Monday, 31 May 2010

Middlesex University Responds

With thanks to Philosophy's Other the official statement of the administration at Middlesex University to the recent occupation and attempt to save the Philosophy Dept. can be found here. Doubtless the campaign will have a riposte to this statement in due course but, in lieu of this, the most noticeable element of this statement is the stiff attitude it conveys of the administration who show no sign at all of reconsidering the decision to close the Dept.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

XIth International Kant Congress

I've just returned from Pisa where was held the XIth International Kant Congress. The event was held over five days and included in the region of 400 papers. So, more than is usually the case, a report on the event is naturally one that is very selective in focus and I will only here refer to a very few papers, those that made the most impression on me.

As I arrived late on the first day I only caught the final plenary which was delivered, for reasons that remain obscure to me, by John Searle. Searle is not known for his expertise on Kant and the paper he gave on this occasion certainly bore this out. In the paper he was less interested in responding to Kant than outlining what he took to be the most important "post-Kantian" option in philosophy, which turned out to be his own work. Reflecting on the history of philosophy Searle argued that classical scepticism of the type prominent in early modern philosophy (and which he took to be the source of Kant's phenomena/noumena distinction) was no longer a problem philosophically because we now "know too much" for this to be plausible. The kinds of things we apparently now "know" principally involve matters concerning causative brain processes from which Searle is fairly confident we can derive views concerning consciousness. This type of hubristic confidence aside he did proceed to lay out some interesting propositions. For example, that the self-reflexive character of learning in terms of requiring acceptance of intention to produce the intention in question is something distinctive of conscious experience. Searle also expatiated on the key role of syntax in conscious experience as in being able to make the distinction between "someone is approaching the door" and "the door is being approached by someone". Finally he set out the notion of a "status-function" which is a kind of generalisation of the classic sense of "performatives". The point about status-functions is that they create a situation by representing it as the case so that others agree it is the case. This seems to be something like a linguistic-conscious notion of what an "institution" consists in.

The second day included a plenary that I was especially interested in hearing from Beatrice Longuenesse. Longuenesse spoke on the theme of the "I" in Kant and Freud. In Kant she argued that the "I' is both the condition of and yet also conditioned by any act of discursive thinking. Further, the "I" presupposes, she suggested, a pre-discursive act of a pre-discursive "I". Finally, the pre-discursive acts and the pre-discursive "I" are below the threshold of consciousness. This picture of the role of the "I" in Kant is certainly novel though, in its postulation of a pre-discursive "I" seems a pretty strange view of what is happening in Kant. The view of it seemed partly to arise from her understanding of the role of the "I" in Freud, a view based primarily on reading meta-psychological works in which the "I" (or "ego") arises on the surface of the id as an organised complex, suggesting, in some sense, in parallel to the "pre-discursive" notion found in Kant, an operation in the pre-conscious that is structurally related to that at work in the conscious. The key to the paper was a move away from the Strawsonian view that the "I" is referential to a sense that it orders mental content by both expressing and promoting it. So the result appears to be one whereby a structural connection emerges between Kant and Freud.

Moving away from plenary speakers one of the sessions that was focused on law and justice included a notable contribution by Michael Nance on the relationship between the categorical imperative and the universal principle of right. Nance argued that actions are not in themselves things that are consistent with the universal law unlike maxims but that the relation of actions to the consistency requirement of universality has instead to do with the natural effects of actions. So maxims of right should not be seen as maxims of a subject but rather as maxims of action. If there are duties of right then coercion in relation to them is a logical consequence given that actions that violate duties of right do in themselves constrain the possible scope of freedom of others. There is no direct appeal to the categorical imperative in the argument for coercion but an indirect use of it is made given that the universal principle of right is a specification of the categorical imperative. So the universal principle of right is not a fitness criterion (as some take the categorical imperative to be) but a consistency requirement in relation to external freedom.

