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Tuesday
Jun062006

What is Political Philosophy?

What is it that makes Rawls or Nozick “political philosophers,” but not Pat Buchanan or Newt Gingrich?  Is it because Nozick is more intelligent than Buchanan? I think the answer is clearly no for several reasons. First, some may say that Buchannan is quite sufficiently gifted with respect to intellectualism. He certainly can reason well with premises. Is it merely that one involves a different style of assertion? Both are simply conservative advocates who simply use different styles of espousal?  This view suggests that political philosophy is simply a form of fashion  for communication (a form of art, I suppose).

All of these views seem mistaken. The real difference seems to be the grounds of the starting point. One purports to reach a conclusion about the grounds or foundation of conservatism as a proof – as a construct unto itself – where the other is seen as reasoning from the assumption that the grounds need not be inspected, at least not philosophically.  When Pat Buchanan speaks, doesn’t he speak as a spokesman for something already adopted – sort of as an advertisement does? When Ronald Dworkin or Immanual Kant speaks, by contrast,  they are trying to demonstrate that starting point X lies on a ground unto itself. Although this, too, has policy implications, the nature of the craft purports to stand on its own making.  This means that Pat Buchannon's writings are really a form of applied philosophy.  It is not that Dworkin or Nozick could not enter the journalistic format and champion something. It is that, if they did, they would have to be applying philosophy instead of doing it. 

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