Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

Menu
Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction to Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
    3. 1.2 How Do Philosophers Arrive at Truth?
    4. 1.3 Socrates as a Paradigmatic Historical Philosopher
    5. 1.4 An Overview of Contemporary Philosophy
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  3. 2 Critical Thinking, Research, Reading, and Writing
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Brain Is an Inference Machine
    3. 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection
    4. 2.3 Developing Good Habits of Mind
    5. 2.4 Gathering Information, Evaluating Sources, and Understanding Evidence
    6. 2.5 Reading Philosophy
    7. 2.6 Writing Philosophy Papers
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. References
    11. Review Questions
    12. Further Reading
  4. 3 The Early History of Philosophy around the World
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Indigenous Philosophy
    3. 3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy
    4. 3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  5. 4 The Emergence of Classical Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Historiography and the History of Philosophy
    3. 4.2 Classical Philosophy
    4. 4.3 Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Philosophy
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  6. 5 Logic and Reasoning
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Philosophical Methods for Discovering Truth
    3. 5.2 Logical Statements
    4. 5.3 Arguments
    5. 5.4 Types of Inferences
    6. 5.5 Informal Fallacies
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  7. 6 Metaphysics
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Substance
    3. 6.2 Self and Identity
    4. 6.3 Cosmology and the Existence of God
    5. 6.4 Free Will
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  8. 7 Epistemology
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 What Epistemology Studies
    3. 7.2 Knowledge
    4. 7.3 Justification
    5. 7.4 Skepticism
    6. 7.5 Applied Epistemology
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  9. 8 Value Theory
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 The Fact-Value Distinction
    3. 8.2 Basic Questions about Values
    4. 8.3 Metaethics
    5. 8.4 Well-Being
    6. 8.5 Aesthetics
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
    11. Further Reading
  10. 9 Normative Moral Theory
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Requirements of a Normative Moral Theory
    3. 9.2 Consequentialism
    4. 9.3 Deontology
    5. 9.4 Virtue Ethics
    6. 9.5 Daoism
    7. 9.6 Feminist Theories of Ethics
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. References
    11. Review Questions
    12. Further Reading
  11. 10 Applied Ethics
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 The Challenge of Bioethics
    3. 10.2 Environmental Ethics
    4. 10.3 Business Ethics and Emerging Technology
    5. Summary
    6. Key Terms
    7. References
    8. Review Questions
    9. Further Reading
  12. 11 Political Philosophy
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government
    3. 11.2 Forms of Government
    4. 11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty
    5. 11.4 Political Ideologies
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. References
    9. Review Questions
    10. Further Reading
  13. 12 Contemporary Philosophies and Social Theories
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Enlightenment Social Theory
    3. 12.2 The Marxist Solution
    4. 12.3 Continental Philosophy’s Challenge to Enlightenment Theories
    5. 12.4 The Frankfurt School
    6. 12.5 Postmodernism
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. References
    10. Review Questions
  14. Index

11.1 Historical Perspectives on Government

Early political philosophers were concerned with ideas of justice and how best to ensure the most virtuous city. In Plato’s imagined city, the most just city is one in which each member of society occupies the social role they are the best equipped for based on their talents. The city is governed by guardians, who are trained from infancy to protect the needs of the society, with the wisest and most virtuous of these becoming philosopher-kings, the natural rulers. Al-Farabi borrows much from Plato but considers those best able to rule to be determined by heaven. Al-Farabi’s supreme ruler is the founder of the city—not an historical founder, but rather one who possesses both practical and theoretical knowledge and is not bound by any precedent or prior authority. The Mohists, in turn, think that we must have leaders that display virtues so that we may emulate them and become virtuous ourselves. The Mohists believed that individuals were essentially good and wanted to do what was morally right, but they often lacked an understanding of moral norms.

11.2 Forms of Government

Whereas Plato and Al-Farabi believed that good government could be achieved by having a virtuous leader, philosophers and laypeople have advanced other structures of government that they feel might better accomplish this purpose. Monarchies placed political decisions in the hands of a ruler who was chosen by God and so must be virtuous. Ruling authority in an aristocracy is in the hands of a small number of individuals considered to be elite members of society. However, ideas of representative government arose as class systems changed and social contract theory became popular. Later, totalitarian governments emerged as the new ideologies of communism and fascism sparked revolutions in the 20th century.

11.3 Political Legitimacy and Duty

The concept of political legitimacy grounds the authority of a political system. This is important because it is difficult to defend the right to rule if a system of government is not accepted by the people. The sociologist Max Weber identifies three sources of legitimacy: traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal. If we accept the legitimacy of a political system, then one must consider what obligations exist between the state and its citizens—and what avenues exist if these obligations are not met. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and other members of the civil rights movement recognized the legitimacy of the United States government but felt it was not fulfilling its obligations to all of its citizens equally.

11.4 Political Ideologies

Political ideology refers to beliefs about the ways in which society should be governed. Generally, this includes beliefs about what rights and responsibilities individuals have as well as how goods and resources should be distributed. Often, individuals will hold similar views in some respects, and likewise, many ideologies have features in common. This can make it difficult to create sharp distinctions between them. However, because ideological beliefs influence the actions of those who hold positions of authority in a society, it is important to attempt to understand their major underlying features. Some of the most common ideologies fall under the umbrellas of egalitarianism and conservatism, including liberalism, socialism, and anarchism, among others.

Do you know how you learn best?
Kinetic by OpenStax offers access to innovative study tools designed to help you maximize your learning potential.
Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Citation/Attribution

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/introduction-philosophy/pages/1-introduction
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/introduction-philosophy/pages/1-introduction
Citation information

© Jun 21, 2022 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.