Talk:Political philosophy

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Old discussions (up to 2004)[edit]

With all due respect to Larry -- and I cannot speak about the state of pholitical theory within philosophy today -- this article didn't really do justice to current conversations among political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists who are also concerned with (i.e. read and talk to) political philosophy.

I wrote a new introduction, and set up a basic organization of three parts: the state (perhaps room for some general discussions of Hobbes versus Rousseau, as well as of typologies of states); government (I know that there is some distinction within poli-sci about liberalism, realism, etc,; i.e. debates on the principles that should determine policy -- I hope others can fill this in); and a section for politics outside of states, which I will work on later, Slrubenstein


This entry is still very underdeveloped. I've tried to add a bit more on contempoary political ph of Augustine and Aquinas. Help! User:Lsolum


The most recent set of revisions create problems for the entry. There is a basic confusion between "political philosophy" and "political theory." For example, the discussion of the cuban missle crisis would be appropriate in political science, but it not the kind of issue that political philosophers discuss. I would welcome discussion before I edit again. Thank you. User:Lsolum _______________________________________

This is my second call for comments on the most recent set of revisions. Those revisions focused the entry on the history of politics, which is a distinct subject from political philosophy. I propose to delete that discussion and refocus the entry on political philosophy. User:Lsolum

No, politics is not a distinct subject from political philosophy, as you say. Nor is political philosophy solely a subject that political philosophers discuss - that is exactly the kind of purpose for which the textbook project was created. You cannot in general separate political ideas from the times in which they occur. EofT
However, I agree that the argument say for 1962 being a signal year is not well placed here and over-written. What could be done is to rewrite that set of assertions to draw some distinctions between politics, political theory, political science and political philosophy, maybe using that year as an example. But it's foolish to simply state, as the article did originally it seems, that Rawls' views simply popped up again after hundreds of years of no comment, and were seemingly prompted by nothing but Rawls' genius. It is not right to say that political philosophy changes because of political events, but, it is proper to say that bursts of attention to it are prompted by such events. So the historical structure must be maintained, I think, but historical events should not be stated as causes for philosophical investigations or conclusions.EofT


The idea of distinguishing between political theory, political science, and political philosophy is a good one.

And, all of those, from politics itself, which in the view of say Bernard Crick is a bottom-up process of resolution of disputes in ethics, but complicated by the human tendency to introduce impatience and violence. I would say any decent political philosophy must be able to distinct the three things you note, and politics and ethics and morality as well. EofT

I disagree with the suggestion that political philosophy is not distinct from politics. The term "political philosophy" has a well accepted meaning both inside and outside of academia. Thank you for the comment.

Who pays the political philosophers, inside and outside academia? I submit it is a process of politics itself that determines who qualifies as one and who is a "mere" political scientist, theorist, or gadfly. For instance, despite your qualifications, I believe I can crush this position that political philosophy is distinct from politics, in an open debate with you. Even if only accredited political philosophers attend. Now, this might be mere public speaking ability, or, knowing the politics of the group. But I think you must admit that if one masters a political process, one can thus also advance an agenda of political philosophy - closing the loop of practcie and theory. I would be more pleased however to see this reality reflected in the article, and for you to take a stab at making the article more acceptable to your academic colleagues. EofT

I think a better discussion of Plato and Aristotle's works and influence would imrpove the article: currently it mentions them and makes it clear they were influential, but has no discussion of their ideas or what they brought to political philosophy. --Sam 12:53, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)


I find it very odd that the contemporary debate is characterized as a matter of natural law and free will. The notion that concepts like "freedom" and "liberty" are essentially contested has informed much of the academic practice of political philosophy. In other words, few (professional) political philosophers believe that political theory emerges from epistemological and metaphysical commitments.

Typical surveys of contemporary political philosophy begin with the "ruins of liberalism versus communitarianism" and show how that eternally frustrating debate led to a diverse batch of new questions for anyone interested in questions of political justification, political freedom, and justice. Three broad topics in that batch: the accommodation of multiple cultures in one state, the fading relevance of Westphalian sovereignty, and the role of community (imagined or civil society) in state affairs.

Natural law is seldom mentioned, except where political philosophy touches on issues in the philosophy of law (which is unfortunately locked into some of the same ossified frameworks that stifled political philosophy until, roughly, A Theory of Justice). -- 16 June 2004

Confucianism and Legalism[edit]

What class of political philosophy do Confucianism or Legalism (philosophy) belong to? User:Wshun


I was just wondering why Anarchism is not listed as one of the forms of political philosophy, along with monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, etc. Why?

If you mean the entry on the Greeks, they never considered anarchy as a political system. For them, it was the similar :to the nature state of Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, etc. The closest match is the democracy in the Greek thought. It is :quite similar to the modern anarchism. -- 12:59, 31 December 2005 (UTC) Episthene


I added an NPOV dispute notice to one of the sections. The section was written from a strongly pro-capitalist POV. Guanaco 23:14, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Ayn Rand?[edit]

Ayn Rand? A political philosopher? Give me a break. Political philosophers don't consider her a political philosopher. When the word pseudo-philosopher is uttered "Ayn Rand" is surely going to come up as a prime example. Maprovonsha172 3 July 2005 00:27 (UTC)

She's been as influential on human thought as just about any modern philosopher one can name. You might not agree with her (I don't either) but I don't think there's anything wrong with mentioning her. --Malathion 3 July 2005 00:29 (UTC)
Well, as someone who has been a professor of political philosophy, I certainly find the list given to be a "one of these things is not like the others" game like on Sesame Street. There is exactly one name on the list that I would never contemplate teaching in a philosophy class. Then again, a shockingly large number of solid B+/A- students would read Rand on their own (usually also confusing the profound ideas of Nietzsche with Rand's warmed-over hackery that uses a few of the same words). I might well violently disagree with, say Nozick (or Plato), but I don't doubt he's a serious philosopher; nothing similar can be said of Rand. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 3 02:20 (UTC)
Lulu, you just redeemed my faith in Wikipedia. Just as it was slipping away with all the patent bullshit not only posted on Wikipedia, but defended in the talk pages, too. I was execting a chorus of Randian Cultists to chime in defending her (they say she is the greatest philosopher ever, believe it or not). I'm going to take her name down. Maprovonsha172 3 July 2005 02:30 (UTC)
I'm not sure if you're insinuating that my defense of having her in the article means I'm a closet Objectivist. Anyway, I don't think that what Lulu said makes a good argument for taking her down. His POV is that she's a hack, but that doesn't make it Wiki NPOV to say she's not relevant. Wrong or right, one must simply look out the window to see her influence on human philosophical thinking. I don't think it's the purpose of Wikipedia to report only on the consensus among academics, but to report the facts about a wider sphere of influence. --Malathion 3 July 2005 23:34 (UTC)
Provide a link to one syllabus of one political philosophy course at a good university that includes Rand, and my opinion might shift :-). However, since I created the less narrow List of political philosophers (and added Rand to it), I think that really covers every argument that might be made for her inclusion in a list. (L. Ron Hubbard or Lyndon LaRouche don't make the list either, for example, despite their own about equivalently broad pernicious influences).
P.S. I have no idea what political opinions Malathion might hold (interesting username though), nor am I insinuating anything about that in any direction. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 4 04:38 (UTC)
Again, I don't think academic classrooms are the standard here. Wikipedia emphasized Rand's influence in several places, especially the featured article on Libertarianism. --Malathion 4 July 2005 04:43 (UTC)
It's not just the matter of the fact that Rand has exactly zero traction in academia. There's also a very different structure to the reception of different thinkers. My comparisons with Hubbard and LaRouche are deliberate here. People who either agree or disagree with say, Popper or Marx, find their ideas important to address (even if critically). The only people who find the ideas of Rand, Hubbard or LaRouche worth more than a guffaw are the disciples of those respective "thinkers." Lots of people have influence on society, but not all such people are political philosophers (which Rand certainly is not). Heck, "Oprah" or "Dr. Phil" (or Billy Graham) probably influence more people in the USA nowadays than does anyone in the list of political philosophers. But they just ain't philosophers, so belong here no more than does Rand. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 4 05:14 (UTC)
Maybe the section should be titled "Important" or "Influential" political philosophers instead. It's not clear what is meant by "Major" here anyway. --Malathion 4 July 2005 05:29 (UTC)

On what basis is Rand dismissed as a political philosopher?! Academia is generally regarded as "left-leaning", I'm not surprised she is not mentioned in Academia.. --Dullfig 00:17, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

