States impose many demands upon their citizens through the law and the magistrates and police who enforce it. But are there good reasons why citizens should comply with these demands, or do they act merely out of a fear of punishment? Some states we seem to see as exercising illegitimate forms of power over their peoples; so what distinguishes those states from those we believe merit obedience? Or might the very idea of 'governmental authority' be a nonsense, as some anarchists have claimed?
This module will explore some of the most influential attempts that have been made to answer these fundamental philosophical questions. We will explore a range of accounts of what government is for - Is it there to help us achieve our own selfish ends? Or to help us to live good lives? We will ask what life would be like without a state: for example, would it be 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short', as Hobbes argued? The module will explore and evaluate such claims, along with the fundamental conceptions of human nature and of human flourishing that inspire them.