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The History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard

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In this ten-lecture course sponsored by Steve Berger and Kenneth Garschina, intellectual historian David Gordon guides students through a survey of the greatest thinkers, and evaluates these scholars by their arguments for and against the idea of Liberty.Download the complete audio of this event (ZIP) here.

Read more

In this ten-lecture course sponsored by Steve Berger and Kenneth Garschina, intellectual historian David Gordon guides students through a survey of the greatest thinkers, and evaluates these scholars by their arguments for and against the idea of Liberty.Download the complete audio of this event (ZIP) here.

iTunes Ratings

30 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
5
2
1
2

No Episodes

By Cubinicano - Mar 08 2020
Read more
Where are the lectures?

Gordon is a Genius

By CrackerRepublic - Jul 24 2011
Read more
Sometimes David Gordon knows too much that it makes it difficult to follow, but overall this is a rewarding collection of lectures.

iTunes Ratings

30 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
5
2
1
2

No Episodes

By Cubinicano - Mar 08 2020
Read more
Where are the lectures?

Gordon is a Genius

By CrackerRepublic - Jul 24 2011
Read more
Sometimes David Gordon knows too much that it makes it difficult to follow, but overall this is a rewarding collection of lectures.
Cover image of The History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard

The History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard

Latest release on Jun 09, 2007

Read more

In this ten-lecture course sponsored by Steve Berger and Kenneth Garschina, intellectual historian David Gordon guides students through a survey of the greatest thinkers, and evaluates these scholars by their arguments for and against the idea of Liberty.Download the complete audio of this event (ZIP) here.

Rank #1: 4. Thomas Hobbes

Podcast cover
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Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679, best known work is Leviathan (1651) which established social contract theory. His liberal thinking included: The right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order; the view that all legitimate political power must be representative; and a liberal interpretation of law.

Hobbes met not only Descartes but also Galileo. He thought space and time to be imaginary. He saw humans as being matter and motion, obeying the same physical laws as other matter and motion. He thought one could square the circle. 

Lecture 4 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 06 2007

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Rank #2: 5. John Locke

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John Locke, 1632-1704, was the Father of Classical Liberalism. Human beings in their rationality are in God’s image. His law of nature was ethical and universal. Human preservation was tantamount. Each person has a property in himself. Property precedes government.

Locke thought the mind was a blank slate, contrary to Cartesian philosophy based on pre-existing concepts. The earth is given to humans in common. Locke’s doctrine that governments need the consent of the governed is central to the Declaration of Independence. He advocated separation of powers and believed that revolution was not only a right but an obligation sometimes.

Locke had close ties to Shaftesbury, founder of the Whig movement. The overthrow of King James II by William III with his wife Mary II of England was the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration were written after his return from exile.

Lecture 5 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 06 2007

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Rank #3: 2. Aristotle

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Aristotle, 384-322 BC, joined Plato’s Academy in Athens at eighteen and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. He was not a citizen of Athens. His writings constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. He tutored Alexander the Great. That experience provided him with an abundance of supplies to work with. He established a library in the Lyceum.

After Plato’s death, Aristotle shifted from Platonism to empiricism. Aristotle’s two main works in philosophy were about ethics [Nicomachean Ethics] and politics [Politics]. Aristotelian ethics were more practical than theoretical. He aimed at becoming good and doing good as an individual. Reason is the distinguishing characteristic of human beings. 

Aristotle’s work Politics addressed the city (polis), which he viewed as organic. He stated that “man is by nature a political animal.” Kingship, aristocracy and polity are the three good groups of the polis. The aim of the city was to allow some citizens the possibility to live a good life and to perform beautiful acts. Aristotle did favor government education. He, also, felt that some men were slaves by nature and were better off being ruled by others.

Lecture 2 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 05 2007

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Rank #4: 10. Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard

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Robert Nozick, 1938-2002, was a professor at Harvard whose best known book is Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) – a libertarian answer to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971).

