentioned earlier. More precisely, I think that a certain number of questions can be raised from these fundamental questions of political philosophy: How can one assert a valuable and sound political statement? What justifies political statements? If the answer is that nothing can justify political statements, or that political statements only serve some interests without ever having any kind of objectivity, then political philosophy is a nonsense because there is nothing to be found and political statements are empty of any sort of value (there are neither right nor wrong).
Following again Nozick, my answer would be that we could find a moral theory
10 that would justify certain political statements in respecting certain moral conditions or criteria. And if one can justify political statements it means that one can prescribe political institutions/patterns and evaluate actual, possible or proposed political patterns. There are several different moral theories that have been formulated in moral philosophy, and among them I could cite at least: utilitarianism, deontologism, ethics of virtue, contractualism and jusnaturalism. Moreover, there are many different versions of each of these (main) moral theories. So in order to practice political philosophy, the philosopher, who is interested to answer the questions mentioned earlier, should first find which version of a moral theory is sound and valuable (because then he could thus justify certain political statements and condemn others on a sound basis).

In addition to all that, I think that moral statements (and moral theories) presuppose another question which is: Can moral statements be objective? This is a debate in meta-ethics between many theories and among them: objectivism (realism), subjectivism, relativism, emotivism and nihilism. Therefore, a philosopher who wants to assert a moral statement should first show that moral statements can be objective. Finally, it is possible that philosophers should also work first at an ontological level in order to elaborate good definitions of moral notions used in moral debates.

To summarize my view about what are the questions that matter for political philosophy and how to answer them, I think that the question of what kind of society is needed (anarchy, a state, a certain size of state, a certain type of state) implies the question of how to justify political statements, which implies the debate between different versions of diverse moral theories, which itself implies the question of if moral statements can be objective. If one does not have answer these questions, one is building theories on weak foundations with the consequence that if any foundation falls then there is a risk that the whole theoretical structure falls as well.

In these three big debates (desirable size of the state, moral theory justifying a political statement, objectivity of moral statements), I have positions that I do not consider sound and strong enough because of the lack of arguments and knowledge. Nevertheless, I do have positions which are: no state is necessary and desirable (free market anarchism), rules-utilitarianism11 is the best moral theory to justify political statements, and moral statements can be objective. From these positions, other questions matter to me in addition to the ones I mentioned at the beginning (at the page 1 and 2 of this essay), and among them I would cite: What is the desirable order of reforms (transitional steps) to transform the society from our actual situation to the ideal situation?


I will now consider five different approaches to political theory and try to see how much they can help me to answer these questions.


2. Different methodological approaches to political theory


In this second part of my essay, I will talk about how much helpful I find different approaches to political theory in order to help me to answer the questions that I think that matter for political philosophy (which was the aim of the first part) and in what aspects I find these approaches not helpful or problematic.


(1) Ronald Beiner's approach


The great value of the approach of Beiner seems to me to be his choice to study and write about different important political philosophies12 and to refuse to consider that egalitarian democratic liberalism (and his welfare state capitalism model) is the end of history. Political philosophies generally articulate answers to the central question of what should the state do or should not do (which is another way of asking about what should be the size of the state) as well as the questions about the possibility to justify political statements and how (for example, John Rawls defines principles of justice to organize political institutions). To study important and well known political philosophers' works seems then a good way of finding answers to the questions that matter to me. Furthermore, Beiner's focus on different conceptions of the human good seems to me to converge with my interest for different moral theories that try to support different political projects. And his reject of Isaiah Berlin's pluralism about conceptions of human good in favor of a monism13 seems to embody the same position as I share about the importance of finding which moral theory is the best (the most valuable and sound) to support prescriptions of political patterns.

At the opposite, I am quite puzzled when I read Beiner saying that “it is not a question of mobilizing rationally binding arguments for the simple reason that human beings are not easy to convince
14”. First, I do not consider that how to convince an audience is a question that matters for the philosopher. Following the teachings of Kevin Mulligan, Pascal Engel15 or Jacques Bouveresse, I consider that philosophy seeks for the truth and has not to be confused with rhetoric (the ability to convince x of any ideas, good or bad). Of course, a philosopher can also act (speak) as a rhetor or as an activist (which was the case for example of Nozick, Rothbard, Hess, Marx or Proudhon), but these are two distinct roles that he can embody. Second, I cannot understand how we could hope to reach some philosophical truths if we abandon the use of arguments. I fear that logic, examples and thought experiments (although very helpful) are not sufficient to demonstrate soundly something in philosophy and that's why we need to use arguments.

Beiner asserts also that “philosophy and literature are much more closely aligned than they are generally thought to be16”. This can be true. For example, Kevin Mulligan used to present The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera as a philosophical analysis of the nature of the kitsch although the book is in the same time a novel (a fiction)17. But the fact that literature can content philosophical analysis does not entail that this analysis is made of non arguments. Even when philosophy is mixed with literature, I think that philosophy is still built on arguments18.


Finally, I think that there is an ambiguity with Beiner's notion of “conception of the human good” or “reflection on the meaning of humanity”. Is Beiner here talking about moral theory about how to justify institutional patterns (as I was saying earlier in this text) or is he talking about individual ethics? I think that the confusion of these two notions is not a good thing, because these are two different debates. How one individual should live his life (personal ethics) is not the same question that what moral theory justifies a way of organizing the society (inter-personal ethics). Indeed, x can prefer to live his life in a certain way independently of any possible way of how the society is organized. Of course, maybe the organization of the society could restrain or influence x in his individual ethical preferences though. However, political institutions do not necessarily have an impact on every possible individual ethical choice, and that is why I consider that it is worth to distinguish these two fields of reflection.


(2) Ryan Balot's approach


Balot seems to be mainly interested by the study of ancient political institutions and more precisely by the study of ancient Athens and ancient Rome. His approach is that political theorists should go “beyond the tyranny of ''Western'' perspectives and presentism19”. I agree with him about the value of studying non Western perspectives and non actual or present theories, because as he says: “Through studying the Greeks and Romans on citizenship, we acquire a more variegated and subtle vocabulary for discussing political difficulties of our time, and of all time20”. Indeed, if we are looking for answers to the questions that I think that matter for political philosophy then there is not point to restrain ourselves to the study of theories from any time or any geographical localization, because any epoch or any geographical space can incarnate possible valuable institutional patterns (at least partly).

In his study of ancient institutions, Balot claims that our actual society organization is close to the ancient Rome21, which would be according to him a bad model22, and prescribes the ancient Athens as a good model232425. I think this is a possible good way of practicing political philosophy that is linked to my question about what should be the state like. Exploring and defending institutional models (from the epoch x and the localization y) is necessary if we want to have the possibility to evaluate them in order to find which one is the best, as well as it is worth criticizing our own actual model in the light of comparison with them.

