24 episodes

(PLSC 114) This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.

This class was recorded in Fall 2006.

Political Philosophy - Audio Steven B. Smith

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    • 4.5 • 157 Ratings

(PLSC 114) This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.

This class was recorded in Fall 2006.

    12 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan

    12 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan

    This is an introduction to the political views of Thomas Hobbes, which are often deemed paradoxical. On the one hand, Hobbes is a stern defender of political absolutism. The Hobbesian doctrine of sovereignty dictates complete monopoly of power within a given territory and over all institutions of civilian or ecclesiastical authority. On the other hand, Hobbes insists on the fundamental equality of human beings. He maintains that the state is a contract between individuals, that the sovereign owes his authority to the will of those he governs and is obliged to protect the interests of the governed by assuring civil peace and security. These ideas have been interpreted by some as indicative of liberal opposition to absolutism.

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    24 - In Defense of Politics

    24 - In Defense of Politics

    This final lecture of the course is given "in defense of politics." First, the idea and definition of "politics" and the "political" are discussed with reference to the ideas of Immanuel Kant and twentieth-century political scientists, novelists, and philosophers such as Bernard Crick, E. M. Forster, and Carl Schmitt. Patriotism, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism are also addressed as integral parts of political life. Finally, the role of educators--and "old books"--is discussed as essential to developing a proper understanding of the political.

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    23 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    23 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Professor Smith discusses the moral and psychological components of the democratic state in the context of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. He goes on to explore the institutional development of the democratic state, the qualities of the democratic individual, and the psychological determinants of the democratic character. The ethic of self-interest is addressed, understood as an antidote to an ethic of fame and glory. Finally, Tocqueville is presented as a political educator and his views on the role of statesmen in a democratic age are expounded.

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    22 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    22 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Three main features that Tocqueville regarded as central to American democracy are discussed: the importance of local government, the concept of "civil association," and "the spirit of religion." The book is not simply a celebration of the democratic experience in America; Tocqueville is deeply worried about the potential of a democratic tyranny.

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    21 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    21 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    With the emergence of democracies in Europe and the New World at the beginning of the nineteenth century, political philosophers began to re-evaluate the relationship between freedom and equality. Tocqueville, in particular, saw the creation of new forms of social power that presented threats to human liberty. His most famous work, Democracy in America, was written for his French countrymen who were still devoted to the restoration of the monarchy and whom Tocqueville wanted to convince that the democratic social revolution he had witnessed in America was equally representative of France's future.

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    20 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Social Contract, I-II

    20 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Social Contract, I-II

    The concept of "general will" is considered Rousseau's most important contribution to political science. It is presented as the answer to the gravest problems of civilization, namely, the problems of inequality, amour-propre, and general discontent. The social contract is the foundation of the general will and the answer to the problem of natural freedom, because nature itself provides no guidelines for determining who should rule. The lecture ends with Rousseau's legacy and the influence he exercised on later nineteenth-century writers and philosophers.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
157 Ratings

157 Ratings

PMRedruj ,

Fascinating the way the lecturer brings these...

...far off thoughts to the present day, and makes them relatable and accessible, while presenting the profoundly deep questions.

PLEASE, Yale: hire a qualified sound engineer, ok? This is the second Yale lecture with wild swings in audio quality for no reason other than carelessness.

Reviewer 1999 ,

Excellent

This series of lectures does an excellent job covering some of the best writings in political philosophy. The professor is entertaining, insightful, and faithful to the material. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in philosophy or politics.

Crowbar Man ,

Wonderful

Dr. Smith presents an engaging lecture series where he connects a wide range of philosophers throughout history in a logical and interesting progression. His lectures inspire further series on the subject.

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