Most controversially, Nozick argued that a consistent upholding of the non-aggression principle would allow and regard as valid consensual or non-coercive enslavement contracts between adults. He rejected the notion of inalienable rights advanced by Locke and most contemporary capitalist-oriented libertarian academics, writing in Anarchy, State and Utopia that the typical notion of a "free system" would allow adults to voluntarily enter into non-coercive slave contracts.

Murray Rothbard, 1926-1995, wrote The Ethics of Liberty as his main political philosophy work. He accepted the labor theory of property, arguing that mixing labor with unowned land made the land private property which could then trade hands by trade or gift. He rejected the Lockean proviso that individuals could only homestead land where “there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.”

Rothbard was concerned with how we know what is right or good. His is Aristotle’s natural law reasoning. He rejected Mises conviction that ethical values remain subjective. Rothbard concludes that interventionist policies do benefit some people, including certain government employees and welfare beneficiaries.

Lecture 10 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 09 2007

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Rank #5: 8. John Stuart Mill, Lysander Spooner and Herbert Spencer

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John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873, was the most famous classical liberal, a British philosopher and a political economist whose concept of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. His hierarchy of pleasures in Utilitarianism was a notable idea. He felt that individual accomplishment through self-improvement was the source of true freedom.

Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903, was a prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era. As a polymath, he had an enormous range of knowledge. He achieved unparalleled popularity. Spencer was a Utilitarian, feeling that the promotion of human survival would maximize human utility. Spencer is associated with Social Darwinism, perhaps because he supported competition, but he did not embrace Darwinist science.

Lysander Spooner, 1808-1887, was an American individualist anarchist and abolitionist. His key contribution was to demolish consent theories. In the No Treason pamphlets he asks for names of those who have actually consented to the Constitution.

Lecture 8 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 08 2007

Play

10. Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard

Podcast cover
Read more

Robert Nozick, 1938-2002, was a professor at Harvard whose best known book is Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) – a libertarian answer to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971).

Most controversially, Nozick argued that a consistent upholding of the non-aggression principle would allow and regard as valid consensual or non-coercive enslavement contracts between adults. He rejected the notion of inalienable rights advanced by Locke and most contemporary capitalist-oriented libertarian academics, writing in Anarchy, State and Utopia that the typical notion of a "free system" would allow adults to voluntarily enter into non-coercive slave contracts.

Murray Rothbard, 1926-1995, wrote The Ethics of Liberty as his main political philosophy work. He accepted the labor theory of property, arguing that mixing labor with unowned land made the land private property which could then trade hands by trade or gift. He rejected the Lockean proviso that individuals could only homestead land where “there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.”

Rothbard was concerned with how we know what is right or good. His is Aristotle’s natural law reasoning. He rejected Mises conviction that ethical values remain subjective. Rothbard concludes that interventionist policies do benefit some people, including certain government employees and welfare beneficiaries.

Lecture 10 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 09 2007

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9. John Rawls

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John Rawls, 1921-2002, was the most influential figure among American philosophers. His first, and main, work, A Theory of Justice (1971), made him famous. It aimed to resolve the seemingly competing claims of freedom and equality.

Two additional books, Political Liberalism and The Law of Peoples, rounded out his liberal political philosophy.

His view was to maximize utility, although utilitarianism does not take into consideration the differences of individuals. He used a thought experiment he called the original position. It eliminated certain features, e.g. biases, allowing the person to deliberate behind a veil of ignorance. He knows only that he has the capacity to create a life plan, and he has the capacity to develop a sense of justice. Thus, each will deliberate in order to design a social structure that will secure him maximal advantage.

Rawls derives two principles of justice from the original position. The first is equal basic liberties for all citizens. The second answers how these gains are distributed among people without property rights. Everything is up for distribution. This second principle ensures that those with comparable talents and motivation face roughly similar life chances and that inequalities in society work to the benefit of the least advantaged. This is a topic of much debate.

