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Political Problems

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205642472
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 2/19/2010
  • Series: MySearchLab Series for Philosophy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

In This Section:

I. Author Bio

II. Author Letter

I. Author Bio

Steven Cahn is currently a full professor at the graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York.

Robert Talisseis currently an associate professor of philosphy and political science at Vanderbilt University.

II. Author Letter

Dear Colleague,

Political Problems is a reader in applied social and political philosophy. The book gathers together essays on twelve contemporary problems: school vouchers, government support for the arts, pornography, same-sex marriage, drug legalization, gun control, terrorism, torture, capital punishment, affirmative action, immigration, and the environment. For each problem, Steven Cahn and I have selected two excellent essays, each representing a distinctive approach. The essays are accessible to undergraduates and provide a solid basis for lively in-class discussion.

Those who teach undergraduate courses in Social and Political Philosophy find themselves in a bind. Given the rich history of the area and the important recent theoretical developments in the field, instructors often are unable to include applied issues in their courses. This omission can have the effect of leaving students with the impression that social and political philosophy is an arm-chair enterprise, divorced from the real world. Political Problems offers instructors an easy way to introduce into their courses discussion of current real-world political and social problems. The text is designed to be used as a supplement to any of the standard readers in the history of Social and Political Philosophy.

More importantly, the essays included in Political Problems frequently make reference to leading ideas and themes from key texts in the history of the field. In Political Problems, students will find enlightening appeals to Mill’s harm principle, Locke’s conception of property, Kant’s views about dignity, Aristotle’s ideas about civic virtue, and much else, all in the context of philosophical discussions of concrete and familiar problems of public policy. Political Problems thus enables instructors to establish continuity between theory and practice in Social and Political Philosophy.

I have used Political Problems with great success in my undergraduate course on Social and Political Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. My course is the first in a sequence of Social and Political Philosophy courses, and is explicitly aimed at providing students with a broad overview of the field. I spend roughly the first two-thirds of the course working through selections from key historical figures, including Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Rawls, and Nozick. These texts provide occasion to discuss several central concepts such as equality, liberty, authority, autonomy, consent, coercion, punishment, and neutrality. I then devote the final third of the course to Political Problems. As the selections are relatively short and accessible, I have students read an essay for each class meeting (my class meets three times a week).

Students are almost always able to reconstruct the central argument of each essay without my assistance, and the connections with the historical material previously covered are often obvious to the students. We spend our time in class discussing the issue addressed in the day’s reading. Students get a clear sense that Social and Political Philosophy is a living and vibrant field.


Robert B. Talisse

Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University


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Table of Contents

About the Authors ix

Preface xiii

Section 1 School Vouchers 1

Reading 1 Joseph S. Spoerl, "Justice and the Case for School Vouchers." Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 1 (January 1995): 2-14 Joseph S. Spoerl 2

Reading 2 Jeffrey R. Henig, "Rethinking School Choice," From Henig, Rethinking School Choice (Princeton University Press, 1994): 21-29 Jeffrey R. Henig 12

Section 2 Government Support for the Arts 19

Reading 3 Ronald Dworkin, "Can a Liberal State Support Art?" From Ronald Dworkin, A Matter of Principle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985): 221-233 Ronald Dworkin 20

Reading 4 No?l Carroll, "Can Government Funding of the Arts be Justified Theoretically?" Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring 1987): 21-50 No?l Carroll 31

Section 3 Pornography 43

Reading 5 Helen E. Longino, "Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look," Laura Lederer, Ed., Take Back the Night (William Morrow & Co., 1980) Helen E. Longino 44

Reading 6 Joel Feinberg, "The Feminist Case Against Pornography" from Feinberg, Offense to Others (Oxford University Press, 1985) Joel Feinberg 54

Section 4 Same-Sex Marriage 67

Reading 7 Ralph Wedgwood, "Same-Sex Marriage: A Philosophical Defense," R. Baker, K. Wininger, and F. Elliston, Eds., Philosophy and Sex, 3/E (Prometheus Books, 1998): 212-230 Ralph Wedgwood 68

Reading 8 Jeffrey Jordan, "Is It Wrong to Discriminate on the Basis of Homosexuality?" Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 39-52 Jeffrey Jordan 85

Section 5 Drug Legalization 95

Reading 9 Douglas N. Husak, "Liberal Neutrality and Drug Prohibitions," Ethics, Vol. 110 (2000) Douglas N. Husak 96

Reading 10 Samuel Freeman, "Liberalism and Rights of Drug Use," Pablo DcGrieff, Ed., Drugs and the Limits of Liberalism (Cornell University Press, 1999): 110-130 Samuel Freeman 110

Section 6 Gun Control 119

Reading 11 Todd C. Hughes and Lester H. Hunt, "The Liberal Basis of the Right to Bear Arms," Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 1 (2000): 1-25 Todd C. Hughes Lester H. Hunt 120

Reading 12 Hugh LaFollette, "Gun Control," Ethics, Vol. 110 (2000): 263-281 Hugh LaFollette 139

Section 7 Terrorism 153

Reading 13 Michael Walzer, "Terrorism: A Critique of Excuses," Steven Luper-Foy, Ed., Problems of International Justice (Westview Press, 1988) Michael Walzer 154

Reading 14 Lionel K. McPherson, "Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong?" Ethics 117 (April 2007): 524-546 Lionel K. McPherson 160

Section 8 Torture 179

Reading 15 Henry Shue, "Torture," Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (Winter, 1978): 124-143 Henry Shue 180

Reading 16 Daniel J. Hill, "Ticking Bombs, Torture, and the Analogy with Self-Defense," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4 (2007): 395-404 Daniel J. Hill 193

Section 9 Capital Punishment 203

Reading 17 Ernest van den Haag, "In Defense of the Death Penalty," Criminal Law Bulletin, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1978): 51-68 Ernest van den Haag 204

Reading 18 Hugo Adam Bedau, "Capital Punishment," Tom Regan, Ed., Matters of Life and Death (McGraw-Hill, 1993) Hugo Adam Bedau 212

Section 10 Affirmative Action 225

Reading 19 Steven M. Cahn,"Two Concepts of Affirmative Action," Academe, Vol. 83 (1997) Steven M. Cahn 226

Reading 20 Tom L. Beauchamp, "In Favor of Affirmative Action," Journal of Ethics 2 (1998): 143-158 Tom L. Beauchamp 234

Section 11 Immigration 247

Reading 21 Michael Walzer, "The Distribution of Membership," Peter Brown and Henry Shue, Eds., Boundaries: National Autonomy and Its Limits (Rowman and Littlefield, 1981): 1-36 Michael Walzer 248

Reading 22 Joseph H. Carens, "Migration and Morality: A Liberal Egalitarian Perspective," Brian Barry and Robert Goodin, Eds., Free Movement (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992): 25-47 Joseph H. Carens 266

Section 12 The Environment 285

Reading 23 William F. Baxter, "People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution," from Baxter, People or Penguins (Columbia University Press, 1974) William F. Baxter 286

Reading 24 Thomas E. Hill, Jr., "Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments," Environmental Ethics 5 (1983): 211-224 Thomas E. Hill Jr. 291

Credits 303

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