Old World and New World Political Philosophy  PHIL

Instructor:  Dr.  János SALAMON

Required Texts:
Isaiah Berlin: Two Concepts of Liberty
Plato: Aplogy; Republic (Book II, &VIII), Gorgias
Rousseau: First Discourse
Tocqueville: Democracy in America (Introduction, and Book I, ch. 7: The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and its Effects)
Thoreau: Walden (ch. 1: Economy)
Friedrich Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals (First essay: `Good and Evil'; `Good and Bad)
Charles Taylor: Hegel: History and Politics
Arthur Schopenhauer: On the Suffering of the World

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.
While most people today still insist that democracy is the best political regime some are growing increasingly skeptical about the life that such a regime allows for its citizens. The guiding theme of this course will be the tension between the ancient and the modern conception of the best political regime, of the good life. In relation to this, we shall examine the following crucial distinctions:

  • positive vs. negative liberty
  • freedom vs. independence
  • moral freedom vs. physical freedom
  • nature vs. convention
  • cosmos vs. chaos
  • universitas vs. societas
  • essentialism vs. relativism
  • aristocracy vs. democracy
  • self-control and self-realization vs. self-indulgence and self-satisfaction
  • monism vs. pluralism
  • classicism vs. romanticism
  • patriotism vs. humanism
  • contentment vs. misery

    Course Requirement
    Grades will be based on a midterm paper (30%), a final paper (50%) and class participation (20%). The papers are take-home.