The list should not be here anyways, but I will say that Lulu and Maprovonsha172's opinions sound very elitist to me. Whether or not Ayn Rand is a 'true' philosopher, whatever that is supposed to mean, is completely irrelevant. Likewise her inclusion in academia is unimportant. What is important was that she wrote about politics and influenced people, thus she should be included. The idea of not including M. C. Escher in art text books due to his unique and mathematical style strikes me as a quite similar blunder. Under your logic you should remove Nietzsche too since he was a philologist and not a philosopher. I bet you that people like you two said the same thing about him in shortly after his death. Djlayton4 02:39, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

James Mill?[edit]

I see User:Banno put back the link to James Mill in Political philosophy. I'm curious why. I see s/he's edited a bunch of philosophy-related pages, so I reckon Banno knows something about the area... which makes it seem that much odder (IMO) to find James Mill "major". I'm not going to edit-war over a trivial issue like that, but I was hoping you could provide some insight into why you feel he is worth listing .(when I can think of several dozen political philosophers, off the top of my head, whom I find more important, but are not listed). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 3 06:38 (UTC)

The list is quite POV. This is I guess part of adding such a list to an article; Indeed, it is absurd to leave out Popper and Hegel!
There are two alternatives. The first is to assume that any one worthy of being called "major" will have a sentence, at least, and a link, in the article, and so the list is superfluous and should be removed; the alternative is to remove 'Major from sub-section heading, and allow editors to list any philosopher they like. Banno July 3, 2005 20:44 (UTC)
I disagree that such a list is per-se POV. Clearly, it's not a black-and-white division. But there are some political philosophers who get taught in 95% of "Intro to political philosophy" courses (everyone teaches J.S.Mill and some trivial excerpt from Marx, for example), and others who get taught in far fewer than 1% of such courses. While the canon is arguable, and evolves somewhat over time, it's not any more POV to acknowledge that a canon—and schools of thought—exist in a list than it is to write about certain ideas in the main text, but omit less widely held/taught ones.
Btw. I restored both Popper and Hegel, per Banno. Taking either out was at that borderline in my mind. Popper indeed did write the well respected Open Society and Its Enemies, but not really anything else you'd call political philosophy. I meant no more slight to Popper than I would to Kuhn or Quine by not including them here. Hegel is an even more difficult case: he's absolutely towering in philosophy in general, but it's somewhat ambiguous whether any of his books are political philosophy as such.
All that said, the linked List of political philosophers is meant to be much less exclusive (and I've fleshed it out to a considerable, but still, of course, partial degree). While I think that longer list should only have people who are reasonably well recognized as political philosophers of at least moderate importance, it need not be "major" ones as narrowly. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 3 23:23 (UTC)

We do not take sides when we word the statements in the Wiki so as to be acceptable to both, or all, parties. That is, if someone disagrees with it, it is POV. So, if somene cares enough to placed a name on a list of major political philosophers, then removing it is POV.

Poverty of historicism also has some merit; Hegel should be included because of his influence on both Marx and Nietzsche. Banno July 4, 2005 08:43 (UTC)

NPOV doesn't mean "something no one can disagree with"! I definitely haven't seen it here, but I've edited a number of articles where nut-job vandals intruded to object to factual statements out of some fringe agenda. There are lots of names that would be completely inappropriate on the list of major political philosophers (but who might be pushed by specific devotees... Rand is a borderline case of this, but others are even less plausible). Certainly Popper and Hegel have plausible arguments for inclusion, and I put them back there because you made genuine arguments for their inclusion.
But, for example, I had added Sartre, then taken him back off the "major" list. A plausible argument can be made for his inclusion, but my judgement was that he is not enough centrally "political" in his philosophical work to make a top-20/30 list. If some Sartre advocate came along, and argued that, say, Anti-Semite and Jew was sufficiently influential, I might disagree. But the case is plausible enough to go along with if some editor cares (as with Banno and Popper/Hegel). However, if a LaRouchie came along and wanted their hero included, I'd definitely call bullshit on such a claim. Educated judgement isn't the same thing as simple POV mongering. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 4 16:58 (UTC)

Why are major figures major?[edit]

Banno made an excellent suggestion above that each listed "major political philosopher" ought to have a sentence about them. It's easy with no context to just drop names, which doesn't necessarily help readers. I would propose that we keep the list, but follow each listed name with a sentence or two that explains why that particular person is important. What new idea(s) did they introduce? What school did they found or constitute the best representative of?

There are a lot of genuine political philosophers who might well be included on the broader List of political philosophers, but who frankly did not really do very much particularly original. Many philosophers who are perfectly fine thinkers really just perform moderate tweaks to general schools or styles of thought, rather than found a concept. I think the major figures really should be listed for a good reason, something beyond the fact they really did write OK books. Adding this puts a little more of a burden on a new proposed name—the advocate of that philosopher needs to provide a good reason why we should care about that name (within the context of political philosophy). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 2005 July 4 17:07 (UTC)

I appreciate Fledgist adding some Chinese thinkers to the previously Western-centric list. It's an area I know far less about than I should. However, I tend to think that Xunzi is more-or-less "another Confucian" rather than being as prominent as the others he lists. Am I wrong?
 * Xunzi : The most conservative of the Confucian thinkers.

I'll add the Chinese thinkers to the List of political philosophers, other editors, please add more. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 19:35, 2005 August 20 (UTC)

More about Ayn Rand[edit]

From Libertarianism:

Libertarianism and Objectivism have a complex relationship. Though they share many of the same political goals, some Objectivists see libertarians as plagiarists. These Objectivists claim that libertarians use Objectivist ideas "with the teeth pulled out of them".[19] Some libertarians see Objectivists as dogmatic, unrealistic, and uncompromising. According to Reason editor Nick Gillespie in the magazine's March 2005 issue focusing on Objectivism's influence, Ayn Rand is "one of the most important figures in the libertarian movement... Rand remains one of the best-selling and most widely influential figures in American thought and culture" in general and in libertarianism in particular. Still, he confesses that he is embarrassed by his magazine's association with her ideas.[20] In the same issue, Cathy Young says that "Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand's ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild."[21] Though they reject what they see as Randian dogmas, libertarians like Young still believe that "Rand's message of reason and liberty... could be a rallying point" for libertarianism.

Really, I don't see the point in saying "Ayn Rand is not influential in academic circles" while other articles say she was influential. This edit war is making me want to delete the whole list as inherently POV. --causa sui talk 20:28, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Certainly if you delete the list w/o consensus, that's a really good RfC candidate action. A bunch of people have contributed to it, and presumably feel it has value.
As to Rand, there just no serious position that she's an influential political philosopher. Maybe an argument for influential, but not even close for political philosopher. She never wrote one single philosophy book, for gosh sake! Something like "influential novelist" over in some other list might make sense. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 20:55, 2005 August 20 (UTC)
Are you threatening me with an RfC? Let's try to keep this civil, please. --causa sui talk 20:58, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
You suggested you would unilaterally remove a section a lot of folks worked on to make a point (WP:POINT). That's not good wikiquette, by a long shot. I'm not threatening you, just pointing out that the action you suggested would be a major breach of proper editing behavior (though I disagree with you about puttin Rand's name in the list—against what I believe is established consensus—that's still just a regular editorial issue, no breach involved). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 21:03, 2005 August 20 (UTC)
You know, I didn't actually do it. I was expressing my frustration about this whole ordeal, which is over a really minor thing. Wikipedia:Assume good faith comes to mind. I'm going to give this a break and hope it cooled off it a couple days. --causa sui talk 21:13, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I have elsewhere proposed two criteria for being treated as a philosopher. The first is that someone has studied philosophy. Formal university study is preferred, but I've nothing against autodidacts. The second criteria is that university philosophy departments teach that person's work as philosophy. The word "philosopher" is often used very loosely for guiding thought of whatever stripe. Philosophy is, however, a tradition or a series of traditions; being "influential" does not mean that you are part of the philosophical tradition. Call her an ideologue and move on. Buffyg 22:19, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Quick poll on Rand as "influential political philosopher"[edit]

Should Ayn Rand be included in the (short) list of "Influential political philosophers"?


Despite ideological differences, and official criteria for determining who are political philosophers, Objectivism is regarded as a political philosophy, ergo Rand as a philosopher. In terms of name recognition, Rand is also high on the list. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Modern Day Prometheus (talkcontribs) 23:44, 1 March 2011 (UTC)


  • Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters
  • Maprovonsha172 01:17, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
  • Buffyg 02:00, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
  • Eddieuny 14:17, 1 November 2005 (UTC) (It's too early to tell, like Zhou Enlai's opinion regarding the French Revolution <G>.)
  • John T. Reuter 07:32, 21 February 2006 (UTC) Absolutely not.
  • Nikodemos 07:35, 21 February 2006 (UTC) Not unless we lengthen the list to 100+ philosophers. There are arguably at least 100 more influential than Rand.
  • --Sam Clark 14:20, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Cleeliberty (talk) 12:05, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Kant summary[edit]

First thinker who fully analyzed structure and meaning of obligation.

