PHIL 41150: Political Philosophy
Dr. Robert Lane
Lecture Notes: Monday January 6, 2003

Introduction and Background



[1.] What is Political Philosophy?[1]


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.


[1] This section is heavily indebted to chapter one of Political Philosophy by Jean Hampton.

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