File Name: difference between political theory and political thought .zip
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At the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians , Jason Brennan recently posted this picture outlining the distinction between political philosophy and political theory. Source: Jason Brennan, found here. Political philosophy is clear and well argued. Political theory is neither of these things. I think this is a prevalent view. As a political philosopher in the sense that I describe below , I am less familiar with political theory as a field, but I am equally certain that there are examples of works by political theorists that not only claim to appeal to empirical facts but actually do so and are also rigorously argued.
If all of this is right, then it seems that Brennan got the distinction between political philosophy and political theory wrong. Perhaps this is obvious. So, the less obvious matter is, what exactly is the distinction between political theory and political philosophy?
What is also less obvious is, why does this distinction matter? One view of what distinguishes political theory and which can be phrased in a less negative way than Brennan manages to is that political theory aims to take empirical facts more squarely into account than political philosophy.
I think this is one standard way of understanding the distinction. My own view is that, if we understand the distinction between political theory and political philosophy in this way, it is becoming less and less relevant and may even be giving way.
There are many political philosophers who have been and are working hard to take facts into account as part of their theorizing about democracy, justice, and many other topics that are central to political philosophy. There are many political theorists who have been and are working hard at taking a more philosophical and rigorous approach in their work. So, overtime, this will inevitably lead to more overlap in the way that both sorts of thinkers develop their work.
Does this mean that there is no distinction between political philosophy and political theory? As it is practiced, political philosophers tend to read certain people and work on certain problems in a way that flows from and is framed by the work that they read. Something similar could be said of political theorists. For example, it seems to me that one factor that distinguishes those working in contemporary political philosophy from those working in contemporary political theory is what they take their starting points to be.
Many of those working in contemporary political philosophy take Rawls as their starting point. In contrast, many of those working in contemporary political theory take Habermas as their starting point. These starting points become the framework for approaching the problems and issues that members of each group pursue and which, I think, leads to some difference in how these problems and issues are conceptualized and analyzed by members of each group. Another difference might be related to the sorts of journals that each group reads.
Political philosophers traditionally do not read Political Studies or Political Theory. And many political theorists traditionally may not read Ethics. As the practices of each approach become similar and intertwined, the distinction is likely to fade. I think this is likely to lead to some of the most interesting and fruitful work in political philosophy. What matters more is the question of what kind of practice counts as good practice when it comes to theorizing about political matters, whether one works in political philosophy or political theory.
Knowledge of facts and at least being sensitive to the connection between facts and theory may also be a necessary component of good theorizing about political matters. As has been pointed out numerous times elsewhere, philosophers, including political philosophers, are particularly bad at citing other relevant and related work and, as a result, may tend to rehash ideas that have already been discussed and criticized rather than developing new ideas.
This practice does not lead to progress within the field. These are just a few ideas. There are likely many more qualities that good political philosophy and political theory should aspire to. This is something worth discussing. And I say this as someone who works firmly within the Analytic tradition. Thanks, SL. I think this is starting to change, though, as there are many analytic people working on figures that were traditionally taken to be central to continental philosophy such as Nietzsche.
I am hoping that just as the divide between continental and analytic philosophy seems to be collapsing that something similar will happen with political philosophy and political theory. I think this can only improve the rigour of the theorizing in both fields. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading I conquer with you.. Add your thoughts here Email Required Name Required Website.
Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government , addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politics , liberty , justice , property , rights , law , and the enforcement of laws by authority : what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate , what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever. Political theory also engages questions of a broader scope, tackling the political nature of phenomena and categories such as identity , culture , sexuality , race , wealth , human-nonhuman relations , ecology , religion , and more. Political philosophy is a branch of philosophy ,  but it has also been a major part of political science , within which a strong focus has historically been placed on both the history of political thought and contemporary political theory from normative political theory to various critical approaches. In the Oxford Handbook of Political Theory , the field is described as: "[ For a long time, the challenge for the identity of political theory has been how to position itself productively in three sorts of location: in relation to the academic disciplines of political science, history, and philosophy; between the world of politics and the more abstract, ruminative register of theory; between canonical political theory and the newer resources such as feminist and critical theory , discourse analysis , film and film theory , popular and political culture, mass media studies , neuroscience , environmental studies , behavioral science , and economics on which political theorists increasingly draw.
I would distinguish between political philosophy, political theory and political thought and argue that all our studies approximate to one of these. By political.
Some links might be broken. But that, as we shall see, is part of the point! One qualifier before I begin: In order to compare Granny Smiths with Golden Deliciouses , I'm going to emphasize Anglo-American political theory and political philosophy. I think political theorists are typically more open to Continental approaches than are political philosophers, sharpening the institutuional differentiation; but among Continental practitioners, the theory-philosophy distinction is less sharp than it is among Anglo-American types. If that didn't make any sense to you, ignore it and move on.
Political philosophy , branch of philosophy that is concerned, at the most abstract level, with the concepts and arguments involved in political opinion. The meaning of the term political is itself one of the major problems of political philosophy. Broadly, however, one may characterize as political all those practices and institutions that are concerned with government. The central problem of political philosophy is how to deploy or limit public power so as to maintain the survival and enhance the quality of human life. Like all aspects of human experience, political philosophy is conditioned by environment and by the scope and limitations of mind , and the answers given by successive political philosophers to perennial problems reflect the knowledge and the assumptions of their times.
In addition, it would contain a detailed analysis of the reasons which govern the same and explore discerning avenues covered by political theory and political thought in the field of political science. The paper would commence with how different political writers have often used the aforementioned terms interchangeably in discussing about the same subject matter, i. Part II of the paper would deal with the discipline or the approach used for discerning political theory from political thought, wherein it would reiterate different approaches used for describing various theories, as distinguished from political thought which shows similarity in the usage of approaches, subject to the condition that they were evolved during a similar time period and place. Part III of the paper would highlight how the scope of a political thought differs greatly, in terms of magnitude, with that of political theory. Part IV of the paper would explicate how the exigencies of time result in the evolution of different political thoughts on the same subject matter, in contrast with political theories which are expounded without much regard to the time at which it is done.
In the previous chapter I offered criticism of a value-free political science. In the present chapter I examine critically the work of some contemporary political theorists who do not deny that political theory is normative, but who fail to make an adequate distinction between political philosophy and political ideology, or who simply equate the two modes of political thought. Over the past few decades much attention has been given to the methodology of the history of political thought. Important contributors to this project are Quentin Skinner and Richard Ashcraft, who, in their different ways, have stressed the significance of historical and contextual interpretation of texts of political thought.
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