I think that my difficulty with Balot's work is that he does not answer to the question about why democracy is worth it. He seems to presuppose that democracy is better than alternatives
26, like (free market or another type of) anarchy or an authoritarian regime (of one kind of another), which puzzles me because I think that this debate should be taken care before defending a specific and more detailed version of democracy (like ancient Athens)27. Studying different versions of democracy can be interesting of course, but if we do not consider democracy as the best model, then we will have a different perspective on the whole work on this subject. Moreover, I think that it could be worth to have the debate between thin and thick conceptions of democracy before talking about specific models of democracy, because as long as it is not clear what is valued in democracy (the decisions process, the rights system, both, etc.) then it is unclear what we are really talking about. Finally, I think that the value of citizenship itself should also be put in questions and defended before defending a particular type of citizenship.

(3) Margaret Kohn's approach (and Hans Sluga's one)

Kohn has an interest for the history of political ideas and, among them, for the history of solidarism. Political ideas can refer to: political concepts, political intuitions, ontological analysis of political concepts and normative arguments prescribing certain institutional arrangements (using ontological analysis of political concepts). I think that the difference between political ideas and political philosophies is that political philosophies are often not only ontological analysis but also normative arguments, which is not the case for political ideas that can be only ontological analysis, or, more simply, political concepts or political intuitions. Political ideas study is of course also important for the questions that I think that matter for political philosophy. The case of solidarism in particular is interesting because it is a direct challenge to my own free market positions but also to radical anti-free market positions (like marxism), because as we can see in the following quote: “The theory of solidarism was intended as an alternative to two dominant ideologies:
laissez-faire liberalism and socialism28.” This type of middle-term positions are good challenges for me (and other libertarians) and necessitate an appropriate argumentation if one wants to be able to refute correctly these positions. Solidarism prescribes a certain type (size) of state according to a certain argumentation and from that perspective it integrates itself well in the debate that matters to me about what should be the size of the state.


Moreover, with her study of solidarism she talks about another debate that matters to me and that I mentioned in the first part of this essay: the debate about what should be considered as a legitimate property. Indeed, solidarism “rests on the claim that the division of labor creates a social product that does not naturally belong to the individuals who control it as their private property29” which would imply that “wealthy have a quasi-contractual debt to society that they are obliged to repay30”. It is here an interesting challenge for the theories about what is a legitimate property articulated by John Locke or Murray Rothbard and the rest of the laissez-faire liberalism family.


Finally, Kohn presents a methodological reflection from Hans Sluga as a possible (close) model of her methodological views. Sluga defends a contextual objectivism in morality: a normative claim is objectively valuable only in relation to a specific context31. Nevertheless, this context can be quite broad as Sluga gives the example of capitalism and Marx's normative claim about it32. I have some difficulty to imagine that there is no human nature, any features shared by all humans beings. This ontological intuition about the existence of something shared by all human beings seems to me very strong. (Is not this intuition the one that feeds our conviction that all human begins are equal?) If we all share some identical features then I think it implies that we can find some universal and general truths about how the best we should organize our societies and which institutions we should adopt. Like other utilitarian, I consider indeed that we can begin our political philosophical work from the intuitive presupposition (axiom) that all human beings prefer maximize their well-being and/or minimize their ill-being. Of course, it is likely that we do not have a very clear idea of what is well-being for all human beings - after all, not everybody is an adept of sado-masochism - and precising and elaborating philosophical solutions and answers to this potential lack of knowledge is clearly a very important question for me. However, a possible answer would be to say that the concept of human well-being is what Ludwig Wittgenstein calls a family resemblance concept. This idea is expressed by David Friedman in the following quote:

How can we say whether something which makes one person worse off and another better off produces a net increase in human happiness? The answer, I believe, is that we may not be able to make such comparisons very well or describe clearly how we make them, but we still do it. When you decide to give ten dollars' worth of food and clothing to someone whose house has just burned down instead of sending a ten-dollar check as an unsolicited gift to a random millionaire, you are expressing an opinion about which of them values the money more. When you decide where to take your children for vacation, you are making a complicated judgment about whether their total happiness will be greater camping in a forest or wading on the seashore. We cannot reduce the decision to a matter of precise calculation, but few of us doubt that the unhappiness A gets from the prick of a pin is less than the unhappiness B gets from being tortured to death33.”

(4) Clifford Orwin's approach (and Leo Strauss's one)

As it appears to me, Orwin's approach is multiple. First, there is an interest for the history of philosophy and in particular to the history of thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Orwin analyzes the main concepts that Rousseau developed and highlighted, like the value of authenticity
34 or the virtue of ignorance35, in relation to the context of living and writing of the thinker. This idea that there would be social (or public) virtues, values that individuals should embody (and not only respect) for the good of the society and not only for themselves (at the opposite of private virtues), is an interesting idea. I think it can be helpful to think about what social values should be adopted by individuals in any or certain kind of society. It seems to me to be a whole field of political philosophy that is additional and can be independent to the reflection about the desirable size of the state. However, I wonder how thick or thin is the boundary between private and public virtues and how easy it is to distinguish them.

Concerning the second main part of his approach, Orwin relies on Lea Strauss about how one should read philosophers and thinkers, especially the ones before the modern age of (partial) toleration in the Western world when “freedom of inquiry is not guaranteed as a basic right
36”. He defends the esoteric type of reading (the opposite being the exoteric type of reading) that prescribes to search in philosophical writings hidden truths - that are not mainly or explicitly asserted in the texts - but that have been to be sought like “hidden treasures which disclose themselves only after very long, never easy, but always pleasant work37”. Strauss explains that this type of writing can be used by philosophers to protect themselves from political or social repressions as well as to preserve the access to the truth to a small minority (an intellectual elite?) having the ability to well understood the true meaning of the discourse of the philosopher38. This last explanation can be realized in order to protect the society from truths that could harm them. This second part of the approach of Orwin (based on Strauss) seems to me quite interesting, but I am not sure how much it can be helpful in order to help to answer the questions that seem to me important in political philosophy. I will use some variables to show why.

1. x asserts that he believes that P is true.
2. x argues in order to show that P is true.
3. Actually x does not believe that P is true.
4. Actually x believes that non P is true.
5. x does not argue in order to show that non P is true.

If all these proposals are true, then esoteric writings cannot be very helpful because most of the philosophical work remains still to do. Indeed, most of the philosophical work would be to argue in order to show that non P is true. Moreover, if we already have P, then non P is easy to find. Furthermore, for x to argue in favor of a thesis that is thought to be non true by x seems to me to be a non philosophical work (but a sophistic work) as philosophy is according to me the search for truth through argumentation in favor of true theses and in disfavor of wrong theses. From that perspective, I'm not sure that this part of the approach of Orwin can be very helpful to help me to answer the questions that interest me in political philosophy.

