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Locating the problem of personhood for political theory

Engelstad, A; (2016) Locating the problem of personhood for political theory. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In my thesis I assess critiques of liberalism’s explicit or implicit commitment to the view that persons are socially atomistic. I show that the critiques of social atomism are often misunderstood as claiming that there is a political problem with social atomism as an ontology. l argue that there is a deeper reading of the critiques that show that the problem is not primarily with social atomism itself, but how it, as an ontology, figures in the political theory. This is a problem for the role of ontology in political theory at large. While any political theory must hold some ontology, by virtue of assuming what it means to be a political subject, some political theories pre- suppose ontologies not because of their ontic veracity, but because they fit their political intentions. Following this argument, I assess the means by which some onto- logical beliefs are picked out by our political beliefs and intentions, and I separate this from careful metaphysical conceptual investigations. Moreover, I investigate the role that these ontological beliefs may play within a larger network of political beliefs. For instance, “human nature is selfish” is a com- monly held belief, but its prevalence has been shown to be largely contingent on political and financial climate. However, this belief is treated as bedrock, as we take it to be an ontological truth. As such, it restrains what other things one can believe about human nature and social organisation. In the conclusion I aim to sketch out the possible methodological ramifications this may have for political theory, and what possible precau- tions one is to take as a political theorist if one is to avoid the problems for political theory highlighted by the critiques of social atomism.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Locating the problem of personhood for political theory
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1529867
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