One of the highlights of the conference was undoubtedly having the chance to hear Pauline Kleingeld speak. Her paper addressed the question of the nature of Kant's cosmopolitanism in relation to contemporary conceptions of cosmopolitanism such as are presented by thinkers influenced by and critical of the work of John Rawls. Kleingeld's paper was, however, mainly a reply to works of Samuel Fleischacker which, according to Kleingeld, present Kant as a defender of international free trade. In response Kleingeld pointed to the restrictions on free trade Kant made in terms of slavery and colonialism. The essay on universal history argues that contravention of civil freedoms also damages trade and the essay on theory and practice allows for certain restrictions on imports. Finally, as is well known, Perpetual Peace includes an argument for the restrictions on trade that were imposed by China and Japan in their trade with the West. However, the result of these points is not, on Kleingeld's view, some general justification of protectionism although the fact of them does show that Kant was not simply committed to free trade. Kant's notion of a republic includes claims to defend taxation and in the realm of justified taxation there is reference to material well-being. This goes so far as to give grounds for taxation of property and trade. Kleingeld further recognises that until the lawful state federations reached in Perpetual Peace and the Metaphysics of Morals has been achieved that all law is provisional. However, to unify republics in such a federation is not to do away with background conditions of justice. Kleingeld was clear in recognising that cosmopolitan right covers trade including allowing for restriction of trade if failure to restrict it would result in being colonised. However, in relating Kant's position to that of Rawls, Kleingeld claimed that the Rawlsian view was more "statist" than the Kantian one by which she seemed to mean that the insistence on a law "of peoples" involved a greater insistence on treating states as moral persons. This point is arguable in two ways. Firstly, Kant explicitly relates to states as moral persons which is one of the reasons why he opposes the world state. Secondly, the "peoples" Rawls refers to would have to be carefully comprehended and can't simply be identified with "states". Kleingeld responded to recent allegations concerning the alleged "racism" of some of Kant's essays by arguing that the position expressed in them was comprehensively rescinded in Perpetual Peace.

Going back to a plenary paper, Barbara Herman addressed the alleged conflict between Kant's "rigorism" and the provision, in the Doctrine of Virtue, of an elaborate notion of casuistry. Herman argued that the notions of rigorism and "empty formalism" are often run together and that rigid rules emerge from purely formal input. On her view the categorical imperative procedure in the third part of the Groundwork requires content to be provided from elsewhere. Herman rightly argued that the Groundwork is not a work of normative ethics. She argues that what does get illustrated, however, in the Groundwork, is one way in which we often go wrong, namely, by an over-reach of justificatory premises in the service of self-interest. A second way we go wrong is that final ends are taken as wholly discretionary. By contrast to the Groundwork the Metaphysics of Morals provides an argument for the ends we do have a duty to adopt. Once these ends are given there is no "empty formalism". So the Groundwork is mainly understood as a response to "errors" in moral reasoning and these errors basically boil down to demoting the universal law to a merely general significance on the basis of inclination. In illustration of this Herman spoke about the example of suicide in the Groundwork arguing that it makes no sense to say I would be healthier (or better off) if dead as pleasure and pain are intra-life rather than transcendent of life. However, rational nature as an end-in-itself could be threatened by certain types of "pain" and this would enable grounds in such instances to be given for permissibility of suicide. So it is not that there are "exceptions" to the rule here but that in certain circumstances there are reasons to appeal to a different rule. That this is so is further illustrated by the way that Kant speaks differently about the suicides that might be carried out by people in public positions as these relate clearly to a different rule. Talk of "exceptions" to the rule thus arises from thinking about duty in terms of act-types whereas it should instead be understood in relation to the will. Herman also spoke about the much-touted problem of partial benevolence using the example of parental partiality towards their children. Here she argued that it is not the love of parents for their children that justifies this partiality but rather the need of the children for this love. This appears to be a kind of argument for schematization of practical love since Herman went on to talk of how the partiality of love here gives it structure and aim and that this enables it to have greater order.

These were far from all the papers that I could mention. Paul Guyer gave a paper on freedom and the ends of reason that seemed mainly to consist in referring to unpublished fragments at great length without, unfortunately, distributing the texts of the fragments in question so that listeners could decide how good his interpretations of them were. Further, given the large numbers of papers and the over-lapping way they ran, it was hardly possible to take in more than a fragment of the conference itself. However, the participants certainly more than proved the vitality of the study of Kant as there were papers in four different languages, English, French, German and Italian and an array of papers from people from all over the world. Further, the general level of debate was high with speakers being frequently given very difficult questions to answer and the discussions were far from restricted to the sessions. Generally the optimism I felt at its conclusion both for the study of Kant and for philosophy in general was very pronounced.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Liberalism in Politics and Philosophy