This seems, well, wrong. "Fully analyzed" seems a bit nebulous, anyway. --causa sui talk 03:24, 30 August 2005 (UTC)

OK, please feel free to change it. I felt a little nebulous writing that phraase, but a better phrasing didn't jump out. What about "Analyzed the fundamental structure and meaning of obligation"? Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 03:32, 2005 August 30 (UTC)

Adding to "influential"[edit]

An anon recently added red Rosa to the "top 30" list (or whatever the number there). I had vacillated myself earlier on including Luxemburg there. Certainly she belongs on the longer List of political philosophers. But given another editors sentiment, I'll certainly leave her.

However (and this is crucial), if you add more names, please include a brief description of why that person is influential. What brand new idea did they introduce that is important to later thinkers? What fundamental reconception of polity is their work? Etc. Look at many of the names there with explanations (and add explanations to those lacking them, please). Something along those lines. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 16:27, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Paring down the "influential" list?[edit]

um, perhaps this is impolitic, but couldn't some of the names on this list go quietly by the wayside? Western-centric? Yes, but so is the entire tradition of political philosophy, so while Daoism and Confucianism certainly may have a place here as nods to other traditions, would we really call Mozi influential in political philosophy? No, of course not. And Bacon? Spinoza? Influential in Western intellectual history? Yes, obviously. Influential in political philosophy? No. Karl Popper? Same point, different era: The Open Society and its Enemies simply isn't a major influence on contemporary political thought, and his more serious work is limited to the philosophy of science, of course. Noam Chomsky? Intellectual giant, certainly. Worshipped on the left? Most certainly. But political philosophy? Not even close. And Rosa Luxemburg and Guy Debord!? come on! 21 October 2005

I tend to agree with the above anon, as a principle. In fact, if someone were to excise every name that lacks a motivating description, I would not exactly object. Chomsky certainly seems superfluous (yeah, he's a great guy, and brilliant, but that's all). And I tend to think Popper also; but in an earlier discussion someone argued strongly in Popper's favor. Luxemburg is a bit borderline in my mind: she's one of my favorite thinkers, but in honesty, her influence is quite a bit less than Gramsci's, who represents a related tradition.
However, I would argue strongly for Debord's inclusion. Not entirely because he himself had such huge influence, but he is more-or-less the pinnacle of a line of thought that runs from Dada through Surrealism through Situationism, and on to a considerable current of "post-Situationism". Debord is the thinker of May 1968, I would argue. You can't have Baudrillard or Lyotard, for example, without Debord (not that I think either of them should be included in the "short list"). Of course, no one mentions Debord at all in Anglo-American oriented departments, but that's actually a fairly narrow slice of the world of philosophy. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 02:26, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
I've removed a number of names that seemed borderline to me... and more importantly, whose names have sat there for numerous months without any editor stepping forward with explanatory text. Specifically: Nietzsche, Luxemburg, Popper, Chomsky, Strauss.
If someone develops an argument why any of those really are influential within political philosophy, please add the name back accompanied by your explanation of their influence. Similarly with some other thinker who was not previously included. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 15:02, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Offhand, I kinda think Karl Popper should be in here, if nothing else for his writings re: Marxism. But I don't really know much about the guy, so I can't say for sure. I'll do some research. --causa sui talk 15:49, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Okay, the Wikipedia article has this to say about him:

'He is counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, and also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy...Popper is perhaps best known for...his defense of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism which he took to make the flourishing of the "open society" possible.'


'Popper's influence, both through his work in philosophy of science and through his political philosophy, has also extended beyond the academy. Among Popper's students and advocates is the multibillionaire investor George Soros, who says his investment strategies are modelled on Popper's understanding of the advancement of knowledge through falsification. Among Soros's philanthropic foundations is the Open Society Institute, a think-tank named in honor of Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, which Soros founded to advance the Popperian defense of the open society against authoritarianism and totalitarianism.'

I'm putting his name back in for now. --causa sui talk 15:52, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

If you add back Popper, please do so with some explanatory text (extracted from the Popper article, if you like). If I were writing the list all by myself, I would not include him, FWIW; but I'm happy to accept it if it is explained.
To my mind, Popper is "A brilliant and influential philosopher of science who also wrote an interesting book on political philosophy". And similarly, Chomsky is "A brilliant and influential linguist who also wrote a few interesting books that touch on political philosophy". But neither of them seem to come even close to being "primary authors" in political philosophy. That is, people don't really write academic philosophical books about Popper's political philosophy (at least not very good ones), just books about Popper's philosophy of science that passingly mention the political philosophy. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 15:59, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Limiting the list[edit]

You know, I was typing a reply to this, and I had an idea. It seems that this list is just getting unwieldy and difficult to manage, and generating more discussion/conflict than it's worth. How about we agree to fix the number of names on the list? With say, 12 names, that would leave us with something like this:

  1. Plato
  2. Aristotle
  3. Machiavelli
  4. Aquinas
  5. Hobbes
  6. Locke
  7. Rousseau
  8. Bentham
  9. Mill
  10. Marx
  11. Rawls
  12. Nozick

This way, if someone wants to add another name, they'd have to drop one, and explain why their guy was more important than the one they dropped. As it is, this list is too long and the "influential" categorization is rather vague. --causa sui talk 16:19, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

I see the motivation here, but don't quite like the literal system. I think 12 is probably too small a number, maybe 30 is a better limit. But I don't really think a hard limit is the right approach (for one thing, I would have a case to make that several other figures currently listed are more influential than Aristotle, Bentham, Rawls or Nozick.[*] However, I do think that we should enforce a requirement that any new name at least be accompanied by an explanation of their importance (in the article; possibly supplemented on the talk page). That way, we can see explicitly why someone thinks a thinker merits inclusions (not necessarily more so than the prior 12, or 30, but at least motivated). And if that explanation is unpersuasive, we can indicate such on this talk page. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 18:05, 29 October 2005 (UTC)
[*] Aristotle is always listed pro forma, but really he's more important in other philosophy areas. Bentham is largely a precursor of the thought "finalized" by Mill. Rawls and Nozick benefit more from being recent and American than they do by actual profundity of thought (people reading Adorno and Althusser 100 years from now will have pretty much forgotten about Nozick, IMO).
Well, this isn't about how we personally feel about these guys. Putting in the philosophers that are important to us would be original research. That's why I have an intuitive problem with this list being in the article at all; it doesn't add a whole lot to the article, and there are no citations for it. If there is no citation that says "XXX is more influential than Rawls", then putting it in the article is original research.
The names I listed are more or less the names I was taught first in introductory level theory classes. I can see the argument for dropping Bentham for someone else, say Augustine, or Nozick for Burke, but that doesn't solve the WP:NOR problem. --causa sui talk 00:29, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't see a really fundamental problem. The quick empirical test I did below in regard to Popper and Gramsci is pretty sensible and verifiable. Some thinkers get academic books in political philosophy written about them, and others don't (or not so much). I'm not claiming to have found a perfect and mechanical procedure (articles are important too, and citations, etc). But it's also not merely "who's my favorite philosopher?"
I do think asking who you were taught at an introductory level is somewhat misleading. While this might sound a bit snobbish (but only because it is :-)), it kinda doesn't matter what the undergrads get taught. Of more interest for actual influence is what professional philosophers think is worth writing about in academic journals. That filters down in some way to the intro classes, but not automatically.
Moreover, the list is not any special problem (and I think it gives readers a good sense of where else to look). All the rest of the article reflects judgements about what are really the "main currents" of political philosophy, what issues are important, etc. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 04:10, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
Your standard of notability (had books written about them) is original research. You need a source that says "XXX is influential" or it's original research- it's your judgment. --causa sui talk 04:33, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
Huh!? How can the existence of verifiable and published books be "original research"? Obviously, as I say above, books aren't the whole story, but it's part of it. Knowing that 200 people wrote books about the political philosophy of XXX tells you a lot more about the influence of XXX than does an isolated remark by Joe Random Professor that "YYY is influential". Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters
The existence of the books isn't original research, but saying that "There are more books written about XXX, therefore he is more influential than YYY" would be. If that's the standard we're going to use, we would have to change the section from "Influential political philosophers" to "Political philosophers ranked by the number of books written about their political philosophy". --causa sui talk 21:13, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
Double huh?! Have you seen WP:NOR? This is about as flatfootedly factual as you can get. Mind you, of course I don't suggest such a strictly reductive approach; but if I did that would be almost 180 degrees from "original research"... every single sentence in this article is closer to original research than this hypothetical "number of books about" raw fact. Measurable, quantitive, repeatable... hell, Popper himself might like it :-).
I have the hunch that Ryan Delaney just likes Popper personally, and doesn't like the fact that an objective (but not definitive) criterion shows that Popper isn't a particularly influential political philosopher. Obviously, IRL, it matters how important the people writing those books are themselves, citations in academic articles, etc... but however you formulate it, Popper will come out low on the list of political philosophers. Hence the nonsensical plea to "original research". Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 21:31, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

