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John Simmons the limits of morally permissible partiality, and their appeals to patriotism in order to justify policy or to motivate compliance must be dramatically curtailed. It is not, of course, as if nobody has noticed a possible dark side to the recent national surge of patriotic rhetoric and motivation. But exactly what it is that people think has gone wrong is less clear.
Such criticisms might be aimed at a variety of phenomena, of course. Some of these phenomena seem to be problems, even quite serious problems, but not problems that are very interesting from a philosophical point of view such as my own ; indeed, most of these phenomena seem not to have much to do with patriotism, properly understood, at all. Such complaints become particularly forceful when conjoined with the quite reasonable belief that genuine love of country would produce something more substantial, more informed, and far less easy than these gestures.
Domestically, we have recently reconsidered the status of the unsurprisingly named USA Patriot Act which, of course, was initially passed and signed with overwhelming bipartisan political support. That act includes a stunningly vague, overly broad account of what it is to be a terrorist or to aid a terrorist organization—you apparently qualify, for instance, if you give money to a charity that supports the general aims of the IRA. The Patriot Act permits the attorney general to detain without charges for significant periods of time those suspected of being or aiding terrorists, while greatly relaxing a wide variety of important limits on police powers where suspicions of such activity are at issue.
The recent revelations concerning widespread official monitoring of communications between American citizens, for instance, merely emphasizes the already obvious hazards. Such extremes may or may not flow from genuine patriotism. But either way, they still count as extremes, and, with apologies to Mr.
Goldwater, extremism in the defense of any value is a vice.
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But none of this, we might say, really has much to do with genuine patriotism—that is, with the sincere, nonextreme kind of trait that one might reasonably value highly or think was a virtue. For one way of understanding the criticism is that although a modicum of genuine, sincere patriotism is a good or at least an acceptable thing, there can be such a thing as too much genuine, sincere patriotism. And that suggests a number of philosophically interesting possible claims about patriotism.
First, on the positive side, it suggests that patriotism should not be regarded as simply in itself wrong or vicious. John Simmons sometimes, or in some measure, morally acceptable, and possibly even morally obligatory or morally virtuous. This appears to capture the ordinary, nonphilosophical view of patriotism, according to which it is uncontroversially morally acceptable for citizens—or at least for our citizens—to show various kinds of favoritism toward their country and their compatriots.
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But this is also, of course, a view that for many philosophers appears to conflict with influential and compelling traditions of thought in moral philosophy. Second, if there is such a thing as too much patriotism, then although patriotism might be a virtue, it cannot be an unconditional or categorical virtue or a categorical duty of citizenship.
For it would not make much sense to say that a categorical virtue is only sometimes a good thing or that there can be too much of such a virtue. While we might, I suppose, sometimes be inclined to say that a person was too courageous or too just, the best way to understand such remarks would surely be as a way of saying that the person had in fact simply missed the virtuous mark, missing the virtue of courage to possess instead the vice of foolhardiness, say, or allowing the virtue of justice to decay into the vice of inhumanity.
Just what kind of virtue, then, is patriotism, if there is sometimes like now in the United States, say too much of it? II What is it, exactly, that people might be objecting to when they object to patriotism?
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As far as I can tell, most people—or, at least, most Americans—would not say that they object to their fellow citizens loving their country though, as I will suggest, this particular kind of love is disturbingly hard to characterize precisely. Most have no special animosity toward, or principled objections to, relatively routine displays of national symbols such as flags flying over public buildings or on private homes ; periodic patriotic frenzies as on the Fourth of July or Memorial Day ; or teaching patriotism by rote, by performances of certain kinds of patriotic rituals—such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or perhaps a suitably edited version thereof.
It is surely acceptable, perhaps even laudable, for us to love our country; to admire the principles on which it was founded, its traditions and institutions, its folk history; to support its representative athletes and sports teams; to wax lyrical over its natural beauty. What is it in patriotism, then, that we object to? We teach them to regard as traitors. There is also said to be a more active side to patriotism that is equally frightening—namely, a certain kind of natural militarism. It is no coincidence that the Patriot is the name of one of the U. The standard American image of the patriot is that of the colonial-era minuteman incidentally, the name of yet another kind of U.
Though the patriot is typically defined as one who loves his or her country, the standard American portrayal of the patriot is more as tough and unyielding than as loving. The New England Patriots makes sense to us as the name of a football team, because it conveys the idea of a group of hard-nosed warriors; the New England Romeos would serve less well. And beyond these militaristic associations with or implications of patriotism, many people worry that real patriots may be the easiest 40 A.
John Simmons targets for manipulation by those in power who wish to secure legal compliance or support for government policies, even when such compliance or support is morally objectionable; and they may also be most likely to fall in step with those who see their own country as the chosen one or morally superior to all others, even when as there may never be there is no foundation for such views. But some ordinary people—and many moral and political philosophers—are uncomfortable with patriotism even when most of their moderate compatriots would not be at all inclined to call it excessive, and even when they themselves would not characterize it as or even as likely to become fanatical or militaristic.