(5) Joseph Carens' approach

In his reflection about presuppositions in political theory, Carens rejects the necessity to begin a political theoretical work with a full theory of justice
39. I agree with him about that, because I think that non ideal theory (the real and actual world) is prior to ideal theory (the just world). As a utilitarian, I consider indeed that we need to find in every contextual and specific situation what maximizes the well-being of individuals. In that sense, I also agree that we should have a contextual approach as Carens defends it40. However, I do not think that we will find necessarily that “shared democratic ideas and principles41” are the solutions to any possible situation and that we should presuppose them42. Here, I would agree with Balot that we should go “beyond the tyranny of ''Western'' perspectives and presentism43” and do not restrain ourself to transgress the limits of what is widely or democratically considered as right. As Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci or Louis Althusser denounce it in their works, dominant (majority) shared ideas could only be the ideas of the dominant class implemented by the control of ideological state apparatuses. Nevertheless, Carens does not follow this as he challenges the view that states should have the right to control their borders and who have the right to go across them44. Of course, one could say that there is a distinction between presupposing a certain framework of ethical principles (like what Carens calls “democratic principles”) and a certain conception of what the state can do, even if both are linked as principles imply institutional patterns and states' desirable or acceptable size or field of action.


To conclude this essay, I would say that I have a strong interest to explore the roots and grounds of political philosophy. I am convinced that it is important to find and develop strong basis and foundations for this whole activity and I even want to ask myself about the mere possibility of it. As I tried to show in this essay, many approaches can be helpful to that purpose in different aspects, but every time I consider them I have this will and I feel the intellectual need to go deeper and interrogate (and maybe challenge) the presuppositions of all approaches that I talked about in this essay. The weakness of this approach is that maybe some very important concrete questions should be answered quickly pro bono publico45 and maybe from that perspective my approach would take too much time in quite abstract debates. This criticism is particularly strong if one considers that there is maybe no sound answer to the fundamental questions of how to establish foundations for political philosophy. But I could answer that one can work at two different levels in the same time. On the one hand, one can work at a very abstract level in trying to find and develop strong foundations for political philosophy. On the second hand, one can also presuppose some foundations, that seems to him at least probable, and work from them (for example I would presuppose moral objectivism and rules-utilitarianism in my work and try to find some answers in a non ideal context). This would be maybe an interpretation of Carens' concept of shifting presuppositions that I would find helpful, as I am interested to work at the two levels and not stop me at the only foundational level but also not to work without checking the value and soundness of my presuppositions.





1 NOZICK Robert, Anarchy, state and utopia, Blackwell, 1974, Oxford, p.4.

2 Another formulation of this idea has been expressed by Karl Hess ten years later, in 1984, in the following way: “The fundamental question of politics has always been whether there should be politics.” (cf. HESS Karl, “Foreword” in The Market for liberty, [https://mises.org/library/market-liberty#1], Mises Institute, 1984.)

3 One could maybe argue here that democracy without a state is an oxymoron and that democratic coercion is always from the same nature that the one of the state. I guess that this point is also part of this debate.

4 This question could maybe be reduced to the question of what is a legitimate property (which would be for example the point of view of Murray Rothbard), but not necessarily (for example, few people think that babies do not have a right to be fed, which is not compatible with a strict defense of negative rights excluding positive rights).

5 The question could also be formulated diversely as what kind of discrimination would be or not acceptable and/or positive/useful (for example, the use of social ostracism against racists).

6 By “proved”, I mean at least argued as finely as possible in favor of and refuted any actual and possible (to imagine) counter-arguments.

7 Most of the work of Plato seems to be of this sort of philosophical nature: refutation of theses rather than proving theses (The Republic being of course a major exception to this assertion).

8 He simply says that “this book does not present a precise theory of the moral basis of individual rights.” (NOZICK Robert, Anarchy, state and utopia, Blackwell, 1974, Oxford, p.xiv.)

9 NOZICK Robert, Anarchy, state and utopia, Blackwell, 1974, Oxford, p.6.

10 I have to warn the reader that I do not make any distinction between moral and ethical theories. These two words seem to me to be identical.

11 A certain type of rules-utilitarianism, as well as a certain type of free market anarchism.

12 BEINER Ronald, “First Prologue: Horizons of Political Reflection” from Political Philosophy: What It Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2014), p.ix.

13 Ibidem, p.xx.

14 Ibidem, p.xiii.

15 See, for example of these three teachings: ENGEL Pascal, Petits déjeuners continentaux et goûters analytiques, [https://phileasunige.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/engel-20...], 2002. (Partial and revised translation of « Is There a Path out of the Analytic-Continental Divide ?» Stanford French Review, 17, 2-3, 1993, 117-128.)

16 BEINER Ronald, “First Prologue: Horizons of Political Reflection” from Political Philosophy: What It Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2014), p.ix..

17 I am here referring to his teaching at University of Geneva and not to a text from him (for as far as I know he did not publish anything about that).

18 To illustrate my saying, I could cite the vivid example of Atlas shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957).

19 BALOT Ryan, “Revisiting the Classical Ideal of Citizenship: A Dialectical Approach.”, p.1.

20 Ibidem, p.16.

21 Ibidem, p.2.

22 Ibidem, p. 10.

23 Ibidem, pp.16-17.

24 Ryan Balot, “Courage and Democracy.”, p.3.

25 Balot talks even of three different models of ancient Athens in “Recollecting Athens” (Polis, The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought 33 (2016) p.117).

26 One could notice that Balot does something close when he says that “I assess these arguments in part through comparative analysis of classical regime-types” but not similar as he is interested in knowing if “democracy [is] more vulnerable to [create citizens who are simple, mild, self-satisfied, and even stupid] than monarchy or tyranny, than aristocracy or oligarchy” and not about the value of democracy itself when you take into consideration many criteria of evaluation. (cf. Ryan Balot, “Courage and Democracy.”, p.2)

27 Whereas, he explicitly defends “philosophical speculation informed by diverse historical practices and utopians ideas”. (cf. BALOT Ryan, “Revisiting the Classical Ideal of Citizenship: A Dialectical Approach.”, p.1)

28 Margaret Kohn, “The Critique of Possessive Individualism: Solidarism and the City,” Political Theory forthcoming, p.604.

29 Idem.

30 Idem.

31 SLUGA Hans, Politics and the Search for the Common Good (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) chap. 1 “From normative theory to diagnostic practice”, p.33.

32 This example seems to him as non perfect (cf. p.20), but it is still an example of the size and type of contextualization that he thinks necessary or acceptable to consider if one wants to assert a normative claim that could have some sort of value.

33 FRIEDMAN David, The machinery of freedom, [http://www.daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf], 1973, p.92.

34 ORWIN Clifford, “Rousseau and the Veneration of Authenticity.”

35 ORWIN Clifford, “Rousseau's Socratism,” Journal of Politics Vol. 60, No. 1 (1998): 175-87.

36 STRAUSS Leo, “Persecution and the art of writing,” in Persecution and the Art of Writing. (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1952), p.36.

37 Ibidem, p.37.

38 STRAUSS Leo, “On a forgotten kind of writing,” in What is Political Philosophy? and Other Studies (New York: The Free Press, 1959), p.229.

39 CARENS Joseph, “Appendix: Presuppositions and Political Theory” from The Ethics of Immigration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), p.1.

40 CARENS Joseph, “A Contextual Approach to Political Theory,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Vol. 7, No. 2 (April 2004): 117-132.

41 CARENS Joseph, “Appendix: Presuppositions and Political Theory” from The Ethics of Immigration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), p.1.