One of the undeniably interesting elements of the fact that Britain now has in government members of the Liberal Democrats is the opportunity it opens up for discussion about the nature of liberalism. In a thoughtful, if, unsurprisingly, somewhat biased posting, Stuart White argues that there is an important distinction between the beliefs of some of the Liberal Democrat members of the current cabinet and the most important liberal political philosophers of the most 40 years. The suggestion White makes is that the standpoint of the recent liberal political philosophers is broadly egalitarian but that of the Liberal Democrat ministers is not. There are two pieces of evidence in his argument. The first concerns the paucity of reference to political philosophy in some books he takes to be particularly important in the recent history of the Liberal Democrats. The importance attached to these books is, however, far less evident than White suggests since, for example, such an undoubted social liberal as Simon Hughes can be (and has been) given support in his bid for the Deputy leadership of his party by Vince Cable, identified by White as an "economic" liberal. So it is not as evident as White thinks that positions can be read off from the books he cites to political actions and decisions.

The second reason White relies on concerns a specific policy matter. However, given that egalitarian ends are not evidently tied to specific modes of delivery this piece of evidence is not as solid as he thinks either. The more interesting element of White's position doesn't concern either of these alleged pieces of evidence. Rather, the interesting point concerns the fact that recent liberal political philosophy has no evident tie to market mechanisms since the "basic structure" as Rawls would put it is rather viewed through normative principles and mechanisms are then viewed in relation to them. Politicians, by contrast, do tend to begin from consideration of the "here and now" and then look at principles in relation to them. Is this a difference in focus between politicians and philosophers? Certainly Kantians generally should start from principle rather than an appeal to the given conditions since otherwise the dangers of sacrificing principle are obvious enough. The question remains whether this is a position that working politicians ever take and hence whether, if a "Kantian liberal" comes to support a Liberal government whether this support will not, inevitably, have to have a critical edge?

Middlesex Suspends Its Staff and Students!

In the increasingly bitter battle over the fate of the Philosophy Department at Middlesex University the management have taken the striking step of suspending 3 members of staff and 4 students. This rather drastic step is detailed in an extensive way  over at the website of the campaign to stop the closure. As is made clear there the basis of the suspensions is, in any case, somewhat dubious since it seems to violate standards of natural justice, restrict free speech and is, in any case, contradictory in terms of its application to the activities of staff. The Professors' group at the university has also submitted a letter attacking the decision made to close the Philosophy Dept. This group was set up by Professors entirely independent of the structures of the university but the university has also barred the suspended members of staff from attending it!

In addition to the protests of the campaign their has also been an outcry against both the suspension decisions and the broader step of closing the Philosophy Dept from publishers and has inspired a recent article in the New Statesman. The action of suspending members of staff has also led to a campaign for an academic boycott of the university. One of the results of this has been that the poet Michael Rosen has formally renounced the Visiting Professorship he held at Middlesex. Finally, on my recent visit to Pisa for the International Kant Conference (about which, more anon), the subject of this closure was raised with me several times by delegates from both the US and other European countries. 

Friday, 21 May 2010

Stanford Encyclopedia Entry on Kant

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has just published a new version of its entry on Kant. It is by Michael Rohlf and can be found here

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Major Civil Liberties Push in the UK

Nick Clegg marked his moment as the new Deputy Prime Minister of the UK by launching a major new programme of civil liberties including the removal of the Labour Party's ID card programme, the ending of finger-printing in schools of children without their parents' consent and the review of libel law. The speech further mentioned reform of the House of Lords and removal of many criminal offences created by Labour. After a decade of erosion of civil liberties in the UK this is seriously welcome. Read the whole speech here.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

KCL and Sussex

Back to news about threats to close philosophy departments and the resistance to them. It appears that the philosophers at Kings College London have won their battle as the latest consultation document published there shows a new commitment to keep them all in place (and includes a decision to keep the threatened chair in palaeography). This victory, in response to a large campaign, is definitely to be celebrated.

By contrast, over at Sussex University there appears to be rather less good news as the management there have decided to charge students for a sit-in in protest at plans to make staff redundant, something that has prompted a letter of protest in the Guardian. 

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The UK's Coalition Government

There has been much ink spilt since the inconclusive result of the recent UK general election and the country is now returning, after a season of high political fever, back to a more gentle normality. However, given my previous posting, just prior to the election, presenting the contest in certain philosophical terms, it is worth adding a brief comment on the outcome.