Some are simply uncomfortable with the suggestion, which they see as implicit in any kind or extent of patriotism, that other countries and noncompatriots matter less than their own country and compatriots. To be a patriot is, at the very least, to be prepared to give priority or special attention to a particular class of claims or interests.
Moral and political philosophers who accept such claims are generally defending, presupposing, or arguing in terms of moral theories that are characterized as impartialist, neutralist, or universalist.
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Kantian and utilitarian theories are those most commonly described as impartialist, though of course, many other kinds of moral theories—such as many natural law theories—might equally fit the bill. And the argument is that impartialist moral theory of whatever kind must condemn patriotism of even the most mundane sort. This supposed rejection of patriotism by impartialist moral theory is, of course, just one illustration of a much larger animosity that such theories are alleged to have toward all kinds of special attachments, allegiances, or relationships.
Friends, lovers, family members, and other close associates also fall in the class of those to whom we typically feel or, in some cases, feel as a matter of definition we should pay special attention, ranking their interests and needs ahead of the equally serious interests and needs of strangers. Impartialist moralists, it is sometimes claimed, must dismiss such feelings as, for the most part, morally uninteresting, or Patriotic Leadership 41 at least as irrelevant to our true duties. I can, of course, legitimately do some quick calculations.
For example, I may know my own child is a dullard, unlikely to contribute much to the general welfare, making the rescue of the other child a pretty good bet; or I may know that my peculiarly strong emotional attachment to my own child will wreck me if I save the other child—a large utilitarian cost—though we should all know better than to get so attached to the little tykes.
But in the end, only such circumstantial advantages in particular settings will allow a good moral agent to favor those close to her over those at greater emotional distances. Now these circumstantial advantages may often go quite a long way toward justifying our paying special attention to those close to us. It is, after all, typically much easier and much less costly for parents to provide care to the children living in their own homes, for governments to provide services to their own subjects, for citizens to support their own states.
Indeed, it may often simply be impossible for us to satisfy the equally pressing needs of, or to demonstrate equal consideration for, those at great distances from ourselves. But however far down this path circumstantial advantages may take us, they cannot take us all the way to a justification for always giving special weight to the interests of family or homeland. All are still equally worthy of respect, the happiness of each still counts for one. And patriotism involves commitments that deny these impartialist truths.
III Such arguments have been accepted by a wide range of philosophers with quite different agendas and quite different orientations in moral theory. John Simmons or set of persons, but rather to the community of humankind. The demands of morality require us to forswear patriotic attachments. While special attention to our own families or countries may typically be acceptable, this cannot be because what is close to us is better or because the interests of family or country outweigh those of others; it can only be because our lives are so structured that such special attention happens to be the best way to do impartial good.
But these very same claims about the hostility of impartialism to patriotism are also accepted by others whose intent is to use these claims as part of an argument for rejecting impartialism—just as philosophers have frequently tried to reject impartialism by appealing to the implausibility of its apparent denial of special obligations owed to family or friends.
That is, MacIntyre thinks that patriotism can be a virtue because the correct moral theory may require precisely the kind of partiality toward the local that patriotism allegedly involves. Our moral obligations are tied to the needs of and to the roles we play within our communities. A partialist moral theory will take seriously, for instance, the fact that the survival of any political community depends on the willingness of its citizens to lay down their lives for its well-being, independent of their assessments of the impartial moral desirability of doing so.
And patriotic loyalty is necessary to such willingness. Notice that with the addition of one more premise—namely, that the survival of political communities is an impartial good—this could be an impartialist argument for patriotism. But liberal impartialism is similarly morally dangerous, he argues, because of its tendency to break down the local social bonds on which our communal existence depends.
Others have claimed that communist anarchism is the logical endpoint of liberal impartialist reasoning about patriotism. He defends patriotism while, as it were, cheerfully acknowledging exactly what it is about it that makes people uncomfortable. And that, of course, should trouble us. But if the alleged virtue is conditional in this strong a sense, it is unclear to me, at least why we should think of it as a virtue at all.
After all, an extremely wide variety of character traits have beneficial consequences when, and to the extent that, they do not have harmful consequences. But these traits are not all virtues; nor do I think that patriotism, conceived of as a constant source of moral danger, can be regarded as a real virtue. Courage and moderation, for example, are not in this way permanent sources of moral danger. They are virtues precisely because they are steady, reliable traits from which moral impropriety is extremely unlikely to flow, perhaps because they necessarily incorporate or are necessarily accompanied by wisdom.
The traits that constantly teeter on the edge of becoming foolhardiness and self-denial are not in fact courage and moderation, nor are they virtues. No trait that constitutes a permanent source of moral danger can be a real virtue. John Simmons interesting, since it seems clear that it simply is not necessary to defend patriotism as he does, against the background of some imagined inconsistency between patriotism and the demands of impartial morality.