42 Ibidem, p.14.

43 BALOT Ryan, “Revisiting the Classical Ideal of Citizenship: A Dialectical Approach.”, p.1.

44 CARENS Joseph, “Appendix: Presuppositions and Political Theory” from The Ethics of Immigration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), p.17.

45 Of course, even this expression presupposes some moral concepts. Is that a reductio per absurdum of that criticism?






- BALOT Ryan, “Courage and Democracy.”


- BALOT Ryan, “Recollecting Athens,” Polis, The Journal for Ancient Greek

Political Thought 33 (2016) 92-129.


- BALOT Ryan, “Revisiting the Classical Ideal of Citizenship: A Dialectical Approach.”


- BEINER Ronald, “First Prologue: Horizons of Political Reflection” from Political Philosophy: What It Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2014): ix-xxvii.


- CARENS Joseph, “A Contextual Approach to Political Theory,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Vol. 7, No. 2 (April 2004): 117-132.


- CARENS Joseph, “Appendix: Presuppositions and Political Theory” from The Ethics of Immigration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).


- FRIEDMAN David, The machinery of freedom, [http://www.daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf], 1973, p.92.


- KOHN Margaret, “The Critique of Possessive Individualism: Solidarism and the City,” Political Theory forthcoming.


- ORWIN Clifford, “Rousseau and the Veneration of Authenticity.”


Clifford, “Rousseau's Socratism,” Journal of Politics Vol. 60, No. 1 (1998): 175-87.


- SLUGA Hans, Politics and the Search for the Common Good (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) chap. 1 “From normative theory to diagnostic practice”, pp. 12-40.

- STRAUSS Leo, “On a forgotten kind of writing,” in
What is Political Philosophy? and Other Studies (New York: The Free Press, 1959): 21-32.


- STRAUSS Leo, “Persecution and the art of writing,” in Persecution and the Art of Writing. (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1952): 22-37.


- NOZICK Robert, Anarchy, state and utopia, Blackwell, 1974, Oxford.





16:41 Publié dans Philosophie politique, Théorie politique | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | |  Facebook |  Imprimer | | | | Pin it! | | | Adrien Faure |  del.icio.us | Digg! Digg


The priority of non ideal theory on ideal theory




How should we do political philosophy? What do we presuppose when we try to answer a political philosophical question? How many constraints from our actual world and reality should we take into account in our works? What are ideal and non ideal theory? Which one is prior to the other?

These are some of the questions that arise in the debate about ideal and non ideal theory and that I will try to answer.


I will first discuss what could be considered as relevant constraints for political philosophy in order to define then what is ideal theory and what is non ideal theory. Secondly, I will show that non ideal theory is prior to ideal theory.


1. The relevant constraints for political philosophy.


In order to find what would be relevant constraints for political philosophy, I think that it is useful to consider the methodological canvas developed by Pablo Gilabert and Holly Lawford-Smith1. In their article, they introduce the concepts of hard constraints and soft constraints2.The hardest constraints are for them logical constraints, less hard are physical and biological ones, softer are economical and cultural ones, and finally psychological and motivational ones are the softest ones. After reconsidering these different types of possible constraints they reject psychological (except pathological) and motivational constraints from the category of constraints that should be taken into account by political philosophy, because “the fact that people do not want to do something does not mean that we should think getting it done is infeasible, it just means we should think about how to change incentive structures and thereby change people's desires”3. Hard constraints are said hard because they are impossible to be modified or unlikely to become possible to be modified in a probable future and soft constrains are said soft because they are (in some way) possible to modify.


I agree with Gilabert and Lawford-Smith that the hardest constraints are logical constraints and that in second come the physical and biological constraints. A political philosopher who would reject these constraints would practice total ideal theory and would look like an omnipotent god, able to redefine and rebuild the world as he wishes. But what could we learn from the non taking into account of these fundamental constraints about our world? What could we learn for example from a world with flying human beings or with circles which are triangles in the same time? Of course one can imagine ethical problems that could matter in a world where for example the possibility of becoming immortal exist but only for a little number of persons, but the fact that these problems are not actual problems for our actual world and are not likely to become so in a probable future make these problems amusements for the pleasure of novelists and their readers, but not an appropriate activity for political philosophers. So, as we can see, what matters for political philosophers is what is an actual problem in our actual world or is likely to become in a probable future4. It does not mean that considering unlikely futures is always a non political philosophical task. For example, there are utopias, like Utopia from Thomas More (1516), or dystopias, like 1984 from George Orwell (1949), or mixed (ambiguous) cases, like The Dispossessed from Ursula Le Guin (1974) or The moon is a harsh mistress from Robert Heinlein (1966), that imagine unlikely future in order to raise questions about our actual world. In that cases, considering unlikely futures is a tool to talk about our actual world.


There is however one exception that I could imagine to this point: the case of someone who wants to judge God (or gods if he is polytheist). Indeed, for a political philosopher who believes in the existence of a god that would have created our world, it could make sense to imagine how this god should have created the world and to compare the result to the actual world in order to judge the moral burden of the god in question. Nevertheless, this is a very specific case where total ideal theory seems justified.


I agree with Gilabert and Lawford-Smith that economical and cultural constraints as soft constraints, constraints that can be modified, but I disagree with them when they consider that psychological constraints (except pathological ones) are not constraints that philosophers should take into account. Like Rousseau, quoted by Rawls about that subject, I think that political philosophers should “consider if, in political society, there can be any legitimate and sure principle of government, taking men as they are and laws as they might be5”. Indeed, I think that psychological features are parts of what make human beings what they are.

I would like to quote David Friedman about this question: “It is no more than a slightly exuberant exaggeration to say that a government functions properly only if it is made up exclusively of saints, and an anarchy fails only if it is inhabited exclusively by devils6.” I think that we should consider that human beings have some psychological features, which would be that they are neither saints nor devils, because both hypotheses seem implausible. The more a philosopher shows that his theory – about how the world should be – works with evil human beings, the more plausible can be considered his theory. But to consider that psychological constraints do not matter for the political philosopher is a mistake, for it could lead to the idea that you just need to modify the psychology of human beings, using the necessary means in order to get to the ideal world. I fear that it is an idea that can lead to re-education camps and other uses of the force to coerce people in order to adapt their minds (their psychology) to the supposed intelligent design of utopias designers (this is what Friedrich Hayek would call constructivism).

Moreover, think it is not only necessary to take into account some realistic perspective about the basic psychology of human beings (as the fact that they are not completely altruistic and cannot become so), but also to apply this view of human being to the state, because the state is composed by people (functionaries and bureaucrats) and because these people share with other human beings the same weaknesses and imperfections. For these reasons, I consider psychological constraints as relevant hard constraints.


