Philosophy 5

Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy

Title and Number of Course
Philosophy 5, Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy, 3 units

Catalog Description
This course is designed to introduce the student to the major theories in political and social philosophy and their practical application to relevant issues. How, for instance, do we adjudicate the rights of the individual against the rights of the state and its authority? What constitutes the just state? And what effects do certain political ideologies (liberalism, Fascism and Communism) have on social relations? This course will trace the history of these ideas from Plato to what is currently being called the Post-modern condition.

Recommend eligibility for English 1A

No department requirement, but suggest texts that use primary source reading whenever possible.

Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Identify and analyze the following conceptual problems relevant to political conflict: state/individual, authority/freedom, power/justice, political/social, obligation/rights, and hegemony/plurality.

  2. Identify and explain the underlying metaphysical assumptions of the various political views in question.

  3. Describe different forms of government and show how the political dimension affects the social.

  4. Explain in dialectical fashion how different forms may change into others.

  5. Explain the difference between Fascism and Communism and show how both differ from Classical Liberalism.

  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the neo-Marxist and postmodernist critique of the current capitalist socio-economic structure.

Course Content
I. Plato and the classical idea of a just state (20% of semester time)

  • Historical background: the Persian and Peloponnesian wars and the rise of the Athenian democracy.

  • Sophistry. the phusis-nomos debate, and the problem of power and justice.

  • Plato's metaphysical theory of the Forms and its relation to the ideal state.

  • Aristotle's criticism of Plato's metaphysics and his own view of human nature and the state.

II. The advent of modernity and "realpolitik" (20%)

  • Machiavelli on various republics and the way to govern cities.

  • Hobbesian materialism and his theory of the natural condition of mankind and the commonwealth.

  • Reformation, capitalism, and the new spirit of liberalism.

  • Locke's notion of the state of nature, property, and the ends of political society.

III. The social and political views of the Enlightenment. (20%)

  • Rousseau on the social contract and the general will of the people.

  • Kant's notion of the freedom of the person and the meaning of the Enlightenment.

  • Jefferson's comments on the Declaration, religious freedom, and the republic.

  • Mill on liberty and the limitations of social authority over the individual.

IV. The Hegelian revolution and political romanticism (20%)

  • Hegel's philosophy of history and its ideological and political consequences.

  • Mussolini's doctrine of Fascism and the power of the state over the individual.

  • Hitler on race, the state, and the rejection of democracy.

  • Marx's disagreement with the right wing Hegelians in terms of his dialectical materialist view of history.

V. Pluralism, global capitalism, and the contemporary socio-political situation. (20%)

  • Dewey's notion of social pluralism and his criticism of the organic conception of society.

  • Rawls' theory of justice and his idea of the "original position".

  • The Frankfurt school (Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer) and their neo-Marxist critique of capitalism and the Enlightenment.

  • The postmodern critique of Western capitalist society as being held captive by a "'dominant signifier" (Foucault), or a "grand narrative" (Lyotard), or by a "mega-molar-schizoid machine" (Deleuze).

General Requirements
Completion of required reading and final exam. Other requirements are determined by instructor; these may include completion of one or more papers, other written exams, journal assignments, participation in class discussion, class attendance, etc.

In accordance with Title V regulations, there must be at least one substantial (greater than one paragraph) writing assignment. Generally, evaluation is based primarily on written papers and essay examinations.

Suggested Instructional Methods and Materials
Primarily lecture and discussion. This can be supplemented by films, videos, oral reports, guest speakers, class debates, etc., as deemed appropriate and desirable by the individual instructor. It is suggested that readings include primary source material. Multicultural topics should be introduced where appropriate.

Questions regarding this course? Email the instructor.




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