Intro Phil: Social and Political Issues (PHIL*1010-01) | College of Arts

Intro Phil: Social and Political Issues (PHIL*1010-01)

Term: Fall 2014


The overall aim of this course is to give students the opportunity to study some of the most influential thinkers in the history of Western (political) philosophy, and to introduce them to and reflect on central issues of political discourse: e.g. justice, liberty, law/rights, power, oppression. Aristotle famously said that the human being is phusei politikon zoon, by nature a political animal. Starting with Plato's Republic we will study the origin and function of the state and arguments for and against various forms of governance. Next we will look at the origin and limits of legitimate political power by way of a study of the work of two of the most important early social contract theorists: Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to the study of the principles of political liberalism and Karl Marx's powerful and influential critique thereof. Further questions that will occupy us throughout the semester are: On what ground can we maintain that human beings are free and/or equal? On what principle and within what limits can we maintain a right of personal property? What is justice and what role ought justice play in society? Toward the end of the semester we will talk about what (if any) political standing the non-human (animals, ecosystems, etc.) ought to have and what unique political challenges are posed by our increasing dependence on digital realities.
We will pay particularly close attention to the so-called “right to be forgotten”. -- In the weekly seminars students will be given the opportunity to closely read sections of John Stuart Mill's influential On Liberty, excerpts from several important works by Karl Marx, as well as other texts. The seminars are intended to complement the lectures.


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