However, I do agree with Pablo Gilabert and Holly Lawford-Smith that motivational constraints are not to be taking into account for the political philosopher. Motivational constraints mean actually political positions and views of people: for example if a majority of people is not motivated to legalize drugs, then it just means that this is their political view. Political views can be changed and are only the results of political forces that are in action and in conflict. Motivational constraints are then just a way of talking about political feasibility. But political feasibility is not the affair of philosopher but the affair of activists (by activists, I mean people trying to change the world and to make it better). Obviously, one can be a philosopher and an activist, but these are two different roles and activities in his life. Political philosophers are concerned by what is true, good and right, and not by what is politically feasible. Of course, political philosophers have an influence on the becoming of the world (and so on what is politically feasible), but it is hard to see how discovering what is true, good or right could harm the society (have a bad influence on what is politically feasible). Indeed, for a libertarian, what is right is the principle of non aggression and defending this kind of principle does not seem a priori to have the power to harm society7. Political feasibility is then a concern for what I would call total non ideal theory, but not for political philosophy.


Between total ideal theory (the philosopher who thinks without any constraints about how should be the world in order to judge God or the novelist) and total non ideal theory (the activist who thinks about what would be politically feasible), there is ideal theory and non ideal theory. Ideal theory is the activity of defining what would be a just world considering the existence of hard constraints (logical, physical, biological, psychological) and non ideal theory is the activity of defining what would be right in our actual world considering the existence of soft constraints (economical and cultural).


2. Non ideal theory is prior to ideal theory.


How do we find what is an ideal world? As I am a rules-utilitarian, I think that we can find what is an ideal world in thinking what would be the institutions that would maximize the well-being of all the individuals8. How do we find what kind of reforms or changes we would need in our actual world? As I am a rules-utilitarian, I think that we can find what would be these reforms in thinking about how to reform the institutions in order that they would maximize the well-being of all the individuals. The important point is that we do not need the knowledge of what would be an ideal world in order to imagine what could improve our actual world. For that reason I do not share the position of John Rawls when he asserts that “until the ideal is identified non ideal theory lacks an objective, an aim, by reference to which its queries can be answered9” The position of Rawls is only the consequence of his deontologist positions: Rawls needs a set of principles in order to evaluate the world and to offer reforms proposals. On the opposite, the rules-utilitarian can evaluate the actual world in exploring if the actual institutions maximize or not the well-being of all individuals. So from the rules-utilitarian perspective, there is no conflict between ideal and non ideal theory and we can get a critical perspective from both of them.


However, non ideal theory is more important that ideal theory, because ideal theory is discovered through non ideal theory: there is an epistemological hierarchy between them, or alternatively said, non ideal theory is epistemologically prior to ideal theory. An ideal world is the result, the addition, of the reforms of all the aspects of our actual world, of all the processes of thinking what changes would maximize the well-being of all individuals: the sum of all the steps give us the picture of the complete stairs. It's only when we have the picture of the stairs that we can see how far we are from the top and how long is still our path to the ultimate goal.


To discuss this view with an example, let's take the problem of access to vital minimum in supposing the validity of free market anarchism. In (most of?) our actual Western10 societies, the state is providing to poor people (at least to the ones who are citizens from this state) an access to the vital minimum. From the ideal theoretical perspective, we do not need the state in order to provide to poor people an access to vital minimum, because in an ideal world the individuals are enough rich not to need help from others in order to access to the vital minimum or there are enough individuals who are rich enough and altruistic enough to provide voluntarily this access to the vital minimum to poor people. So from the ideal perspective, poor people do not need help from the state. But from the non ideal perspective, it is plausible to think that the actual suppression of this help for poor people would not maximize the well-being of the individuals because some poor people would not have anymore an access to vital minimum. Actually, the ideal world would be the result of the addition of many reforms in all fields of human activities that would lead to the increase of wealth for individuals (which would decrease the cost of altruism and increases the external cost11 related to the existence of people not having access to the vital minimum – for example the feeling of guilt). So the non ideal perspective is prior and more important than the ideal perspective, because it gives us an idea of what would be a fair order of transitions and reforms.

That's why I would here agree with Karl Marx about the idea that not everything is possible anytime but that there is an order (probably not a teleological order though) in which we can get to the ideal world, or, as Christian Michel says: “Every phase of development is necessary for the next to happen. One could not have conceived a libertarian society at the seventeenth century, in a time where knowledge and techniques attained in the next centuries, the separation of spiritual and temporal powers, the rise of a civil society, the prosperity brought by industrial revolution, and so on had not informed the moral consciousness of people. The evolution is still not achieved. We are not at the end of History12.” Alternatively said, actual economical and cultural constraints do matter to determine how far and how quick we can go in direction to the ideal society.


To conclude, I have tried in this essay first to define the appropriate constraints that political philosophers should adopt in their works. I have then defined what is ideal and non ideal theory and showed that non ideal theory is prior to ideal theory. It seems to me that the importance that this debate about ideal and non ideal theory has taken in contemporary political philosophy is linked to the predominance of a non rules-utilitarian approach (maybe because of Rawls' influence I guess). Nevertheless, the priority of non ideal theory on ideal theory is an essential point that has to be pointed if one wants to use the rules-utilitarian approach in an effective and correct way.





1 GILABERT Pablo and LAWFORD-SMITH Holly, “Political Feasibility : a conceptual exploration” in Political Studies, volume 60, pp. 809-825., Political Studies Association, 2012.

2 Ibidem, p. 813.

3 Idem.

4 However, we can imagine thoughts experiments without biological realistic constraints that could be useful to think about moral theories. For example, we could imagine a world with human beings that can eat fat food without any health consequence for their body and consider what it shows us about the hierarchy of values when we consider the value of good health and the value of pleasure. But I think is only means that moral theory has its own presuppositions and appropriate constraints that differ from the ones of political philosophy.

5 RAWLS John, The law of peoples, Harvard University Press, p.13., London, 1999.

6 FRIEDMAN David, The machinery of freedom, [http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.ca/], p. 82, 1973.

7 Of course, it is probable that more of the majority of political philosophers is not currently libertarian, so, if we suppose that libertarianism is a valuable position, what they say or write could indeed be (or is already) harmful for the society. The problem is then not to express what is true or right, but to express what is wrong or unfair. But it is also likely that this expression of non truths cannot be changed in another way than in having this political philosophical debate.

8 This point shows us that the whole enterprise of political philosophy presupposes some moral philosophical answers about what is a valid and sound moral theory, which presupposes itself the meta-ethical realist theory about moral judgments.

9 RAWLS John, The law of peoples, Harvard University Press, p.90., London, 1999.

10 By Western societies I mean West Europa, Canada, United-States, Australia and New-Zealand.

11 This idea of external cost of poverty on other people has been developed by Milton Friedman in his book from 1962 Capitalism and freedom.

12 CANLORBE Grégoire, Entretien avec Christian Michel, [https://www.institutcoppet.org/2015/01/23/entretien-avec-...], Institut Coppet, 23 January 2015.






- CANLORBE Grégoire, Entretien avec Christian Michel, [https://www.institutcoppet.org/2015/01/23/entretien-avec-christian-michel-par-gregoire-canlorbe], Institut Coppet, 23 January 2015.


- GILABERT Pablo and LAWFORD-SMITH Holly, “Political Feasibility : a conceptual exploration” in Political Studies, volume 60, pp. 809-825., Political Studies Association, 2012.