I'm really disappointed to see that you still can't grasp Wikipedia:Assume good faith. I was hoping we could have a reasonable conversation about this. --causa sui talk 11:44, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

The weird suggestion that looking at existing publications would be original research sure seemed to violate WP:FAITH on your part, on its surface (and "you still can't grasp WP:FAITH"?!, c'mon). But I was trying hard to find another interpretation of what you wrote (a brain glitch maybe, I've had them myself). In any case, the equation "examing publications == original research" is nonsensical, so I can't see anything to salvage from it. Why don't we put the matter behind us, and just forget about it? Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 13:53, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
You're right. I don't see much point in discussing it with you if trying to improve the article will just get my editorial integrity challenged. This mentality you have displays striking arrogance -- you think your edit is right, and since you can't fathom how someone would disagree with you (not that I think you've tried very hard), you start to look for ulterior motives. Vandalism in one case, hero worship in this case. Do whatever you want with this article. Trying to edit articles you read is exhausting. --causa sui talk 15:25, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
Ryan, why don't you step back a bit, and try to clear your head, then re-read the above conversation. Your comments in this thread come off as extremely brusque, and a bit hostile. The accusation of "original research" where it makes no sense is quite aggressive. I have no idea what you think I vandalized, or whom I hero worship, but either thing is not very good Wikiquette to bandy about in a nasty way.
In actual fact, in professional philosophy the measure of influence is basically how much how much professional philosophers think a given topic/thinker is worth writing about. Of course, it's not something so literally mechanistic as counting titles; but that's a relatively good proxy. Certainly it's a good initial "sanity check" (similar to the "google test" for noteriety of articles).
Unfortunately, in your previous advocacy of Rand, and the latest one of Popper, you seem to have in mind a slightly wrong standard. Not how influential a philosopher is within professional (political) philosophy, but how widely read they are by non-professional lay people. But philosophy is a professional discipline (one that goes much farther than teaching intro classes); it makes no more sense to decide "influential" on the basis of non-philosophers opinions than it does to put global warming or evolution to a popular poll (giving lay people the same weight as climatologists or paleontologists). Hint: those polls, if taken in the USA at least, would come out very badly from a scientific standard. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 16:39, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Karl Popper as political philosopher[edit]

Just a little research project. I did a search for "Karl Popper" at Amazon. There are 115 books listed by or about Popper there. Of these, I count seven that might reasonably be described as about his political philosophy (i.e. written by other people). My count is based somewhat on guesses about books I have not actually read, and some written in languages I only vaguely understand (but usually enough to make out the titles). And some of the seven are only partially about Popper's political philosophy. Most titles, of course, are books in philosophy of science.

In contrast, I did the same search for the more-or-less contemporary Gramsci. Here I find 358 books. My count here was done much more hastily, but a glance suggests that at least 300 or these are books by other people about Gramsci's political philosophy.

To my mind, this indicates that Popper is not particularly influential as a political philosopher. Not unknown as such; but I think that even the moderate interest in Popper's political philosophy is largely fueled by his much larger repute within philosophy of science (e.g. if he had only written Open Society, there probably would be many fewer than those seven titles I found... maybe zero). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 16:25, 29 October 2005 (UTC)


I added Socrates to the list of influential political philosophers. Hopefully not a controversial addition? John T. Reuter 07:36, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Unless you can give a description of Socrates' contribution that is distinct from Plato's, I can see no reason to list Socrates. Given that there is no writing of Socrates himself, that's a hard case to make... whatever the philosophy of Socrates may have been, we know it only through the lens of Plato's writing (and a couple minor mentions by other contemporaries, but generally not particularly philosophical. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 07:50, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
Xenophon also wrote a great deal about Socrates (see his Memorabilia, Oeconomicus, Symposium and Apology of Socrates) and there are several plays by Aristophanes that provide a more critical perspective.
Still it is somewhat problematic that Socrates never wrote anything. Nonetheless, I think his place in political philosophy as a very (if not most) important figure is secure. For one, there is the Socratic method (one of the few philosophical approaches that everyone knows of). Admittedly, the Socratic method isn't necessarily inherently political in nature.
However, Socrates as a political philosopher is widely agreed upon in the field. For example, in the History of Political Philosophy (Third Edition) (USBN# 0226777103), Leo Strauss refers to Socrates in his introduction as the "founder of political philosophy." I think that might be a description that would make him distinct from Plato. Thoughts? John T. Reuter 16:37, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
Obviously, the Xenophan is philosophical, but not really consistent with Plato's presentation. And Aristophanes hardly gives us much insight into Socrates' philosophical moves (though it is funny). I find Strauss pretty discreditable as a reference, but I understand the gesture he makes, and pretty much everyone does the same thing. It's a sort of vacant mythologizing, which I guess is OK for young children, a step past worrying about the bogey man or hoping for the tooth fairy.
If you can give a sentence describing what Socrates actually did as a philosophical moment, I have no objection to including him. But something specific and philosophical: Not "taught Plato", nor "founded (Western) philosophy" as a form w/o content. The names listed are each included because there was some specific named innovation in the style or content of thought that can more-or-less be associated with them. Maybe you could argue for the "Socratic method" within philosophy generally (but not really, this doesn't entirely distinguish Socrates from the Sophists), but that's not political philosophy particularly.
The point of the list (admittedly, as I've helped shape it) isn't a beauty contest or measure of popularity. It's a list that is iconic of specific shifts or revolutions in political philosophy. The much longer linked list can include all the others who were merely "really smart", or "profound thinkers". In fact, some of those left off the "short list" might even be "bettter philosophers" than those inlcuded... but it's also about who was where when. And one little idea that is genuinely new at a given time is more relevant to the "short list" than several brilliant refinements of a whole bunch of (older) big ideas. Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 17:41, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
I agree with your understanding of the list in that it should represent "iconic specific shifts or revolutions in political philosophy." I think Socrates qualifies under that definition, even if you consider him a mythic figure. As you noted "pretty much everyone does the same thing" as Strauss in suggesting Socrates as a foundational figure (if I miss understood you and am twisting your words here, please let me know). In my mind, this tendancy of Political Philosophers to start with Socrates (even if it is mostly lip-service mythlogizing, although I don't think it is entirely) suggests that he should be included on the list. Here's another possible description, let me know what you think: "Widely considered the founder of Political Philosophy" or maybe "Widely considered the founder of Western Political Philosophy." John T. Reuter 18:40, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
I added Socrates by way of a joint entry with Plato. How's that? I'm just suspicious of the game that folks like Strauss play (but also lots of less notable gamesters) in casting this "perfect thinker" Socrates, into whom they can pour whatever preconceptions they themselves wish to advance (since no writing exists to contradict it). So for Strauss, Socrates is just "Plato minus all the parts where Plato disagrees with me, Leo Strauss" (and analogously for each other mythologizer).
Treating Socrates as his own moment of thought would be like calling the widepread religion of Paulism by a mythologizing name like "Christianity", after all :-). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 18:56, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

I agree about the various mythologizers (but then people do the same thing with other philosophers. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard come to mind -- who, of course, were guilty of doing the same thing to Socrates. Ah, the joys of eternal recurrance). Anyhow, I like what you did a lot. John T. Reuter 19:35, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Well, yeah... but Strauss is trying to be sincere (a rare moment of not advocating lies), while Nietzsche knows he's just yanking our chain :-). And Kierkegaard... well, way too Danish (I love SK, but it's hard to read anything he writes at just one particular level of interpretation). Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 20:26, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

No-name additions to the "influential" list[edit]

For some reason, an anonymous editor (under two IP addresses so far) has tried adding some guy I'd never heard of (and I assume few readers have), and who isn't influential enough to merit his own WP article. It appears he is a real, minor living professor, who seems to be vaguely theologically inclined:

FRANCISCO JOSE MORENO, Ph. D., President of the Strategic Assessments Institute; former Vice-President of Philip Morris International; former Professor and Chairman of the Political Science Department at New York University; former Lecturer in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley; author of three books and over 30 academic articles; has served as adviser to two European Prime Ministers and four Latin American Presidents.

<sarcasm>As esteeemed as his tenure at Philip Morris no doubt was</sarcasm>, obviously this name has no place on the list in this article. I wonder if the IP address is one of his students or what? Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters 17:40, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Clarification paragraph[edit]

User Irgendwer keeps removing the following paragraph from the intro of this article:

Beyond the specific field of study, the term "political philosophy" may also refer to a general political view, or to a specific ethic, belief or philosophy that is primarily political in nature.

