Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit
Chapter 13: Political ethics and biology
Political ethics is the study of right and wrong behavior in political contexts. It is better to classify it as a subfield of political science than as a subfield of the philosophy of ethics. The reason for this is the common assumption that public morality is distinct from private morality. Consider cases of coercion and violence. Actions that would be condemned as kidnapping and murder if committed by a private person may be viewed as legitimate examples of imprisonment and execution when the actor has political authority. Political ethics has always proceeded in the light of this distinction. It is concerned above all with the application of moral rules to political acts and political goals. Accordingly the field divides into the ethics of process (those moral principles that govern political actors in the conduct of their offices) and the ethics of policy (the goals that those office holders should pursue). These divisions are sometimes referred to as process and policy (Thompson, 2013). In this chapter, we will examine the implications of biopolitical science for the history of political ethics and for the divisions of process and policy ethics.
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