- FRIEDMAN David, The machinery of freedom, [http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.ca/], 1973.


- RAWLS John, The law of peoples, Harvard University Press, London, 1999.







12:44 Publié dans Philosophie politique | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | |  Facebook |  Imprimer | | | | Pin it! | | | Adrien Faure |  del.icio.us | Digg! Digg


Problèmes fondamentaux de philosophie politique



1. Est-il possible d'émettre un jugement moral objectif et universel sur les actions des individus et l'organisation de la société (la forme que prend une société, les institutions qui la composent) ?
Peut-on réfuter le relativisme, le subjectivisme et le nihilisme en éthique ?

Si l'on ne sait pas si (ou à quelles conditions et dans quelle mesure) un jugement moral est objectif et universel, alors la volonté d'agir sur la forme que prend le monde social et les interactions entre les individus semble vide de sens. Si la valeur d'un jugement moral est relative à la subjectivité individuelle (subjectivisme) ou, pire, si un jugement moral est un non sens (nihilisme), alors l'action des individus n'est pas évaluable et tout acte se vaut (le meurtre comme la bienveillance envers autrui).

Si la valeur d'un jugement moral est relative à une période ou à un contexte donné, alors il est possible que des régimes comme celui de la Corée du Nord vaille autant qu'une démocratie occidentale. Évidemment, la délimitation d'un contexte spatial ou temporel dans lequel un jugement moral fait sens semble profondément difficile à déterminer et arbitraire.

2. Quelle forme doit prendre un jugement moral objectif et universel pour être valable ? Quelle théorie morale est-elle la plus valable parmi les différentes variantes de l'utilitarisme, du déontologisme, de l'éthique des vertus, du contractualisme, du jusnaturalisme, etc. ?

Répondre à cette question sans avoir résolu la précédente laisse un doute sur la validité de la réponse trouvée. Une théorie morale peut sembler plus cohérente et plus juste que les autres, mais cela ne nous avance pas à grand chose si tous les jugements moraux se valent ou sont des non sens.

3. Quelle taille devrait avoir l’État ? L'existence même de l’État est-elle justifiée ? Le philosophe Robert Nozick pense que c'est la question fondamentale de la philosophie politique (d'un autre côté il part de deux prémisses sans les argumenter : il y a des jugements moraux objectifs et la théorie morale la plus juste est le jusnaturalisme) et il y répond par sa théorie de l’État minimal spontané (naissant à travers un processus de type de la Main Invisible).

On ne peut répondre à cette question que si l'on sait s'il est possible d'émettre des jugements moraux objectifs et quelle forme ils devraient prendre. La philosophie politique est donc pyramidale, on ne peut y accéder qu'en ayant d'abord réglé des problèmes plus fondamentaux, des problèmes de philosophie morale (et l'on voit bien ainsi que la philosophie politique est une partie de la philosophie morale et n'en est pas indépendante). Certains penseurs pensent que l'on peut pratiquer la philosophie politique sans passer par la morale. Habermas et le second Rawls (celui qui met l'accent sur le libéralisme politique et le consensus par recoupement) cherchent par exemple à s'autonomiser de la morale, mais y parviennent-ils véritablement ? Après tout leurs théories présupposent toujours qu'il y a des éléments qui ont une valeur qu'il s'agit de maximiser, de préserver ou de favoriser (il me semble, non ?). Et du moment qu'il y a valeur, alors on retombe dans la morale/l'éthique (je ne vois pas de distinction entre ces deux mots, mais je sais que certains aiment en faire une, à creuser).

Toutes sortes de gens font de la politique. Ont-ils répondu à ces questions, même de manière intuitive ? La politique porte sur la question de la taille de l’État, du périmètre d'intervention de l’État/de l'autorité politique. Quelle taille de l’État est-elle justifiée ? Une telle question présuppose qu'on connaisse le type de théories permettant de justifier la taille de l’État (l'usage de la coercition sur les individus par une institution/un groupe de gens possédant un monopole dit légal sur l'usage de la force). Un pur opportuniste/carriériste n'a toutefois pas besoin de se poser ces questions, il pioche ce qui arrange ses intérêts dans les programmes (ou sur le marché des idées/mesures politiques à la mode).
La plupart des gens qui font de la politique sont probablement des opportunistes/des carriéristes. Si cela est vrai il faut trouver un moyen d'intéresser ces gens à ces questions ou bien trouver un moyen d'obtenir un changement politique malgré eux (cf. Les théories de Rothbard sur le changement social).

Petit arrêt : ces trois grands problèmes (grandes questions) sont fondamentaux et immenses. Le troisième point résume-t-il carrément l'ensemble des questions en philosophie politique ? Probablement pas. Il y a des questions qui se posent indépendamment de l’État, comme la question de la valeur de la démocratie, ou les différentes théories autour du marché et de la propriété (et sûrement d'autres éléments que je n'ai pas en tête au moment où j'écris ces lignes).

4. On peut ajouter que l’œuvre de John Rawls est si fondamentale et si influente de nos jours dans la philosophie politique académique qu'elle demande (mérite ?) une lecture et une critique/une évaluation.

5. Les théories de la propriété légitimes (Locke, Henry George, Rothbard, Proudhon, Carson, Marx, etc.) forment un petit champs de la philosophie politique (et économique ?) qui demande une attention certaine. C'est une question (partiellement ?) indépendante de celle portant sur le périmètre légitime de l'action de l’État.

Petit appendice : quelle est la différence entre la philosophie sociale et la philosophie politique ? Kevin Mulligan fait cette distinction en parlant d'ontologie sociale (ontologie des objets sociaux) pour désigner (une part de ?) la philosophie sociale. Quelle est la différence entre la philosophie politique et la philosophie économique ? Il semble que l'école autrichienne d'économie (la praxéologie) soit axiomatique et déductive, comme la philosophie (et les mathématiques ?), cela ne fait-elle pas d'elle une philosophie (économique) ? D'autres méthodes pour étudier (ou analyser, comprendre, parler de) l'économie sont inductives et empiriques, comme le reste des sciences (naturelles ou sociales).

Note conclusive : logiquement, ce sont les deux premiers points qui doivent trouver une réponse aussi claire et ferme (solide) que possible en priorité.


02:27 Publié dans Philosophie politique | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | |  Facebook |  Imprimer | | | | Pin it! | | | Adrien Faure |  del.icio.us | Digg! Digg


Qu'est ce que la philosophie politique ?

On confond souvent la philosophie politique avec bien des choses. Tantôt elle se présente sous les traits de la théorie politique, tantôt comme sous-ensemble de la philosophie morale, et parfois elle apparaît comme partie intégrante de la sociologie. Afin de tenter d'établir quelques éléments de définition clairs et cohérents, nous allons ci-dessous étudier les relations entre la philosophie politique et diverses autres branches de la philosophie et de la connaissance, ainsi que tenter de cerner succinctement ce qui fait la spécificité de la philosophie politique comme domaine de recherche.

