What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What is 'practical philosophy'? What is 'social philosophy'?

I was charged by my department with the task of writing up some brief explanations of 'practical philosophy.' (This is for a new department website, which will become active sometime in the near future. I don't know why we need a new website -- the current one seems fine to me -- but the decision has been made by the powers-that-be, and so I must comply.)

By 'practical philosophy,' apparently, the department means: (a) ethics and moral philosophy; (b) social philosophy; and (c) political philosophy.

In writing up the explanations I faced an immediate problem: I don't know what 'social philosophy' is! More precisely, I don't know what makes 'social philosophy' distinct from moral and political philosophy.  So I ended up lumping (b) and (c) together.  But if any gentle readers have a clear idea of what makes 'social philosophy' distinct from political and moral philosophy, please let me know, as I'd be grateful for the clarification. (Indeed, my ignorance here is somewhat embarrassing, as I've published a couple of articles in the Journal of Social Philosophy. Those articles, though, seem pretty clearly to me to be essays in 'political philosophy.')

In any case, here are my blurbs:
Ethics and Moral Philosophy: Moral philosophers ask what we ought to do in various circumstances.  In doing so, they often find it necessary to ask more general questions about what is good and what is right, as well as investigate the nature and basis of ethical claims.   
Moral philosophers explore such questions as:
What is good? What makes actions or people good?  What makes one’s life a good one?
What is right? What makes actions right?
What is the relation between rightness and goodness?
What are the virtues?  How are the virtues related to other moral principles or values (like rightness or goodness)?
How should I treat others?
Is morality objective or subjective?  If morality is objective, how can we explain moral disagreement?
Do we have moral duties to non-human animals?  Do we have moral duties to the natural world?  Do we have moral duties to future generations?  If so, what justifies such duties? 
Political and Social Philosophy: Political and social philosophy concerns the political and social relations and actions of people, including the nature of social practices and the organization of political institutions.  Political philosophers ask how political institutions ought to be organized, what justice is, and how power ought to be distributed and exercised. 
Questions that political and social philosophers explore include:
What is the nature of political liberty?  What is the nature of equality?  What is the relation between liberty and equality?
What is the most just political system for a society?  
Are there principles of international justice?  If so, what are they? Are there any universal human rights?
Do citizens have a duty to obey the law?  
What is the nature of law?
What should be done to address social attitudes and practices like racism, sexism, and heterosexism?
I hope those blurbs make sense! If readers see any problems with what I've written, or have any suggestions on how to improve my descriptions, feel free to let me know.

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