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Political Philosophy - Audio

Political Philosophy - Audio

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03 - Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Crito

In the Apology, Socrates proposes a new kind of citizenship in opposition to the traditional one that was based on the poetic conception of Homer. Socrates' is a philosophical citizenship, relying on one's own powers of independent reason and judgment. The Crito, a dialogue taking place in Socrates' prison cell, is about civil obedience, piety, and the duty of every citizen to respect and live by the laws of the community.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #1

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15 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (1-5)

John Locke had such a profound influence on Thomas Jefferson that he may be deemed an honorary founding father of the United States. He advocated the natural equality of human beings, their natural rights to life, liberty, and property, and defined legitimate government in terms that Jefferson would later use in the Declaration of Independence. Locke's life and works are discussed, and the lecture shows how he transformed ideas previously formulated by Machiavelli and Hobbes into a more liberal constitutional theory of the state.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #2

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05 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, III-IV

The discussion of the Republic continues. An account is given of the various figures, their role in the dialogue and what they represent in the work overall. Socrates challenges Polemarchus' argument on justice, questions the distinction between a friend and an enemy, and asserts his famous thesis that all virtues require knowledge and reflection at their basis.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #3

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16 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (7-12)

In the opening chapters of his Second Treatise, Locke "rewrites" the account of human beginnings that had belonged exclusively to Scripture. He tells the story of how humans, finding themselves in a condition of nature with no adjudicating authority, enjoy property acquired through their labor. The lecture goes on to discuss the idea of natural law, the issue of government by consent, and what may be considered Locke's most significant contribution to political philosophy: the Doctrine of Consent.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #4

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07 - The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, I, III

The lecture begins with an introduction of Aristotle's life and works which constitute thematic treatises on virtually every topic, from biology to ethics to politics. Emphasis is placed on the Politics, in which Aristotle expounds his view on the naturalness of the city and his claim that man is a political animal by nature.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #5

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10 - New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 1-12)

The lecture begins with an introduction of Machiavelli's life and the political scene in Renaissance Florence. Professor Smith asserts that Machiavelli can be credited as the founder of the modern state, having reconfigured elements from both the Christian empire and the Roman republic, creating therefore a new form of political organization that is distinctly his own. Machiavelli's state has universalist ambitions, just like its predecessors, but it has been liberated from Christian and classical conceptions of virtue. The management of affairs is left to the princes, a new kind of political leaders, endowed with ambition, love of glory, and even elements of prophetic authority.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #6

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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.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #7

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13 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan

Hobbes' most famous metaphor, that of "the state of nature," is explained. It can be understood as the condition of human life in the absence of authority or anyone to impose rules, laws, and order. The concept of the individual is also discussed on Hobbesian terms, according to which the fundamental characteristics of the human beings are the capacity to exercise will and the ability to choose. Hobbes, as a moralist, concludes that the laws of nature, or "precepts of reason," forbid us from doing anything destructive in life.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #8

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06 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, V

In this last session on the Republic, the emphasis is on the idea of self-control, as put forward by Adeimantus in his speech. Socrates asserts that the most powerful passion one needs to learn how to tame is what he calls thumos. Used to denote "spiritedness" and "desire," it is associated with ambitions for public life that both virtuous statesmen as well as great tyrants may pursue. The lecture ends with the platonic idea of justice as harmony in the city and the soul.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #9

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14 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan

The concept of sovereignty is discussed in Hobbesian terms. For Hobbes, "the sovereign" is an office rather than a person, and can be characterized by what we have come to associate with executive power and executive authority. Hobbes' theories of laws are also addressed and the distinction he makes between "just laws" and "good laws." The lecture ends with a discussion of Hobbes' ideas in the context of the modern state.

12 Oct 2009

Rank #10