Lecture 9 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 08 2007

Play

8. John Stuart Mill, Lysander Spooner and Herbert Spencer

Podcast cover
Read more

John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873, was the most famous classical liberal, a British philosopher and a political economist whose concept of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. His hierarchy of pleasures in Utilitarianism was a notable idea. He felt that individual accomplishment through self-improvement was the source of true freedom.

Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903, was a prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era. As a polymath, he had an enormous range of knowledge. He achieved unparalleled popularity. Spencer was a Utilitarian, feeling that the promotion of human survival would maximize human utility. Spencer is associated with Social Darwinism, perhaps because he supported competition, but he did not embrace Darwinist science.

Lysander Spooner, 1808-1887, was an American individualist anarchist and abolitionist. His key contribution was to demolish consent theories. In the No Treason pamphlets he asks for names of those who have actually consented to the Constitution.

Lecture 8 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 08 2007

Play

6. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, influenced the French Revolution with his political philosophy and his social contract theory. The perspective of many of today’s environmentalists can be traced back to Rousseau, espousing that all degenerates in man’s hands. The Social Contract (1972), his most important work, outlines the basis for a legitimate political order within a framework of classical republicanism.

Rousseau was proud to have been born in Geneva. When he made his way to Paris he was a popular composer of operas, a novelist, and a botanist. Paranoid, Rousseau was a strange man with an unconventional married life. Although he wrote about child-centered learning, he had little regard for his own children.

Rousseau felt that a positive self-love, amour de soi, is transformed into pride, or amour –propre, through the negative influence of society. Rousseau speculated that man lived in love and compassion until division of labor and private property led to economic inequality and conflict (Discourse on Inequality). Rousseau posited that people could remain free while they gave up any claim of any natural right for the general will.

Religiously, Rousseau was condemned in Geneva for his tolerance which was viewed as indifference – a heresy. Rousseau asserted that true followers of Jesus would not make good citizens.

Lecture 6 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 07 2007

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7. Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel

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Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804, was called the most evil person by Ayn Rand. Kant had rules for everything. His views on religion were unorthodox.

His classical republican theory was extended in the Science of Right, the first part of the Metaphysics of Morals (1797).

He was very influenced by Rousseau. He felt he was modifying Plato when he sought what could be universalized. In regards to property, he had quite libertarian views.

In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, Kant listed several conditions that he thought necessary for ending wars and creating a lasting peace. They included a world of constitutional republics. He was extremely critical of war and colonialism. He wanted a federation, not a global government. However, he thought that resistance, e.g. revolution, to the state is never justifiable.

G.W.F. Hegel, 1770-1831, was definitely not a classical liberal. Arthur Schopenhauer had nothing positive to say about him. Hegel’s general philosophy was difficult to understand.  Elements of the Philosophy of Right, his political philosophy, published in 1820, made the distinction between civil society and state. Yet, Hegel's distinctions as to what he meant by civil society are often unclear.

Abstract right was a concept of Hegel’s that did align with classical liberalism. He favored property rights. But, the state could overrule these. In the section on personal morality in Philosophy of Right Hegel is criticizing Kant. Hegel felt war was sometimes necessary. He considered a monarchy to be the best state.

Lecture 7 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 07 2007

Play

4. Thomas Hobbes

Podcast cover
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Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679, best known work is Leviathan (1651) which established social contract theory. His liberal thinking included: The right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order; the view that all legitimate political power must be representative; and a liberal interpretation of law.

Hobbes met not only Descartes but also Galileo. He thought space and time to be imaginary. He saw humans as being matter and motion, obeying the same physical laws as other matter and motion. He thought one could square the circle. 

Lecture 4 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 06 2007

Play

5. John Locke

Podcast cover
Read more

John Locke, 1632-1704, was the Father of Classical Liberalism. Human beings in their rationality are in God’s image. His law of nature was ethical and universal. Human preservation was tantamount. Each person has a property in himself. Property precedes government.

Locke thought the mind was a blank slate, contrary to Cartesian philosophy based on pre-existing concepts. The earth is given to humans in common. Locke’s doctrine that governments need the consent of the governed is central to the Declaration of Independence. He advocated separation of powers and believed that revolution was not only a right but an obligation sometimes.

