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"political disunity or social strife is itself a signal of lack of justice and so evidence of bad governance."

Hmmm, surely it's, at best, a pretty imperfect signal of a lack of justice, or evidence of bad government, unless you want to suggest that no just government or well-governed society could be disrupted by people with bad intentions (witting or not) who sow strife. Maybe Socrates would accept that (I don't know), but it seems like a pretty implausible view to me.

Eric Schliesser

Hi Matt,
I take it that a well-governed society is precisely one where people with potentially bad intentions are re-directed to projects that are either harmless or rebound to the common good. I don't think that's implausible at all, but rather it's at the very core of statecraft.


Hmm, I don't know - that sounds like too much of an operational definition to me - "We know X wasn't well governed (even though it otherwise seemed to be by the normal standards we have?) because some bad people were around and caused trouble" sounds like an irrefutable, and so not very helpful, sort of claim. It also seems to deny the impact of unpredictable contingencies. I don't see the plausibility of the claim at all, I must admit. (Certainly, it seems highly a priori, and an a priori theory of good government already sounds pretty doubtful to me - but I'm just saying the same basic thing in different ways now.)

Eric Schliesser

Hi Matt,

The normal standards you (tacitly) appeal to are what are being contested.

I agree that there is an important question about how to think about contingency.


Well, to buy this approach, we'd have to have more faith in it than we would in the "normal standards" - but those are just normal social science, empirical generalization, things that have worked and been tested, etc. Does it seem likely that an a priori theory of government would be more convincing han those? I don't want to rule it out completely, but it seems pretty unlikely. Certainly we don't get anything approaching that in Plato or the others mentioned. (If anything, when we look at their own actions, we get good reason to doubt it...)

Eric Schliesser

I don't mean to be sarcastic; but I find faith in normal standards touching in light of the current President.
I don't think it is correct to treat this as an a priori theory of government. It is an empirical theory through which data and political phenomena are interpreted. (The linked passages to Mencius suggests it may also have beneficial effect to avoid victim blaming.) The passage makes this transparent by calling attention to shared experience.

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