The only basis that Irgendwer has provided (in edit comments) for this deletion is a claim that it is "tautological and therefore useless". But any statement that defines a term is tautological in this sense inherently. Consider, "A tree is a plant with a trunk, branches and leaves". Defining statements are hardly useless. I suspect this is just another effort by this user to be disruptive and/or troll for attention. In order to not feed the troll, this will be the last I have to say on this topic, unless someone other than Irgendwer (or him using an imp) has any comments or questions on any of this. Also, for an insight into Irgendwer's behavior, please see: Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Irgendwer.

no signature

I keep removing the paragraph since it is completely superfluous. It doesn't contain any new information.

"the term political p. may also refer to a ... political view ... that is primarily political in nature."

The user who calls me "to be disruptive and/or troll" seems to be very confused. His sentence: "A tree is a plant with a trunk, branches and leaves" contains at least the information on entities of a tree and that trees belong to plants. But he is defending a nonsense like "The term "tree" may also refer to a botanical view on plants with a trunk, branches and leaves which are primarily botanical in nature.". So, I am very conviced to remove it in proper style. Maybe, the confused author should rephrase what he is actually meaning so that readers may find any usefulness. --Irgendwer 07:20, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Useful paragraph[edit]

I hadn't been watchlisting this article for a few months. Looking through the history, I see Irgendwer has a long history of edit warring (against every other editor, and entirely alone in his/her position) to remove the rather useful third paragraph that briefly characterizes the use of the term "political philosophy" outside of the philosophy profession itself. The informal vernacular use is absolutely worth mentioning, even though the article itself obviously addresses the philosophy profession. LotLE×talk 16:38, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

I have reasoned my revert. I assume you don't reason your rerevert by valuating by my unlucky implications in editwars. So, I have no objection against a text like you say "The informal vernacular use is absolutely worth mentioning" but this was not the text.
You changed [1] the text to:
The term "political philosophy" also informally refers to a general view, or specific ethic, belief or attitude, that is primarily political in nature, but that does not fall within the professional discipline of philosophy.
Hence, I must prove it again. Do you understand the text at all? What is "primarily political in nature"? The informal vernacular use? I think, it is better to use your own words and to abolish the bad first attempt completely.
Therefore I improve it to this proposal because you go in for the information of "vernacal use":
The term "political philosophy" also informally refers to a vernacal use to produce a broad result of a loose defintion that does not fall within the professional discipline of philosophy.
--Irgendwer 17:27, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
I haven't the foggiest idea what that sentence even means; it's not quite English.
"Informal" or "vernacular" mean essentially the same thing in this context, either adjective is OK, but we don't need both. However, I think the clause "primarily political in nature" is indeed a bit awkward. Let me try another way to express that. LotLE×talk 17:47, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
I am German. I have no problem when you change my phrases to a well verbalism. --Irgendwer 21:51, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

Irgendwer appears to have an aversion to statements that define terms that are comprised of words that are used in the definition as well, which he considers to be circular definitions. Note that here he is trying to define "political philosophy" without using the terms "political" or "philosophy" in the definition. That's as silly and pointless as trying to define fire truck without using the terms fire or truck in the definition. Note that defining fire truck in terms of fire and truck is not circular as long as the terms fire and truck are defined without refering to fire truck. Similarly, political philosophy can be defined in terms of political and philosophy as long as political and philosophy do not depend on a definition of political philosophy. A circular definition is something like this: "Ice is melted ice that is frozen." In this case, the meaning of term that is being defined, "ice", is used in the definition. That's circular (and, thus, nonsense). --Serge 18:31, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

Polemic will not help you. --Irgendwer 21:51, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

I do not mean to stir up trouble, Irgendwer. Please do not assume that I do, for that would be assuming bad faith. Actually, in my explanation above, I confused your arguments with those of Pat8722. Pat was the one who had the interpretation of circular arguments I described above, not you. Sorry about that! --Serge 00:26, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Vernacular form location: embedded or separate paragraph?[edit]

The current opening paragraph is:

Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, liberty, property, rights, law and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it should take and why, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown—if ever. In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, belief or attitude, about politics that does not necessarily belong to the technical discipline of philosophy.

Note that the final sentence mentions the vernacular usage of the term political philosophy. It seems to me that this being a separate concept, it should be in its own paragraph, not embedded in the paragraph that introduces the topic of this article. --Serge 18:39, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

I tend to dislike single-sentence paragraphs; also I feel that the contrast technical-use/vernacular-use logically flows within the same paragraph. However, I'm not vehement on this, so I'll defer to you if you want to add a paragraph break (if you are unconvinced by my brief reasons). LotLE×talk 18:45, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
Let's sleep on it. I also don't like single-sentence paragraphs, but this type of semantic clarification point is often even made in a separate Italicized paragraph at the top of the article. In that sense, is almost a disambiguity statement. Perhaps it should divert readers interested in the vernacular form to the Political philosophy category, which effectively constitutes a list of political philosophies in the vernacular sense. --Serge 19:02, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

In a vernacular sense[edit]


Your version now is:

In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, belief or attitude, about politics that does not necessarily belong to the technical discipline of philosophy.

Are your sure you mean a vernacular sense (="refers to the native language of a country or locality.")? Or do you mean rather a loose defintion (used to produce a broad result)? --Irgendwer 08:11, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

vernacular [...]
2. The everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language.
5. The common, nonscientific name of a plant or an animal.
The American Heritage (r) Concise Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition.

Hope this helps. (no, political philosophy isn't a plant or animal; but that's the main sense of this usage: common as opposed to scientific/technical usage). LotLE×talk 19:57, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

So your source is [2]. 2a. is described as dialect. You mean only 5. Yes, this helps.

Serge, do you have mean that libertarianism is a political philosphy in a vernacular sense? I must laugh. --Irgendwer 16:04, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

Too many names[edit]

An anonymous editor has recently added a large batch of names in the "Contemporary" section. As near as I can tell, what they all have in common is that they are rather non-notable a significantly influential thinkers. About half are not notable enough to yet have Wikipedia articles, and the remainder all seem to be perfectly respectable, but rather ordinary, philosophy professors (i.e. wrote a half dozen books of not-especially wide influence). Actually, there are a few more like that that seem to have been there before today. And there are also a handful of figures who are interesting in other fields, but questionably connected to this article. Arrow I can see a minimal argument for; but Sen? He's a great guy an all, but in Economics. LotLE×talk 20:04, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

In response to this complaint:
Here are Amartya Sen's publications in political philosophy up through 1970:
"Games, Justice and the General Will" Mind 74 (1965)
"The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal" Journal of Political Economy 78 (1970)
Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)
Just because a publication uses logical symbols doesn't disqualify it from being political philosophy. Political philosophy, if it is anything, is the attempt to get a coherent picture of what we think about politics. Each of these three much-cited articles attempts that. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

