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Political Philosophy - Video

Political Philosophy - Video

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18 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (author's preface, part I)

This lecture is an introduction to the life and works of Rousseau, as well as the historical and political events in France after the death of Louis XIV. Writing in a variety of genres and disciplines, Rousseau helped bring to fruition the political and intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. Among his most important works is the Second Discourse (Discourse on Inequality), in which Rousseau traces the origins of inequality and addresses the effects of time and history on humans. He goes on to discuss a number of qualities, such as perfectibility, compassion, sensitivity, and goodness, in an attempt to assess which ones were a part of our original nature.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #1

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #2

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #3

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #4

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #5

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19 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (part II)

The discussion on the origins of inequality in the Second Discourse continues. This lecture focuses on amour-propre, a faculty or a disposition that is related to a range of psychological characteristics such as pride, vanity, and conceit. The Social Contract is subsequently discussed with an emphasis on the concept of freedom and how one's desire to preserve one's freedom is often in conflict with that of others to protect and defend their own. General will becomes Rousseau's solution to the problem of securing individual liberty.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #6

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #7

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11 - New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 13-26)

The discussion of Machiavelli's politics continues in the context of his most famous work, The Prince. A reformer of the moral Christian and classical concepts of goodness and evil, Machiavelli proposes his own definitions of virtue and vice, replacing the vocabulary associated with Plato and the biblical sources. He relates virtue, or virtu, to manliness, force, ambition and the desire to achieve success at all costs. Fortune, or fortuna, is a woman, that must be conquered through policies of force, brutality, and audacity. The problem of "dirty hands" in political and philosophical literature is discussed in detail.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #8

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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.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #9

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17 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (13-19)

In this lecture, two important issues are addressed in the context of Locke's Second Treatise. First, there is discussion on the role of the executive vis-a-vis the legislative branch of government in Locke's theory of the constitutional state. Second, Locke's political theories are related to the American regime and contemporary American political philosophy. The lecture concludes with John Rawls' book, A Theory of Justice, and how his general theory relates to Locke's political ideas.

7 Oct 2009

Rank #10