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Political philosophy, nature of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S044-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Political philosophy developed as a central aspect of philosophy generally in the world of ancient Greece, and the writings of Plato and Aristotle made a basic and still important contribution to the subject. Central to political philosophy has been a concern with the justification or criticism of general political arrangements such as democracy, oligarchy or kingship, and with the ways in which the sovereignty of the state is to be understood; with the relationship between the individual and the political order, and the nature of the individual’s obligation to that order; with the coherence and identity of the political order from the point of view of the nation and groups within the nation, and with the role of culture, language and race as aspects of this; with the basis of different general political ideologies and standpoints such as conservatism, socialism and liberalism; and with the nature of the basic concepts such as state, individual, rights, community and justice in terms of which we understand and argue about politics. Because it is concerned with the justification and criticism of existing and possible forms of political organization a good deal of political philosophy is normative; it seeks to provide grounds for one particular conception of the right and the good in politics. In consequence many current controversies in political philosophy are methodological; they have to do with how (if at all) normative judgments about politics can be justified.

Citing this article:
Plant, Raymond. Political philosophy, nature of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S044-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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