Certainly, when I wrote my previous posting, I did not anticipate the outcome that has emerged. Like many senior members of the Liberal Democrats I anticipated, in line with the opinion polls, that they could overtake the Labour Party as the main opposition. The actual outcome of the election did not produce such a result. Instead, despite improving the percentage of their vote and increasing their total overall vote, they in fact lost ground in terms of representation in Parliament. The Labour vote did, however, collapse to an historic low producing an arithmetical outcome which did not follow expected political logic.

Given this situation the improbable became the inevitable and the Liberal Democrats are now in coalition with the Conservatives. It is not possible to comment in great detail on this given that the negotiation agreement issued does not cover the full range of policy and is particularly quiet on foreign policy. However, the relationship of this agreement, such as has been made public, to my earlier argument for a "progressive" politics is what I wish to review. In the earlier posting I pointed out many failures of the last Labour government and, given its lamentable record on civil liberties, there are good reasons for being pleased it has passed into history.

I used a guideline of social justice to assess what is "progressive" and on some of these measures the agreement, as published, does not meet these. So, for example, in regard to higher education, the best policy commitment of the Liberal Democrats was for the scrapping of tuition fees and a commitment to free education. This has been dropped with the adoption of the policy, highlighted by both the Conservative and Labour parties prior to the election, of listening to the outcome of a review into student finance. Since it is common knowledge that this review will lead to increase of fees this is a poor outcome masked only by the fact that Liberal Democrats will be allowed to abstain in a vote on the review should they find it unacceptable. Generally that is round one to a reactionary position.

A second point on which I laid stress was rebalancing of the economy away from such a large reliance on finance. In relation to this the agreement speaks of fostering of diversity in the banking sector and promotion of mutuals, both good ideas. Similarly the need for further regulation of the system is explicitly recognised though the details of this are again left to a review. More importantly, the commitment to ensuring credit to small and medium size businesses including consideration of a major loan guarantee and use of net landing targets for the nationalised banks are very good gains. There is still some question about detail of the latter so this second part could be said to be a qualified progressive victory.

Commitment to political reform was the next point I raised. Some unexpected features have emerged here with fixed parliaments being agreed for the first time, something which involves a major shift of power away from the executive. There is further to be a referendum bill on electoral reform in order to ensure a referendum can be held on changes to the voting system. Although the change will not be to a fully proportional system if agreed it still will mark an improvement on the present system. Further proposals are included for a "wholly or mainly elected upper chamber" on the basis of proportional representation. This is a major gain and, along with the commitment to fixed parliaments and the referendum on voting reform marks a progressive agenda for constitutional change.

The most major area of progressive improvement, however, is in relation to civil liberties. After years of intrusion by the Labour government there is to be a freedom bill that will repeal  the ID card scheme, the national identity register, and the outlawing of finger-printing at school without parental permission. The Freedom of Information Act will be extended, trial by jury is guaranteed, restoration of rights to non-violent protest, review of libel law, regulation of CCTV and the ending of the storage of internet and email records. This is a major achievement and marks a decisive progressive step forward.

On balance, then, the issues specifically identified in my previous posting have been addressed and given this the government does qualify for the title of "progressive", certainly by contrast to the Labour Party. This does not, however, mean that its rule will be uniformly pleasant given the cuts in public services it will most certainly introduce and, given that all parties had poor policies on higher education, we can expect a particularly difficult time in higher education. Foreign policy is also an area on which little has been said but in which it cannot be anticipated that there will be much that will involve ideals of internationalism. The result then should be one of guarded and mitigated welcome for this coalition but welcome it should still be.

Finally, looking back at my previous postings on the manifestoes of the political parties, I can point to the fact that in the posting on the manifesto of the Liberal Democrats, I drew out there that the logic of their claim that there needed to be a Council of Financial Stability, led to the notion of a National Government, precisely what has now been formed. Interestingly, in hindsight, this also chimed with the Conservative view, as expressed in their manifesto, of the need for a Office for Budget Responsibility, which has been now established but whose functions are similar to those of the Liberal notion of the Council of Financial Stability.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Voting and Secrecy

I've been reading some John Stuart Mill. To be precise, I've been looking at his essay Representative Government. It's a curious text in lots of respects, not least in its arguments for proportional representation, which are largely drawn from a pamphlet Mill had read on the subject. In the course of the work Mill also makes clear that a democracy that doesn't include some recognition of educational qualification for the franchise has problems, even leading him to propose the kind of tests for literacy that were subsequently used to disenfranchise black people in Reconstruction America, not, of course, that he would have expected that!

