Introduction and Background
[1.] What is Political Philosophy?
It's the area of philosophy that attempts to answer questions about political societies (PS)
1. What is a PS?
(a) How does one arise?
(b) What binds people in a PS together?
2. How is a PS morally justified?
· attempts to answer the challenge of the anarchist
3. How should a PS be structured?
· this q'n may run together w/ qn.2
4. What should a PS do?
· I.e., what is the legitimate scope of political authority?
· qn's of social justice, incl'g distribution of wealth
Political philosophy is:
· only somewhat descriptive -- attempting to say (describe!) how things actually are
[primarily qn.1; the more descriptive political philosophy becomes, the more it resembles political science]
· largely normative/prescriptive -- it attempts to discover how things should be
· partly conceptual analysis -- it attempts to discover the content of concepts relevant to PSs
Our approach to the subject will be largely historical; we will be reading primary texts in order to discover how various philosophers answered these questions. The philosophers we will read include: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, John Rawls, Robert Nozick and Martha Nussbaum.
 This section is heavily indebted to chapter one of Political Philosophy by Jean Hampton.
This page last updated 1/6/2003.
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Robert Lane. All rights reserved.