But this is supposed to be a tractable list of undeniably influential thinkers in political philosophy and theory, right? It isn't that Sen doesn't have a case in his favour (especially given his important exchanges with Rawls and the popular ideas of capabilities and functionings, and of course his contributions to axiomatic choice theory); it's that the list could easily expand ridiculously (as it has threatened to on earlier occasions), because there are so many thinkers who arguably have had some constructive influence on political thought and practice. In the interest of parsimony I'd be tempted to leave Sen off. However, Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters writes: "And there are also a handful of figures who are interesting in other fields, but questionably connected to this article." This surely also applies to Debord and Deluze, listed under "Influential." I think there's a case for them, certainly, but I wonder if its any stronger than that for, say, Sen? And I'll do my part this time to remove Francisco Jose Moreno from the end of the list. LK [oh, someone beat me to it! LK] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Hmmmm... I think I've removed Deleuze before (even though I'm about as close to "Deleuzian" as you'll come across). I see now that he's back. I do not object to taking him back off. And likewise, Foucault is really important in several areas, but not centrally in political philosophy. I will argue for Debord though. Even though he is less popularly known by either non-academics or in analytic philosophy departments than a lot of other names one might indicate, I think Situationism really represents something that is a fundamental break with earlier thought. You can't really imagine the New Left or the whole nature post-May 1968 political critique without a consciousness of situationism.
The idea of influence is a little hard to pin down exactly. It's not just how many undergraduate philosophy majors read an author. It's how much a thinker changes the nature of what can be thought after s/he writes. By that criteria, someone like Rawls is a fairly boring refinement of long-standing lines of utilitarian thought. Everyone reads him in Political Philosophy 105, but there a lot less "there" there than one is led to believe. Unfortunately, a certain elitism is needed to make these distinctions: someone who doesn't have a doctorate in philosophy (or at least in a related field, like poli sci), is not really in the position to judge. LotLE×talk 23:59, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
The idea of influence is a bit hard to pin down, as you say. Luckily, I do have a PhD in political philosophy and work in the field, so I 'm in a fairly decent position to judge! Characterizing Rawls as "a fairly boring refinement of longstanding lines of utilitarian thought" is, well, a bit weird: his work begins with a sustained assault on the dominance of utilitarianism in ethical and economic thought in much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He lays out a persuasive middle ground between libertarian and utilitarian positions, balancing intuitions that had yet to ever be interpreted and balanced on the basis of a reasonable account of rational judgement. Indeed, to critique Rawls's influential status with the "fairly boring refinement" indictment is rather like condemning Einstein for providing 'a fairly boring refinement' of mathematical ideas that had been around since Riemann and Poincare (who indeed is one of Einstein's contemporaries who gets too little popular credit). There might be a rough sense in which that claim is accurate, but it rather misses the point of why Einstein has been so influential.
In case it wasn't clear, I'm not pushing for Rawls not to be listed in the "top-20" type thing (27 now).
I understand, and I didn't mean to suggest you were setting up Rawls to take the fall. But he isn't simply a utilitarian, or 'libertarian-lite'. There's great novelty in what Rawls pulled off, much as there was with Einstein's synthesis of various mathematical formalisms and physical intuitions bouncing around in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Actually, in mathemetics, Einstein really is "fairly boring" too, his interest is in physics :-).
Indeed, he was actually somewhat suspicious of math (one of his teachers once chided him on this, I believe). As I'm sure you know, it was in his intuitions about time and space in particular, intuitions that had been floating around in mathematics for some time, but which needed a particular sort of vision to make sense of seemingly irreconcilable claims about the physical world ("there must be an ether" "the speed of light seems constant").
I only dwell on this -- and I know it's a bit melodramatic and pretentious -- because I see Rawls as having pulled off something vaguely analogous in normative ethics and political philosophy. Now that may be, as you hint, just another person who thinks of politics as some sort of balancing act or ledger book, but it's not as if that's some sort of capricious, arbitrary, unjustified position. LK.
I'll stick with my characterization of Rawls, but he's genuinely widely influential in anglo-american philosophy departments. Still, structurally, Rawls is just another name in a list of "political" thinkers who think politics is a double-column ledger book. LotLE×talk 14:55, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
The fact is that most of the thinkers on the "influential" list have actively shaped political thought in dramatic and enduring ways, some by refining and charting a principled middle ground between long-antagonistic ideals (Rawls), others by radically critiquing a wide swath of the preceding conceptual landscape (Nietzsche). But these thinkers did far more than simply having some influence on political practice and political opinion in a particular country and era, or influencing thought in neighbouring academic specialities -- two things that Situationism can lay claim to. But insofar as there was conceptual innovation relevant to political thought in the Situationist movement, it seems to me to have been rather modest, amounting to a merging a sort of marxist critique of capitalism with certain anarchic intuitions. Very interesting, to be sure, and still debated and refined occasionally in academia (a graduate student in urban studies and cultural theory contacted me a while back about a fascinating dissertation proposal he had put together on situationist critique of contemporary urban forms -- not really my area of expertise, but I know enough to recognize it as interesting). But situationism, for better or worse, simply has not been especially influential in political thought per se, at least not to the sort of enduring degree as a Bentham or Kant or Berlin or Rawls.
There's a time issue here as well. Someone from the 2nd half of the 20th century hasn't had enough time to be Bentham or Kant. Berlin I need to do a double take on, you mean Isaiah right?... he's so far from the "top-20", I'm afraid, that I wonder if you mean someone else; so that seems like a non-sequitor to me. But Rawls is more-or-less contemporary with Debord. I confess that I think of Debord as something of an iconic name to represent all the vaguely "New Left" thinkers. Taken together, Debord+Deleuze+Lefort+Foucault+... have been vastly more influential than Rawls by himself, but no one of the names is so clearly the "founding figure". LotLE.
I threw in Berlin (yes, Isaiah) not because I want to see him in the list (as you suggest, he's a long way from being in the same league as the 'historical greats' or even the more modern luminaries), but because I actually see him as a placeholder for a certain way of grappling with historical and analytic approaches in the modern English tradition -- sort of an anglo-american analogue of how you present Debord above. I think other people probably see him this way too, which is why so many of us use him as a stock presentation of Constant's "liberties ancient and modern" distinction, or of modern value pluralism - not because his statements are necessarily original and epoch-making, but because they are good statements of a modern set of problems. As to whether the ecumenical category of European 'new left' thinkers have been "vastly more influential than Rawls by himself," I guess it depends where you see fruitful debate in contemporary political thought going, but I certainly agree that together they loom large in recent intellectual history, and thus I agree that there's a puzzle here: this broad and pretty diverse category of 'vaguely New Left' thinkers deserves mention as influential, I think, even given your caveat about historical time frame and the judgement of history (will Rawls really be cited along with Kant in two hundred years? or Foucault next to Nietzsche?). But if Rawls gets in, then they certainly should as well. But as you say, who to choose as their representative? I wonder, as a longish-term thought, if there might be a way to rework the list as "influential movements and key representative thinkers" or some such thing? LK.
It's a fair point about Berlin. He is indeed an intelligent and articulate representative of "a certain line of modern thought". And if I'm willing to argue that "iconic" counts for the vaguely-new-left crowd, the same might reasonably apply to the liberal-synthesis crowd. I do believe that 200 years from now, Foucault will be there next to Nietzsche; while Rawls will occupy the same breath as James Mill (in contrast to his son John Stuart)—not forgotten, but not exactly pivotal either. But then, apart from our difference in evaluation of Rawls' significance; I entirely expect we'll both be dead by then, and the judgement will fall to future Wikipedians. :-)
However, following your comments, and my own reflection of them, I took out both Debord and Deleuze (the latter I wasn't arguing for, but hadn't specifically removed from the latest round either). I moved the material to the prose discussion instead. Looking at it, I think that probably works better anyway; my first brush may be less polished than it should be, but mentioning Debord (and Deleuze, et alia) in more narrative context works fine. They need not be in a "top-20" list. LotLE×talk 02:57, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
I like to name Debord becacause he is so obviously "political" and "philosophical", where some other names border on other directions. LotLE.
Btw, anon, it would be a lot better if you would sign up for an account. I'm very delighted to have another political philosophy doctorate working here, but a username provides clearer continuity between comments and edits. No need for it to be your "real" name or anything, just some spelled token that represents the common identity of your actions. LotLE×talk 15:11, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
I'll get it set up tonight or tomorrow when I have a spare moment, yes. LK.
Debord, as a scholar, certainly demands our attention, but in the same way as, say, Henri Lefebvre (who was also influential in his way, but not clearly in political thought) or Amartya Sen (great philosophical economist, but not yet at least having an unambiguous influence on political thought). Debord (Along with Deluze, Bataille, Lefebvre, Foucault, Sen) certainly belong on the longer list. But with a list featuring the likes of Rousseau, Nietzsche, Mill, Berlin, Arendt, and Rawls, seeing Debord at the end of the list is somewhat jarring to someone with a PhD in political philosophy. LK. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
I also notice that Hegel has somehow not been listed under "influential." I'm about as far from a Hegelian as anyone can be, but his influence has been enormous in political thought, for better or worse. I may set up an account later today and add him myself with a brief blurb. LK. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Okay, I've set up an account, and in a few days I guess I'll be permitted to make contributions to semi-protected pages. In the interim I'll maybe think up a one-sentence blurb for Hegel in the "Influential" section, if someone doesn't do it (or rail against it!) in the interim. --Lorenking 20:35, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
If you can give a good blurb on Hegel (qua political philosophy, not other areas), I'm happy to copy it in. Or wait a couple days for your account to be not-quite-brand-new. LotLE×talk 20:58, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Talking Point in 'Industrialization and the early modern age'[edit]

In this section it says that the Russian revolution brought Communism.. Many have argued that a state of true Communism was never attained in the Russian or indeed any other societies that have proclaimed so. I suggest it would be better to phrase it in terms of the countries promoting Marxist/Communist political ideals or the political philosophy of Marx/Communism.

Peer review request[edit]

Editors interested in this topic might like to take part in peer review on a new version of Global justice I've been working on, and/or to have a look over my proposed renovation of Justice at User:Sam_Clark/justice. Cheers,--Sam Clark 14:32, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Need input over at Anarcho-capitalism[edit]

Over at Anarcho-capitalism we've been having quite a dispute about whether or not A/C can be considered a "political philosophy". Any input would be nice.

