I doubt many philosophers would nominate "How ought we to live?" as the fundamental question of political philosophy.
Then you are not as well read in political philosophy as you might like to think. Leo Strauss (What is Political Philosophy
, Liberalism Ancient and Modern
, Natural Right and History
,The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis
, Hobbes's Critique of Religion and Related Writings
, Locke’s Doctrine of Natural Law
, and many many more ) is an important figure in the revival of ancient political thought. Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue
) is another.
It is not a very good question because it is a general question which does not have (as you admitted) a general answer.
That is why it is a very good question. It is the questions that drive philosophy, not some particular answer however general. Answers are always evaluated in light of questions. Or that at least is the basis of zetetic or Socratic skepticism (not to be confused with modern or other forms of skepticism), there are, of course, other approaches to philosophy.
There is no particular way in which "we" ought to live.
But you have offered one - in a free society in which everyone can do whatever they want provided they do not interfere with the right of others to do the same.
Because it says nothing about how anyone wishes to live. That is your misconstrual of the question of how we ought to live . . .
Sorry for the misconstrual. But I don't think it matters much for the issue at hand.
It does not matter only if one thinks that what we ought to do is whatever we wish to do. I don't agree.
Aristotle, at that point, is speaking of what we all do, not what we ought to do.
That is correct. He proceeds to the question of what we ought to do based on this basic human motivation. What we ought to do is what is most conducive to getting what we seek, that is, what is good.
And "the good" is "that at which all things aim." I.e., whatever end is sought in an action is a "good."
Er, no. Something is not good simply because it is sought. We ought to seek the things that are good, which means we need to consider the question, what is good, and from this the question of the good life. It is not that what we ought to do is imposed on us but rather it is what we ought to do in order to get what we seek, that is, what is good.
How would "politics and the political community" play this role, other than through government? Politics is the process of formulating public policy. A public policy is one implemented by law, i.e., by government.
Political life, life in the polis, is our public life, our shared life. It includes such things as civic mindedness and public virtue, consideration of not only what is to my advantage but what promotes the welfare of others and the polis itself. The marketplace is part of public or political life, that is, life in the polis. Privately funded civic organizations, charities, and events play a role.
Politics is the process of formulating public policy. A public policy is one implemented by law, i.e., by government.
That is true but that is not the whole of political life, that is, not the whole of politics, according to Aristotle.
It has two inescapable consequences I doubt you're willing to accept: First, it sets up an elitism, creating an oligarchy of the lucky few who are immune to the brainwashing and thereby entitled and even duty-bound to rule over the duped masses.
Er, no. You’ve got it backwards. What I described is an encroaching oligarchy. Immunity to “brainwashing” is conferred by education, by teaching people to search out the facts and think clearly and critically, and by a free press rather than one owned by and solely in the hands of plutocrats.
Secondly it undercuts democracy, since surely the hordes of brainwashed zombies cannot be allowed to vote. I.e., it is a rationale for Fascism and Stalinism.
Er, no. This is not an “inescapable consequence” of what I have said. As you know, the United States is not a simple democracy, but rather a representative democracy or democratic republic. We vote for our representatives, who were originally conceived of as a natural aristocracy, intended as a buffer against the tyranny of the masses. The problem is that government has become business by other means, with many of our representatives bought and paid for. Since Citizens United money talks, but hides itself in dark places from public view. The answer is an informed electorate. But Trump and his plutocratic cronies have stifled making public research findings at the EPA and are doing all they can to replace a free press with a propaganda machine.
There are no "opinion makers."
Of course there are. Opinion follows it own fashion trends. Religion is classic enduring fashion. Immigration is the newest trend. Television, movies, advertising and music still help shape opinion trends, but social media has become an increasingly important influence, which has not escaped the notice of those who are intent on influencing it in ways that single voices cannot.
… no amount of speechifying or campaign financing will persuade Chris Matthews to endorse Trump.
This shows a basic misunderstanding of what is at issue. Your first mistake was to introduce the idea of “brainwashing”. The next step is to assume that if brainwashing is real then someone like Chris Matthews can be brainwashed to endorse Trump. But since he cannot there is no brainwashing and therefore no opinion makers. Opinion makers are not brainwashers, they influence opinion in various ways - fear, emotions, patriotism, moral outrage, and misinformation.
Sorry, but I'm not seeing a threat in any of that. Just what is the nature of this threat? What harm is being threatened, and who is doing the threatening?
The more that information comes under the control of a few - what is kept from us, what is fed to us that is not true, and what is gathered from us, the greater the risk. If you cannot see that there is nothing I can say to give sight to the blind.
A constraint in the relevant sense of the term …
Since when do you get to constrain the relevant meaning of terms?
… is a restraint or a punishment, threatened or imposed by force.
Those are means of constraint. To constrain is to limit or hold or prevent.
No other form of constraint has any moral significance, because they involve no violations of rights.
Er, you jumped from my initial question regarding the constraints on members of a society, which I posed in reference to the larger question of how we ought to live, over your question of how does "society" impose those constraints, other than via government, and in response to my explaining how society does this, you claim that no other form of constraint other than restraint or a punishment, threatened or imposed by force has any moral significance, because they involve no violations of rights. Perhaps you have too many conversations going on but there is a disconnect here.
I agree that those questions are prior to questions about the role of government. But they belong to ethics; political philosophy assumes they have been answered, and focuses on the role of government.
Well, you are making progress.