Politics and suffering

David Enoch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Political philosophy should focus not on uplifting ideals, but rather, so I argue, on minimizing serious suffering. This is so not because other things do not ultimately matter (they do), but rather because in the political context, the stakes in terms of suffering are usually extremely high, so that any other considerations are almost always outweighed. Put in moderately deontological terms: the high stakes carry most political decisions across the thresholds of the relevant deontological constraints. While the argument is substantive rather than exegetical, I engage in detail Judith Shklar's “Liberalism of Fear”. I share with Shklar her pessimistic starting point, but I also show how a focus on suffering (rather than cruelty and fear) is what plausibly follows from such a starting point. I then pursue the implications of this difference—they are theoretically profound, but perhaps less significant practically.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalAnalytic Philosophy
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Analytic Philosophy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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