Also, I added the "(or even if)" part to the into of this article because I feel that political philosophy can address whether or not government is needed in the first place, not simply "why" it is needed. Is this defensible? Thanks, Two-Bit Sprite 20:16, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

External links?[edit]

An anonymous editor added a somewhat questionable external link a few moments ago. The Levy essay is a somewhat rambling assemblage of blog posts. But rather than just delete it, I looked again at the rest of the external links, and have trouble seeing the real need for any of them. They are all perfectly topical, but so would be many thousands of other possible links to various essays or journal pages. Nothing apparently makes this particular list stand out; it just seems to be "what some editor read recently".

  • Political Questions: 5 Questions on Political Philosophy interviews with some of the most influential scholars in political philosophy.
  • "Philosophie / Politique - Revue permanente de philosophie politique" (Resources in political philosophy - In French)
  • Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory
  • An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Paul Newall, aimed at beginners.
  • The Full Text of Some of the World's Most Important Political Books, Online and Free*
  • Differences Between Political Philosophy and Political Theory by Jacob T. Levy.

I'm very strongly inclined to delete the whole section. But before I do so, I'll give editors a chance to explain why any or all of these are directly necessary for this encyclopedia articles, rather than just being a random sample of resources Google could perfectly well identify. LotLE×talk 18:12, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree. The 'Political Questions' link was just an advert for a forthcoming book last time I looked (and I've deleted links to it in a couple of other articles). Linking to Theoria but not, for instance, to The Journal of Political Philosophy, Philosophy and Public Affairs, or The Journal of Applied Philosophy, is just odd. And so on. Cut 'em all, for my money... Cheers, Sam Clark 09:02, 17 August 2006 (UTC)


After looking through the article and the talk section, I'd like to make a few points in my capacity of a student of political philosophy (currently writing a thesis on Aristotle's justification of the State): 1) Article could be improved by looking at the catagories within political philosophy (one such division may be that Pol. phil. is divided between philosophers who incorporate ethical philosophy and those who don't), and then organising along those lines. For an example of this kind of classification, with names attached, please check out: 2) The primary question of political philosophy is, why a State at all? In regards to this, two streams of thought: Anarchism vs. everyone else noting, of course, that classical Marxism predicts the withering away of the State). Therefore, anarchism is a germane branch of political philosophy for it provides first-order questions. The justification of the State is a contentious and very active first-order question within political philosophy. Examples of second-order questions are, if the the State is justified, what counts as a legitimate state? Third-order questions would be, for example, the legitimacy of direct democracy vs. representative democracy. 3) Aristotle has been a tremendously influential figure in this field, and should be included in the list of influential figures.

Kamahasanyi 08:46, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Hi. Your 1) sounds good - I'm all in favour of analytic rather than historical divisions of philosophical subjects - but it would take a pretty major rewrite. Go for it, if you fancy it. You're right about Aristotle, and I suggest that you should go ahead and add him, with the same sort of summary of importance that the other members of the list get. I'm much less sure about your 2) - why a state at all? is one important question in political philosophy, of course. But for better or worse, contemporary analytic political philosophy is a set of footnotes to Rawls, and Rawls is hardly interested in that question at all. Cheers, Sam Clark 09:24, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Hi, Sam. I might start a draft somewhere and see what people think. I'll add Aristotle in. Regarding Rawls and the justification of the State, Rawls's work would have no merit (other than beauty of logic) if the State is not legitimate. Of course, one can assume the State is legitimate, which is okay, phiolosophers often make a lot of various first-order assumptions. However, if aim of political philosophy is to tell us what kind of society is best to live in, then examining the validity of the state is at the heart of the matter. Simmons, for example, has spent much time working over this, as has Nozick. I'll find the Nozick quote on this over the weekend for you. Cheers.Kamahasanyi 14:23, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
I must object to Kamahasanyi's claim (2). Rather than being the "primary question", I think it's one minor question in a long list. I wrote a dissertation in political philosophy (and a bunch of professional articles, before a zig-zag into a different profession), all without that question having really crossed my mind. And in the whole of Marxist tradition, there are about two remarks that vaguely relate: the whithering thing, and the "executive committee" thing (OK, I exaggerate, but not all that much). Or Spinoza doesn't exactly go on about that question centrally. Or Marsilius of Padua, or Machiavelli. Or all the non-European traditions. Etc.
I'm glad Aristotle was added to the "short list" with a good annotation. I think his name was there before I insisted that some explanation really must be provided for why each name was there. After something like six months, no one bothered annotating Aristotle, so I probably trimmed it (maybe someone else did, but the annotation project was mostly my concern).
As to big rewrite/reorganization: With Sam Clark, I like thematic organizations too. But I think it's safer to propose a moderately fleshed out draft before just dropping in a replacement. Especially given the issue with (2), which seems to slant concerns. I don't think this article has to be chronological, but there is a certain sense to that structure. LotLE×talk 16:21, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

I wonder if we're all working with the same notion of 'primary' - I meant (and I think LotLE means) 'the central organising theme', and as I implied and he demonstrated with a whole range of examples, 'why the state?' isn't historically any such thing for political philosophy. Kamahasanyi perhaps means that 'why the state?' should be the first question for PP, rather in the manner that Descartes thought 'what do I know?' should be the first question for philosophy as a whole. That's an interesting thought, but not a good way to organise an encyclopedia article: given the historical variety of PP, it'd be a procrustean bed. I'd still support a thematic rewrite of the article, though - look forward to seeing Kamahasanyi's draft. Cheers, Sam Clark 16:40, 1 September 2006 (UTC)


This link is very usefull and should be provided on this page. [3]

Two more?[edit]

I know that the list section is already rather large, but I'm somewhat surprised that C. Wright Mills wasn't included in modern political philosophy, his works, especially "the power elite" are often cited to this day. His contribution of a more quantitative look at political philosophy and the structure of state has become a common motief in modern studies of political philosophy. The same with Robert Dahl for that matter. The fact that my university's course in "contemporary political philosophy" focuses on Locke, Jefferson, Madison, Dahl and Mills (with a little bit of others thrown in) shows something I think, they were also the promary focuses of the text we used. The progression of Jefferson being critisized by Madison being critisized by Dahl being critisized by Mills is a short summary of the progression of modern political thought. Even if they don't bear individual mention, the move from abstract philosophy and platonic ideal forms (IE The Republic The Leviathan and to some extent Locke's second trietis (SP?)) to a quantitative look at the realities of states and then a comparison to the ideals is a noteworthy one. The concept of plurality as expressed by Dahl was also a key turning point, the first big 'new' theory of government since the development of pluralism in the 1800s. I strongly think these ideas might bear exploration. Wintermut3 03:56, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Midevil Period Needs "Magna Carta" Mentioned[edit]

In 1215 the Magna Carta began major Declarations establishing man's and individual rights, including some very early womens rights.

This was a political turning point as these rights separated God given rights of all free men within the realm from royalty or government.

It began limitations to legislation (the legislative) against these rights (see Rights of the colonists 1772).

These rights can be traced through common law (up to present day), the English Constitution, English Bill of Rights 1689, The Rights of the Colonists 1772, The Declaration of Independence 1776, discussed during the U.S. Constitutional debates and the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.

See study and reference links at:

User Richard Taylor APP —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 06:36, 18 February 2007 (UTC).

History section inacurate and unsourced[edit]

This section is very poorly written, does not cite sources and is simply incorrect in certian cases. For example, the section on Islamic political philosophy states that the Islamic world was only exposed to Plato, while the West was exposed to both, thus making their current political philosohpies differnt. This is absurd. In reality, the near east was exposed to Plato AND Aristotle while the West had altogether forgotten the Greek langauge until the late middle ages. The reason the two systems are different has nothing to do with Plato or Aristotle: it has to do with the fact that most Islamic countries have a theocratic political system to some degree while the west has a secular philosophy. Someone please fix this. Djlayton4 16:44, 20 February 2007 (UTC)

List of Political Philosophers has no Precedent and should be Removed[edit]

Including such a long list has no precedent in other articles (see an article about another philosophical branch such as Philosophy of Mind). We should instead simply have a the separate list linked at the bottom and try to integrate the important philosophers into the article (as of right now it the article itself is very cursory). Djlayton4 02:25, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

More detail needed in historical sections[edit]

I would like to see more emphasis on the major themes of political philosophy covered in the different historical sections. For instance, I am of the general impression that prior to Machiavelli, political philosophy focused almost solely on justice. After Machiavelli, the emphasis shifted to power (which began the political science tradition). In the Enlightenment and after, many authors focused on economic well-being as the proper goal of good government. That sort of thing. What were the themes? -- Calion | Talk 18:08, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Scare quotes; Bernard Williams and Communitarianism[edit]

I've just done a small edit (but forgot to enter a summary) removing some inappropriate scare quotes; particularly in the section on Islamic political thought, where their inclusion seemed especially POV. I've also replaced 'Bernard Williams' with 'Michael Sandel' in the blurb on the liberal-communitarian debate, as Williams always refused to be identified as a communitarian, while Sandel's Sphere's of Justice was one of the more important books in the communitarian resurgence of the late 70s/early 80s.