D'abord, une question préliminaire se pose à nous : si la philosophie politique se nomme ainsi, c'est parce qu'elle appartient à la philosophie (autrement l'expression « philosophie politique » n'aurait pas de sens), or il serait bon avant de chercher à savoir ce qu'est la philosophie politique de connaître la définition de la philosophie tout court.
Je propose pour ce faire de m'appuyer sur la définition de Steve Humbert-Droz : 


On trouvera un développement et une défense de cette définition dans le dernier numéro du journal des étudiants en philosophie de l'Université de Genève (Iphilo) et par conséquent je ne me livrerai pas ici à un fastidieux exercice de répétition.

Si nous appliquons à la philosophie politique cette définition de la philosophie, on peut déduire que : la philosophie politique est la discipline dont le champ d'étude est tous les concepts politiques et leurs interactions ; qui les étudie à partir des intuitions en se servant du sens commun et des expériences de pensée afin de former des arguments valides à leur propos.

Pour comprendre ce qu'on entend par « concept politique », voilà une courte liste de quelques concepts politiques : justice, liberté, égalité, droits, État, démocratie. On peut constater qu'il y a deux types de concepts différents : des concepts clairement moraux (justice, liberté, égalité, droits) qui sont en fait des concepts axiologiques ou déontiques, ainsi que des concepts (État, démocratie) qui ne semblent pas a priori être des concepts moraux. Mon hypothèse est que seuls les seconds (État, démocratie) sont des concepts purement politiques. Néanmoins, les premiers (les valeurs et les normes sus-mentionnés) peuvent être étudiés comme des concepts politiques lorsqu'ils ne s'appliquent pas à une réflexion sur ce que devrait faire un individu, mais lorsqu'ils s'appliquent à une réflexion sur ce que devrait être la société (à noter qu'un concept moral peut être étudié comme concept moral et comme concept politique si on mène une réflexion sur comment devrait se comporter un individu et sur comment la société devrait être, ou autrement dit, on peut mener en même temps une réflexion éthique et politique, et c'est même probablement une bonne manière de procéder).

Cette définition de la philosophie politique est compatible avec la démarche de Platon dans la République où, après avoir défini que ce qui caractérise une société idéale est la justice, il recherche ce qu'est une société juste. Elle est aussi compatible avec la définition de Murray Rothbard qu'il donne dans l’Éthique de la liberté, soit comme recherche normative de ce que devrait être une société libre et juste (ou autrement dit selon lui, de ce que devrait être une société idéale). Il est toutefois plus compliqué de savoir si elle est compatible avec la démarche de John Rawls. Ce dernier considère en effet dans son ouvrage de reformulation de sa théorie de la justice que la philosophie politique a pour tâche (entre autres) de trouver, non pas ce qu'est la société idéale, mais quelle serait une société acceptable par tous (et donc quels critères de justice pourraient rendre cette société acceptable par tous). Je pense toutefois que l'on pourrait démontrer que cette proposition de Rawls est un artifice rhétorique pour cacher le fait que ses propositions en matière de critères de justice font de sa proposition de société acceptable une proposition de nature équivalente (aussi englobante) qu'une proposition de société idéale. En outre, si la société idéale est impossible à mettre en place (à cause du pluralisme raisonnable qui est un des axiomes limitant volontairement les recherches de Rawls), alors la société idéale devient par réduction la société acceptable par tous que Rawls définit avec ses critères de justice. Toutes ces questions méritent bien entendu un développement ultérieur.

A présent, j'aimerais essayer de distinguer la philosophie politique d'autres domaines de la philosophie. Premièrement, il est clair que la philosophie politique est un sous-ensemble de la philosophie tout court. Mais la philosophie politique est aussi un sous-ensemble de la philosophie éthique (ou morale), car 1. toute proposition politique ne peut être justifiée que par l'invocation d'une proposition morale ou d'un concept moral 2. les concepts qu'elle étudie sont partiellement des concepts moraux (l'inverse n'est pas le cas de la philosophie éthique). Deuxièmement, on entend parfois parler de « philosophie sociale ». Je ne sais pas vraiment ce que ceux qui emploient cette expression entendent précisément, mais je suppose que c'est soit une manière de parler de la philosophie politique, soit une manière de désigner des théories de sociologie (mais enfin peut-être qu'il existe des concepts sociaux non politiques, mais je n'en vois présentement pas). Troisièmement, la philosophie du droit est probablement un sous-ensemble de la philosophie politique qui s'intéresse exclusivement aux questions déontiques (les droits, les devoirs, les interdictions, les obligations, etc.) en rapport avec d'autres concepts politiques (État, démocratie) ou moraux (justice, injustice, égalité, etc.). Quatrièmement, je pense que des philosophes comme Ludwig von Mises, Karl Marx, ou David Friedman, ont montré que la philosophie économique (l'étude des concepts économiques) et la philosophie politique sont extrêmement proches sur bien des points et qu'il y a interpénétration entre ces deux champs d'étude philosophique (le problème étant que la science économique et la philosophie économique sont bien souvent inséparables, ce qui tend à rendre confus l'interpénétration entre philosophie économique et philosophie politique et par conséquent à laisser entendre qu'il y aurait interpénétration de la science économique avec la philosophie politique). Ce dernier point nécessiterait qu'on s'arrête plus en détails sur la nature de la science économique pour clairement distinguer philosophie économique (étude des concepts économiques) et science économique (observation empirique des faits économiques et tentative de généraliser par induction des constantes).

Enfin, j'aimerais aborder les différences qui existent entre la philosophie politique et d'autres domaines de la connaissance. Prenons pour commencer le cas de la science politique. La science politique se découpe (si je ne m'abuse) en deux axes : l'étude des comportements politiques et l'étude des institutions politiques. Elle est descriptive et explicative, et afin d'expliquer ce qu'elle observe elle fait appel à des théories explicatives (fonctionnalisme, structuralisme, interactionnisme symbolique, etc.). Comme on peut le noter, ces théories explicatives sont les mêmes que l'on retrouve en sociologie, ce qui me laisse penser que la science politique est un sous-ensemble de la sociologie (d'ailleurs, la sociologie étudie les phénomènes sociaux et la science politique les phénomènes sociaux à caractère politique). La philosophie politique est normative (prescriptive) et évaluative, mais elle n'est pas descriptive et explicative au même sens que l'est la science politique (elle est descriptive et explicative uniquement en ce qui concerne les concepts). Ainsi, la philosophie politique s'inscrit bien dans un champ de la connaissance (la philosophie) distinct de celui de la science politique qui s'inscrit plutôt au sein des sciences sociales en général (et de la sociologie en particulier je suppose). Quant à la théorie politique, on peut la différencier de la philosophie politique car il me semble que son rôle est plutôt de développer des théories explicatives (des modèles explicatifs, des idéaux-types) plutôt que de faire un travail normatif ou évaluatif. C'est du moins une manière de différencier les deux expressions pour leur préserver un sens qui ne les confondent pas. On peut aussi abandonner l'idée de les distinguer (après tout on parle dans d'autres domaines indistinctement de théorie de la connaissance et de philosophie de la connaissance pour désigner l'épistémologie). Un argument contre la distinction entre philosophie politique et théorie politique réside dans le fait que l'ontologie politique est tout autant employé par les deux domaines de recherche. Enfin, je propose comme ultime distinction de différencier la philosophie politique en tant que domaine d'étude et de recherche d'une philosophie politique qui serait simplement l'équivalent d'une doctrine politique. Le travail de la philosophie politique est entre autres l'évaluation des philosophies politiques et le développement de philosophies politiques, mais la philosophie politique ne se réduit jamais à une philosophie politique (à moins de tomber dans le dogmatisme).

