Old World and New World Political Philosophy  PHIL

Instructor:  Dr.  János SALAMON

Required Texts:
Plato:  Republic  (Book I, II, VII &VIII)
Rousseau:  First Discourse
Tocqueville:  Democracy in America (Introduction, and selected chapters)
Thoreau:  Walden (ch. 1: Economy)
Isaiah Berlin:  Two Concepts of Liberty
Ronald Dworkin:  Liberalism
Charles Taylor:  Hegel: History and Politics

Unit #1:  Justice: What’s in it for me?

Unit # 2:  From private vices to public virtues

Unit # 3:  The dark side of democracy

Unit # 4:  An experiment in deliberate living; ‘good individualism’

Unit # 5:  Just let me loose

Unit # 6:  The crucial difference between treating people equally and treating them as equals

Unit # 7:  On the loose: ‘bad individualism’

Unit # 8:  Conclusion

Course Overview

The scandal of modern liberal democracy is that while its members generally regard it as the morally most justifiable political system, they also perceive political life in this system as scarcely more than a series of ever more audacious acts of violence against the public trust, against the central democratic principle of rational cooperation.
The guiding theme of this course will be the tension between the individual and society; between private and public interest; between the useful (that which is good for me) and the noble (that which is good in itself).
The question we shall try to answer is: ‘Why should I be just, honest, decent, i.e. moral, when it seems clear that a thin veneer of justice, honesty, decency and morality applied to raw self-interest can get me much farther and much faster on my way toward the good life?’ In other words, ‘Why should I bother with real virtue when virtual virtue is easier and more profitable?’