The Role of Sociability in Political Philosophy
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This dissertation identifies, and argues in support of, the fundamentally important role that accounts of sociability play in the project of political philosophy. I will show that assumptions about the nature of human sociability implicitly or explicitly underlie all theories of political governance. When theorists explain why a state is required (or in the case of anarchists, why a state is not required), they inevitably invoke claims about (i) the nature of humans’ pro-social and anti-social traits, (ii) whether the balance of these traits is such that individuals are able to freely and successfully interact without state intervention; and (iii) whether and how the state can help address any imbalances of these traits that would undermine successful social interaction. While this general schema – what I call the “generic account of sociability” - is found in both early modern and contemporary political theories, early modern theorists were much more self-conscious and explicit about the role that sociability plays in their theories, whereas with many contemporary political theorists, this role has become hidden or obscured. I will argue that these assumptions must be made more explicit, and must be assessed more systematically both for their internal consistency and for their compatibility with contemporary scientific findings about human sociability. There are in fact a number of unresolved tensions and ambiguities within both early modern and contemporary political theories about how exactly assumptions of sociability underpin a justification of the state’s existence. In this dissertation, I try to identify some of these key tensions and ambiguities, and offer some methodological suggestions for how political philosophy can make progress on this fundamentally important issue.