Amongst other features of this odd work is a chapter in which Mill recants his previous support for the secret ballot in elections. The first part of the argument concerns the question what kind of thing is involved in having the capacity granted one to vote. It is common to treat this as a "right" and it was so argued by John Bright in his, ultimately successful,  campaign for the extension of the franchise to working men in the 1860's. Mill, however, argues against this view of the vote, claiming instead that a vote is not a "right" but a "public trust". The difference, on Mill's view, is that a right does not require consultation of the public in terms of its disposal. Right is thus modelled by Mill on property ownership as he makes clear when he says that if voting is a right then there is no basis for objection to selling one's vote. The odd thing in this claim is that it entails that rights are only, on Mill's view, "private" and cannot be regarded as "public". That which is "public" has to fall under the heading of "trust". Mill's conception is one he here really takes for granted as he provides no argument in the context for thinking that right has to be construed in this way.

If this is a problematic part of Mill's argument it doesn't necessarily go to the core of it. The basic problem he is addressing is that secrecy in relation to voting encourages the view that casting the vote is something one can do without thinking of the consequences of so doing on others. So the difficulty Mill is addressing is how to ensure that voting is related to as a public duty and not merely an exercise of private caprice. One of the interesting elements of this point is that it cuts to the basis for political argument. Often people find political argument distressing and unwelcome, as it certainly can be, particularly when it involves friends or people with whom you are close. However, there is a basic reason why political argument exists which is that by means of it we hope to attain to a fuller understanding of what kinds of actions and principles are most likely to lead to outcomes we can generally see are the best for the greatest number of those affected. Putting it like that gives it a kind of utilitarian twist and, in some sense, utilitarian considerations surely are important in politics. They are far from the only considerations, however, since, in addition, there are questions touching on political right in the sense Mill seems not to allow.

Leaving aside the problem of public right for now, however, Mill's basic case against the secret ballot is that it detracts from the need to take consideration of the public good when it is cast. Mill is not insensible to the contrary argument that making voting public creates a potential problem of intimidation and acting under duress. In response, however, Mill tended to think that the wide extension of the franchise would militate against this since he assumes that under a universal franchise there will be no effective power that can counter that of the general public. In this he was, as Habermas has since indicated in detail, seriously mistaken. Mill did not account for the rise of a mass media that had concentrated ownership and whose owners might not have any particular connection even with the public voting due to not even being citizens of the polity. This effective power is not, of course, one that has any way of affecting a secret ballot in any direct sense but its representatives could have even more influence than they currently do in an open ballot. More widely Mill does not seriously consider the arrival of any type of organised pressure on those voting by agitators of many kinds. This is a clear blindness in his analysis.

However two key questions emerge from thinking about Mill's arguments against the secret ballot. Firstly, what sense if any can we give to describing voting as a "right"? This question relates to the problem of what is involved in thinking of such a notion as "public right" at all, a notion that Mill seems not to allow. Secondly, what are the limits of publicity in regard to public right? If we disagree with Mill and support the secret ballot then we do think that certain things which are closely connected to the public good are not necessarily themselves best understood in terms of a principle of publicity. If this applies to the case of voting then what else does it apply to? 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Middlesex Up-Date

The campaign against the closure of the Philosophy Dept at Middlesex continues apace and has received wide coverage including on radio programmes and in major newspapers. The management of Middlesex have made much of the claim that the dept only recruited around 12 students per year on average, something that takes account only of the BA Philosophy degree, neglecting coverage on combined honours courses and which does not relate to the post-graduate provision, especially on the MA. To see a detailed description of the campaign, the case for saving the Dept and extensive rebuttal of the management case please visit the website of the campaign.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Free Speech and Twitter

There has been a successful criminal prosecution in the UK for a tweet. The case in question concerns Paul Chambers, who, when stuck in an airport in January during snowfalls tweeted that the airport had a week to get everything together or he would be "blowing the airport sky high". After the airport became aware of the tweet he was arrested on suspicion of making a bomb hoax but eventually prosecuted under a law making it an offence to send "indecent, obscene or menacing" messages over a public electronic communications network.