- Yes, Bernard Williams in his "Morality: An Introduction to Ethics" is scathing about what he calls "vulgar relativism", which certainly puts him at odds with the core of communitarianism :)Cleeliberty (talk) 12:00, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

a couple questions and some errors[edit]

1. "Early Muslim philosophy emphasized an inexorable link between science and religion, and the process of ijtihad to find truth - in effect all philosophy was "political" as it had real implications for governance". First, I do not believe early muslim philosophy emphasized science as science, in the sense we understand the word today, simply did not exist anywhere in the world during this time. If by 'science', however, the author means something closer to the older sense of the word, where things like philology, philosophy, etc. are all sciences (and science simply = a discipline aiming for rigor and truth, however loosely), then I think the word should be changed, as it is deceptive (most people will read it and think of the modern meaning). In truth, though, I don't know what it could be changed to, and this because of my second confusion -- I have no idea what this sentence means. I am not sure what word to replace for 'science' because I don't know what the author is trying to say; I don't know what a link between science (whatever this word is really supposed to mean) and religion has to do with causing all philosophy to be political. Maybe if the two halves of the sentence were more clearly related we could figure out what 'science' is supposed to mean in the first half.

2. "Islamic political philosophy, was, indeed, rooted in the very sources of Islam i.e. the Qur'an and the Sunna, the words and practices of the Prophet. However, in the Western thought, it is generally known that it was a specific area peculiar merely to the great philosophers of Islam: Kindi, Farabi, İbni Sina, İbn-i Bacce and Ibni Rusd. So, the political conceptions of Islam such as kudrah, sultan, ummah, cemaa -and even the "core" terms of the Qur'an, i.e. ibada, din, rab and ilah- should be taken as the very basis of an analysis. Hence, not only the ideas of the Muslim political philosophers but also many other "jurists" and "ulama" posed political ideas and even theories. For example, the ideas of Hawarij in the very early years of Islamic history on Hilafa and Ummah, or that of Shia on the concept of Imamah deserve to be named as the proofs of political thought. In fact, the clashes between the Ehl-i Sunna and Shia in VII. and VIII. centuries had a genuine political character." WHAT IN GOD'S NAME DOES THIS PARAGRAPH MEAN !!!?????!!! ie, "as the very basis of an analysis" = ??? I am very murky on what this paragraph is trying to prove to me. The first two sentences (assuming that "in the Western thought, it is generally known" is replaced with "in the Western thought, it is generally ASSUMED") seem dedicated to convincing me that political philosophy in Islam is not an innovation but rather a practice rooted in the sources of Islam (Quran and Sunna). But then the rest of the paragraph becomes jargon-choked, poorly explained, and confusing. I believe the author is trying to give examples of political philosphy that existed prior to the political philosophers so as to prove that political thought originated in the quran and pre-dated political philosophers, but if this is right, the whole thing needs to be made much clearer, the examples need to be better explained, and it needs to be shown that those held up as political theorists who predate political philosophers were basing themselves on the quran (if you want to prove the quran as the source of Islamic political philosphy, you cannot just point to political thought prior to political philosophy; you must further show that that political thought in fact derives from the quran). I would try for a rewrite but I simply lack the expertise.

Mercmisfire 02:36, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

New Template: Lib[edit]

I just created a new template Template:Lib. (It's my first template). It takes one parameter, declaring whether the use on the page is "liberal", "libertarian", or "both". My idea was to use it to head articles such as Liberal International and Libertarian perspectives on gay rights where it might not be clear at first glance which meaning is intended. This would hopefully ensure consistent usage within an article, and prevent overly verbose unclear repetition from article to article. Feel free to discuss on the talk page Template_talk:Lib. samwaltz 20:35, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

John Adams?[edit]

I'm not so sure about the inclusion of John Adams on this list. This is the entry for him:


  1. John Adams: Enlightenment writer who defended the American cause for independence. Adams was a Lockean thinker, who was appalled by the French revolution. Adams is known for his outspoken commentary in favor of the American revolution. He defended the American form of republicanism over the French liberal democracy. Adams is considered the founder of American conservative thought."

I personally have never considered Adams to be that important of a political philosopher, especially in comparison to Madison and Jefferson, neither of whom are on this list. He did, however, produce some writings on politics. What I suppose I am actually saying is that if John Adams is on here, Jefferson and Madison should be as well. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Krobilla 20:02, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

Addition of Francis Fukuyama?[edit]

I think the omission of Fukuyama from the slight blink to contemporary political thinkers is bizarre.

It also seems to me that someone really needs to get to work on a comprehensive revision of this page. Although the page covers a lot of territory, I feel that it does not tell the story of the development of historical theory in a way that is accessible to any non-Poli Sci majors. Those of us who did all the assigned reading already know this information, so the page must be considered a resource primer for the uninitiated. Perhaps there is some lesson in theory that explains why no one has leapt into the breach as of yet. Wikipedia seems as close to Rousseau's state of nature as I can imagine, but still the polotical philosophy page remains in a state of chaos. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bmyrick007 (talkcontribs) 15:44, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Concluding list of notable contemporaries[edit]

Having just linked them to their WP articles, I noticed that this list seems rather limited to a certain number of perspectives and in fact university appointments. I don't know the field, but would expect certain other universities and countries might be represented. Having read this page, I understand the difficulties in being complete yet concise &c. Best wishes. ABShippee (talk) 18:09, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

Subtitle Medieval Islam[edit]

This subtitle is a contradiction in terms.

The medieval period is a period in European history. The Islamic philosophers mentioned here don't fit to this catagory but to Islamic Golden Age. I suggest renaming this subtitel to 'Islamic Golden Age'.

See Middle Ages for the following quotes:

Definition 'The Middle Ages form the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three "ages".'


Geographic issues While the term "medieval period", often used synonymously with "Middle Ages", is usually used to describe a period of European history, some 20th century historians have described non-European countries as "medieval" when those countries show characteristics of "feudal" organization. The pre-Westernization period in the history of Japan, and the pre-colonial period in developed parts of sub-Saharan Africa, are also sometimes termed "medieval." These terms have fallen out of favour, as modern historians are reluctant to try to fit the history of other regions to the European model. --Labus (talk) 09:02, 21 June 2009 (UTC)


iwant to political plz help me  —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:32, 29 September 2008 (UTC) 

Spelling: Ethusiasm is probably meant to be enthusiasm (in the last line of the paragraph about medieval islam). Please correct it, if you agree. Wiki has alltogether 6 search results for "ethusiasm ". Sorry, if wrong (I am not native English). kovacske

ctrl+F "Tocqueville" ...not found.[edit]

I... seriously? Alexis de Tocqueville, anyone? Democracy in America, anyone? Nowhere to be found in an article on political thought? Can my eyebrows defy gravity any more than they are right now? I don't think so? (talk) 02:31, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

Difference of Political philosophy and legal philosophy ignored in this article[edit]

It is important to reconsider all approach. Politic is not equal to law and vice versa. Legal philosophy has law as its subiect. Correct distinction must be done. Pethume (talk) 22:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Can you please highlight the differences between political philosophy and the philosophy of law?[edit]

Everything Is Numbers (talk) 10:39, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Plato is not the earliest example of Greek political thought, nor does fn 4 claim that he is.[edit]

The article currently includes the sentence (under History > Ancient > Ancient Greece): "Western political philosophy originates in the philosophy of ancient Greece, where political philosophy begins with Plato's Republic in the 4th century BC." This sentence is false, because there were political philosophers in ancient Greece before Plato, including Gorgias, Protagoras, and Heraclitus (and arguably Socrates, since there's a vibrant trend of reading Socrates in his own right, as separate from the ideas of Plato). Also, what about Plato's dialogues that predate the Republic and discuss political issues?

Anyway, the sentence cites a quote from Sahakian, which reads "Western philosophical tradition can be traced back as early as Plato." Note that this wording does not support the claim that Plato was the first political philosopher, or that political philosophy began with Plato, but rather that political philosophy can be traced to as early as Plato. To say that x can be traced to as early as y does not mean that x cannot also (perhaps more controversially) be traced back earlier still to z. But to say that x began with y is to say that none came before y. (talk) 13:47, 19 July 2013 (UTC)


Could "we" please put Ayn Rand in the correct place in the alphabetical list of Influential Political Philosophers. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:09, 16 June 2014 (UTC)