The Fall 2014 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Niko Kolodny, University of California, Berkeley. The title of Professor Kolodny's talk is "Justifying The State," (Abstract below.)
Friday, Oct 24, 3-5pm, Social Sciences 224 (1145 E South Campus Drive).
Few ideas are more common in political philosophy than the idea that because the state “uses force,” or “coerces,” or “claims authority,” or does something like that, the state must meet a special burden in order to be justified—or, to use a word that so often asserts itself here, “legitimate.” This common idea presupposes that those subject to the state have at least a prima facie or pro tanto complaint against it. And it isn't enough to answer the complaint, whatever it is, to say that the state makes things better. To answer the complaint, and so to be justified or legitimate, the state needs to satisfy some other or further condition, apart from or beyond bringing about the right outcomes. It must have the consent of those subject to it, or be acceptable to them, or some such. But what is the complaint about the state? It’s far more elusive than the commonness of the common idea would lead one to expect. I investigate several familiar candidate targets of the complaint, such as political obligation, force, and coercion. In each case, we find one or both of two things. First, if we remove the candidate target, we still have, intuitively, something that counts as a state, subject to a complaint. Second, the candidate target is, either by anyone’s lights, or at least by the lights of those who insist that there is a complaint, unobjectionable. So what then nourishes the common idea: that something about the state, or about “political rule,” raises a special justificatory barrier? I am not sure. But I explore a possibility. It is an anxiety that in being subject to the state’s decisions, we are subordinated, or put into relations of inferiority, to other people.