The State

Christopher W. Morris

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 The State

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy


Show Summary Details


It is often said that the subject matter of political philosophy is the nature and justification of the state. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel thinks that political science is “nothing other than an attempt to comprehend and portray the state as an inherently rational entity.” John Rawls famously understands “the primary subject of justice [to be] the basic structure of society,” restricting his attentions to a society “conceived for the time being as a closed system isolated from other societies,” and assuming that “the boundaries of these schemes are given by the notion of a self-contained national community.” Contemporary political philosophers often follow suit, disagreeing about what states should do, and simply assuming that they are the proper agents of justice or reform. The history of philosophy and the development of political concepts seem to be central to understanding the state. The influence of Roman law and republican government, and the rediscovery of Aristotle in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, are obvious important influences. The modern state emerged first in Western Europe in early modern times.

Keywords: Aristotle; state; political philosophy; political science; Roman law; government; Europe

Article.  8631 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.