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Political Philosophy and the Dark Arts

  • Elm Institute Library 31 Whitney Avenue New Haven, CT, 06510 United States (map)

How are political philosophy and political education related? Smith considers this by posing the question of the social responsibility of philosophy and its relation to the city. This problem, most famously explored in Plato’s image of the cave, forms the backdrop to Michael Walzer’s influential conception of philosophy as connected criticism. Smith seeks to show how this idea of philosophy requires an appreciation not only for the high principles of justice and freedom but for the problem of order which remains the first and primary political good. Order in turn requires attention to the dark arts of politics ― espionage and intelligence-gathering ― without which political life would not be possible. How are such activities justified? Standards of political justification derive not from some top-down moral theory but from the art of practical judgment by never forgetting the most important question, rarely asked by the philosophers, namely, ―what would I do?

Steven Smith is Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.

Later Event: September 11
Ethics With Aristotle