Themes of Politics

It's time to discuss a more narrow subset of ethics, the branch of philosophy called politics. Politics arises in a social context, and so is sometimes mistaken as being the field of ethics applied in a social environment. This isn't the case, as we've hinted at before. Politics revolves around the use of force among individuals. This leave an enormous amount of interactions between individuals outside of the field of politics. There are friendships, business partners, trading of goods and services, family, romance, and anything else you can imagine. All of that is outside of the scope of politics.

Politics, like the other branches of philosophy, is inescapable. Every philosophical system has to answer the fundamental question of when force is appropriate. Whether you believe force should never be used, or should be used whenever you feel like, or only for particular purposes, that defines your political stance. Everyone must have a position on this issue because the use of force has such a direct impact on people's lives. Practically, it cannot be avoided.

What are the different themes of politics?

The first theme is the nature and moral status of the use of force. When is it appropriate and when is it not? Is there a good kind of force and a bad kind of force? Does the degree matter, and if so how much?

The second theme is the nature of government. Is there a need for it? What is the role of government? What kind of actions are permissible by government? What kinds of actions are legitimate for government? Are there better forms of government, and how do you judge it?

A third theme, closely tied to the first, is the nature of rights. Not all politics are phrased in terms of rights, but it's pretty common in modern thought. What is the nature of rights? What are the limits? Who do they apply to? What conditions are necessary for them? What conditions make them necessary?

A fourth theme, often overlooked, is that politics is a branch of ethics. It deals with a limited topic, but the principles of ethics still apply. There are still values, choices, actions, and principles. There are still standards of value.

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