Mr Chambers' conviction raises questions about free speech. Tweets are public in a similar way to blog postings. When a tweet is sent out you have no control over who will read it or what interpretation will be placed on what you have written. This is true for blogs unless you explicitly set them up to be private networks. Given Mr Chambers' conviction I wouldn't like to make statements of annoyance concerning inconvenience on a blog posting since these could clearly be misconstrued and lead to prosecution!

More seriously the line between speech and action is here interestingly brought into question. Clearly some forms of speech and written comment are classed as effectively being equivalent to actions whilst others are not and there is some leeway here. Writing: "I am going to run into a theatre and shout 'fire'!" is not commonly regarded as equivalent to actually going to the theatre and performing said action and nor even can the act of writing the said comment be taken necessarily to entail that the said action will follow. Similarly, it would seem curious to interpret Mr Chambers' tweet as a real statement of intent.

Nonetheless other types of statement that are made either in speech or writing are effectively equivalent to actions. So racially offensive speech and writing tends to be viewed as provocative in the sense that it expresses an intention to degrade someone in such a way that there is, in some sense, "violence" in the speech act itself. The core problem with this concerns which types of speech act fit within the said definition. So pornography has been the source of heated debates, for example, though, it has to be said, that this mainly concerns heterosexual pornography aimed at heterosexual men. Such pornography, it is suggested, demeans women in much the way racially offensive speech degrades minority racial groups. The resistance to this does not merely centre on problems concerning art works and the distinction between erotica and porn.

What both these examples, in any case, bring into view is that the boundary between speech (interpreted in the wide sense to include writing and even pictorial representation) and action is not clearly fixed. So does Mr Chambers' tweet really cross this line? It doesn't strike me that it does since the context of the tweet in question is clearly expressed within it. This would provide one boundary line for protection of tweets in certain circumstances. However, such a boundary might well not be easy to draw and what does emerge from this is the peculiarity of media that are open to mass contributions. Previous forms of media, such as newspapers and television, were based only on selective contributions from people specially employed to make them. As such, contributors to these media were trained in, amongst other things, libel law and laws that, for various reasons, regulated free speech. With the advent of mass media that are open in terms of contribution a new situation arises. I am sure Mr Chambers had no desire to cause problems and that he had no notion of controlling his expression in relation to potential consequences concerning its interpretation. I am equally sure he will not tweet again so innocently. What the case does suggest is that the arrival of such new media has created a whole new set of problems concerning the regulation of speech and that this should lead to the need for wide public discussion and consultation concerning what really can and cannot be said on them and how the boundary concerning this should be drawn. Unless there is some such move then the depredations of the Digital Economy Bill are likely to be visited widely across the world with untold casualties. 

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Philosophy, Politics and Political Philosophy

As it is the day before a general election here in the UK and as many of my recent postings have concerned this I thought it was probably time to write something, albeit brief, concerning the relationship between philosophy and politics. Philosophers are not interested in politics in exactly the same way as anyone else. Whilst a philosopher, like any citizen, does have to think through policies of political platforms and consider what appears, for various reasons, the best action to take in a given circumstance, there are also some overarching questions that need to be addressed.

The overarching questions include what the general justification is of government (assuming that one is not an anarchist), what basic size of government is justifiable and what the basic ground is of the contract that enables there to be government. So, in Kant's Doctrine of Right (which I intend to focus on in more detail) there is quite a bit that fits a social contract model but this has to be set against the apparent presence in his work of references to natural law as well. These elements arguably are in tension with the discussion of the social contract although without some sense of right that is not covered entirely in public right there is a definite tendency for social contract theory to justify any action by government (dangers apparent in the examples of both Hobbes and Rousseau). Similarly, the ends of government relate to a number of details that remain of central relevance, including questions about the nature and extent of justifiable punishment, the grounds on which redistribution can be justified and the basis of "right" itself.

Some of these questions have influenced comment I have made recently on contemporary matters, including the remarks of Lord Carey on "religious rights" and the general argument I have given for support for the Liberal Democrats in the present UK election. However, the specifics of given policies and the response to particular elections are matters of politics rather than political philosophy. What I hope to bring out in the blog in future is the relationship between politics and political philosophy by drawing out, in analysis of Kant's fundamental political principles and their relationship to contemporary political philosophy, some definite implications for day to day political response and decision. In doing this I will, at least initially, say less directly about specific politics but, in the process of drawing out these views, enable a greater degree of philosophical insight to inform the political positions advanced.