Voilà, j'espère que cette petite présentation aura permis de clarifier quelque peu la définition de la philosophie politique.


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Modèles économiques et doctrines politiques

Ci-dessous, vous trouverez un de mes charmants graphiques réalisé sur paint (car je suis très doué en informatique), illustrant les différents modèles économiques possibles (au-dessus de la flèche) et les différentes doctrines politiques (au-dessous de la flèche) qui les préconisent. 

La flèche centrale est l'axe de la liberté économique. En haut à gauche se trouve les modèles économiques les plus libres (dont le plus libre est évidemment le modèle d'une société sans Etat, le libre marché), et en haut à droite les modèles économiques les moins libres (la planification étatique totale de la production). 

En dessous de la flèche vous trouverez les doctrines politiques défendant chacun des modèles économiques présents au-dessus de la flèche.

Axe de la liberté économique.png

Une remarque complémentaire : Dans le cadre d'une société sans Etat, les individus désireux de planifier la production collectivement pourraient le faire, il convient donc de différencier planisme étatique et planisme libertaire (le planisme libertaire n'étant qu'une sous-catégorie possible du libre marché).


16:42 Publié dans Modèles économiques, Philosophie politique | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | |  Facebook |  Imprimer | | | | Pin it! | | | Adrien Faure |  del.icio.us | Digg! Digg


En quoi la philosophie politique sert-elle la lutte ?

J'entreprends la mise par écrit d'une présentation que j'ai donnée à la journée de formation de la Jeunesse Socialiste Genevoise ce mardi. Cette présentation était intitulée : « De la genèse à l'éclipse du projet socialiste : pourquoi nos idées ne parlent plus à la population européenne et comment y remédier ».
Pour des raisons de lisibilité et de clarté, je la publierai morceau par morceau, en commençant dès à présent dans ce billet-même avec une mise au point sur le rôle de la philosophie politique. Étant donné que nous sommes ici à l'écrit, ma présentation orale originelle sera ici enrichie de divers ajouts et compléments visant à la rendre plus complète et plus stimulante.

Le premier point que je souhaite aborder est celui de l'utilité de la philosophie politique à la lutte politique et militante que les organisations de gauche mènent.  

A l'origine, il y a les Idées (platoniciennes ou pas selon les positions, cela ne pose pas de problème particulier à ma démonstration) et celles et ceux qui s'y intéressent et les manipulent : les théoriciens. Toutefois, il est faux de penser que les théoriciens (qui peuvent être des universitaires aussi bien que des autodidactes) produisent toujours des concepts (assemblages d'idées) et des théories (assemblages de concepts) à partir des Idées dans une liberté totale. Bien souvent, les théoriciens s'inscrivent dans un cadre de recherche (= un paradigme) dans lequel sont (pré-)déterminées les questions et les méthodes adéquates. Cette pré-détermination est le fait d'autres théoriciens, des méta-théoriciens, qui réfléchissent exclusivement sur quels sont les cadres de recherche valables. C'est donc dans ces paradigmes (qui changent régulièrement) que les théoriciens produisent des théories, que ces-dernières soient d'ordre scientifique, artistique, ou philosophique.

schéma méta-théorique.png

Les théories qui nous intéressent dans le cadre de cet exposé sont les théories de philosophie politique. Ces théories de philosophie politique se manifestent dans des livres, des textes, des articles, ou encore à travers des cours ou des conférences. La diffusion de ces théories se fait ensuite par le biais de quatre vecteurs principaux : premièrement, en touchant les journalistes, la presse, les médias, la télévision, la radio, internet, les blogs, etc. ; deuxièmement, en se diffusant sur le marché du livre, dans les librairies (et autres points de vente), ou les bibliothèques (ou autre point de location) ; troisièmement, par le biais de l'enseignement, des enseignants et professeurs, dans l'ensemble des établissement de formation, de scolarité, et de recherche ; et quatrièmement, par la production artistique et littéraire. Par la suite, ces différents vecteurs vont retransmettre des contenus théoriques (pas les théories dans leur entier, mais des morceaux choisis probablement) à leurs divers publics (qui constitue le grand public). Finalement, c'est donc une importante partie de la population qui est atteinte par les théories de la philosophie politique, certes pas sous une forme forcément académique ou originelle, mais plutôt sous une forme vulgarisée et plus accessible (ce qui n'est pas un mal à mon sens). Cette influence se traduit in fine dans l'organisation que prend la société, que ce soit la forme que prennent ses institutions, son (éventuel) État, et son économie.

théories philosophiques.png

Selon Gramsci, l'influence que peuvent avoir les théoriciens (qu'il appelle « intellectuels ») montre l'importance qu'il faut donner à la lutte intellectuelle et théorique dans le cadre de la lutte politique et militante (et de la lutte des classes). Selon lui, il est nécessaire de renverser l'hégémonie culturelle, idéologique, morale, que le système capitaliste (ses classes dominantes et ses intellectuels) produisent afin d'empêcher les classes dominées de prendre conscience de leur exploitation et de leur domination, pour pouvoir espérer transformer l'organisation sociale et économique en place. C'est pourquoi il parle « d'intellectuels organiques » pour désigner les théoriciens (dont lui-même) défendant les intérêts des classes dominées et luttant pour leur émancipation. La lutte culturelle (et théorique) pour l'hégémonie intellectuelle et culturelle devient donc chez Gramsci un facteur important de la lutte militante qu'il ne faut pas négliger.

Voici en complément un autre de mes croquis (merveilleusement réalisés sur paint) présentant diverses approches de cette question.

Super-infra structure.png

Pour exemplifier ce qui a été précédemment exposé, on peut réfléchir à comment chacun d'entre nous (les militants) s'est engagé en politique, et je pense que l'on verra que cet engagement se fait la plupart du temps à travers des vecteurs de diffusion théoriques directement influencés par la philosophie politique. En effet, bon nombre d'entre nous se sont engagés suite à la lecture de journaux critiques, par l'influence d'un enseignant informé, ou encore par la lecture d'un roman stimulant ou le visionnage d'un film inspirant.

En conclusion de cette première partie, il me semble donc que s'il y a bien une chose à retenir, c'est que la lutte théorique a son rôle à jouer dans le cadre de nos luttes militantes, de par l'influence qu'elle exerce sur la société. 

14:32 Publié dans Dernière présentation sur le socialisme, Philosophie politique | Lien permanent | Commentaires (2) | |  Facebook |  Imprimer | | | | Pin it! | | | Adrien Faure |  del.icio.us | Digg! Digg