The Ontology of Political Philosophy

The question I have is this: what is the nature of a claim made in political philosophy? It’s a super cool and interesting question because political philosophical truths are not literal exactly. They’re not exactly falsifiable either. They’re more like paradigms through which we view a particular government or state. They are more like beliefs of action rather than empirical beliefs. They’re also timeless. So they’re not falsifiable. But perhaps they are.

Let’s take Rawls as an example. To recap his argument quickly, he thought a rational person who didn’t know what position in society he’d occupy would choose to take his chances in a society where there’s great inequality, but where the bottom is taken care of. So for example, let’s say the stork was dropping you off in a random country, which country would you pick? You’d pick to live in Denmark rather than the US because if you end up at the top, that’s great! But if you end up at the bottom, you’re safe (only in Denmark).

Something similar goes for China, or more broadly, for all totalitarian states which are ruled by fear. If you live in one of these states, each citizen is in a situation of perpetual war with the state. There is only peace because citizens are too afraid to confront the monopoly of violence which the state has over them. But if that fear weakens – if the government is unable to pay its officers, or if there’s an invading military rushing into the capital, then there will be violence as citizens take power against their oppressors.

The last example of this is one of my roommate. He was playing soccer, and his team was winning quite a lot. So the referee decided to be extra severe on them, and got a bit carried away by penalizing my roommate for a “handball” when he touched it with his chest. This enraged him, because it was a completely ludicrous call. And so he refused to let the game continue. He’d stand in the opponent’s goalie area. He’d jump onto the field after they had pushed him off. He absolutely did not take no for an answer. Why? Because for him, there was no difference between the referee coaching unfairly and the game not continuing. He had nothing to lose. And so he may as well stop the game.

If you’d like to hear two political philosophical positions jostle with each other, you should listen to my podcast with Caylan Ford and Bruce Pardy.

So. Political philosophy claims are paradigms in that they describe a state of being for the individuals and institutions involved. They do not shift their paradigms. I think that they are ideologies because of this – they are rigidly true, and are simplifications of the world.

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