Locke had close ties to Shaftesbury, founder of the Whig movement. The overthrow of King James II by William III with his wife Mary II of England was the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration were written after his return from exile.

Lecture 5 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 06 2007

Play

3. Thomas Aquinas

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Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274, was an Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. Thomas attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.

Aquinas was a prodigious writer. His best known work is Summa Theologica. His treatise on law and his short work on kingship are good examples of his thinking and writing.  His unusual process is he begins with objections and then he gives arguments and then he replies to those arguments.  Aristotle’s books were available in Latin to Aquinas. He wrote that without original sin, government would not be necessary.

Aquinas distinguished four kinds of law: eternal, natural, human, and divine. Natural law is discovered by reason. The first principle is that good is to be done and promoted, and evil is to be avoided. Thomas defined love as “to will the good of another.” Aquinas clearly had a notion of rights, but he allowed that you could sell yourself into servitude.

Property had three classes: absolutely necessary that you have (you could take); property, like education, that you need to make a living; and superfluous items (you have no right to them).

Aquinas held that in an exchange there had to be equality based upon need which was reflected by the market price. Aquinas followed Aristotle on interest and usury. His views on just war included that war had to be waged with the right intention. Attacks upon innocents could not be supported. He thought the best form of government was kingship if it is not corrupt. Thus, a monarch plus an aristocratic element, plus a popular element is best.

Lecture 3 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 05 2007

Play

2. Aristotle

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Aristotle, 384-322 BC, joined Plato’s Academy in Athens at eighteen and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. He was not a citizen of Athens. His writings constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. He tutored Alexander the Great. That experience provided him with an abundance of supplies to work with. He established a library in the Lyceum.

After Plato’s death, Aristotle shifted from Platonism to empiricism. Aristotle’s two main works in philosophy were about ethics [Nicomachean Ethics] and politics [Politics]. Aristotelian ethics were more practical than theoretical. He aimed at becoming good and doing good as an individual. Reason is the distinguishing characteristic of human beings. 

Aristotle’s work Politics addressed the city (polis), which he viewed as organic. He stated that “man is by nature a political animal.” Kingship, aristocracy and polity are the three good groups of the polis. The aim of the city was to allow some citizens the possibility to live a good life and to perform beautiful acts. Aristotle did favor government education. He, also, felt that some men were slaves by nature and were better off being ruled by others.

Lecture 2 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 05 2007

Play

1. Plato

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Intellectual historians want to look at the past to find questions of value. Greeks are considered the start of political philosophy. Plato, 428-348 BCE, is the most famous. Plato’s teacher, Socrates, was killed by Athenian democracy. Plato did not like democracy.

Among these questions of value were: What is justice? What promotes the greatest happiness? Why is it in your interest to be moral? Does objective truth lead to an authoritarian system?

Plato’s most famous dialogue is The Republic. He had a view of the ideal state or government. Plato, through the words of Socrates, saw appetite/spirit/reason to be analogous to the castes of society. The appetite part of the soul corresponded to Productive workers. The spirit part of the soul corresponded to Protective warriors or guardians. The reason part of the soul corresponded to the few Governing rulers or philosopher kings.

Socrates was able to see two worlds: the apparent world which constantly changes, and the unchanging and unseen world of forms, which may be the cause of what is apparent. Plato’s just city is composed of mainly people who are unjust. Gordon thinks this is a fallacy in Plato’s Republic. Plato’s ideal city was not desirable at all.  

Lecture 1 of 10 from David Gordon's The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.

Jun 04 2007

Play

iTunes Ratings

30 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
5
2
1
2

No Episodes

By Cubinicano - Mar 08 2020
Read more
Where are the lectures?

Gordon is a Genius

By CrackerRepublic - Jul 24 2011
Read more
Sometimes David Gordon knows too much that it makes it difficult to follow, but overall this is a rewarding collection of lectures.