Social and Political Philosophy [part ed: Douglas Giles]


  • administrators

    This thread will be for discussions related to the Social and Political Philosophy part of Introduction to Philosophy. See the full project summary.

    Part Summary:
    This part asks “how should we live together?” and explores the ways in which social and political philosophies have influenced forms of political institutions, our ways of life, and current sociopolitcal debates. It will address the principles that establish and justify societies and governments, including the fundamental yet controversial principles of authority, justice, rights, equality, liberty, and democracy. It will look at how philosophers have conceived of the rights and responsibilities of a society to its members, of the members to society and to each other, and of a society to other societies.

    How to participate:
    We’ll be looking for chapter authors in this part very soon. Each chapter will be roughly 3000 words. Stay tuned for the full part outline and chapter assignments!

    Relevant Documents:
    Part Outline – This doc gives an overview of the part and details each of the chapters to be written.
    Author Guide – Read this guide to find out more about what committing to author a chapter involves.

    Team: @dmgile (part editor), @clhendricksbc (lead editor), @zoe (Rebus project manager) … and you?



  • <<Initial draft.>>

    Section Summary

    This part asks “how should we live together?” and how we sould organize our society and government. It explores the ways in which social and political philosophies have influenced forms of political institutions, our ways of life, and current sociopolitcal debates. It will address the principles that establish and justify societies and governments, including the fundamental yet controversial principles of authority, justice, rights, equality, liberty, and democracy. It will look at how philosophers have conceived of the rights and responsibilities of a society to its members, of the members to society and to each other, and of a society to other societies.

    Section Outline
    This part takes a hybrid approach of chronology and topic. Each chapter to no more than 4,000 words.

    Chapter 1: What is Social and Political Philosophy?
    Introduces the basic themes and questions related to how we should construct our society and our governmental systems. What is human nature and how does that effect how we live together? What do we mean by the concepts of justice, rights, equality, liberty, and democracy? What are the basic forms of government? What are the approaches to justice?

    Chapter 2: The Ideal Society
    Deals with idealistic and utopian visions of the ideal society. Will cover the general idea of a perfect society, Plato’s ideal state in The Republic, and John Rawls’s thought experiment about a fair society. Who should rule society and what the basis of their authority is.

    Chapter 3: Autocracy, Timocracy, and Aristocracy
    Discusses ancient and medieval conceptions of the legitimacy of autocratic rule. Includes Aristotle’s conception of the city-state, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on the divine right of kings, and perhaps also Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince discussing the nature of political power and how to wield and maintain it.

    Chapter 4: The State of Nature and the Modern State
    This chapter starts with Thomas Hobbes’s defense of autocratic political power in Leviathan and his arguments for political authority and the transition from the state of nature to the commonwealth. It will provide a counterpoint to Hobbes with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s critique of society and his account of the state of nature.

    Chapter 5: Constitutional and Representative Government
    Covers John Locke’s philosophy on the origins, nature, and purpose of government and his labor theory of property, the foundations of the U.S. political philosophy and governmental system, Edmund Burke on conservatism, J.S. Mill on democracy, and systems of constitutional monarchy in Europe

    Chapter 6: Capitalism and Marxism
    Adam Smith’s economic theories and his view of the independent individual in competition with other individuals. The development of industrial capitalism in the 19th century. The anti-capitalist response by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ in Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto and the various forms of social and political thought inspired by Marx.

    Chapter 7: 20th Century Theories
    The chapter will cover the grand theorizing of the 20th century, such as Post-Marxist theory including György Lukács, the Frankfurt School, and others, and fascism. Also: Theories of democracy and representative government such as John Dewey. 20th century defenders of capitalism like Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman.

    Chapter 8: Human Rights. Critical Theory, and Social Justice
    This chapter will discuss the development of the concept of human rights leading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of liberty by J.S. Mill and Isaiah Berlin, and conceptions of equality. It will also deal with issues of injustice, subordination, and oppression, and second and third generation critical theory.

    Chapter 9: Radical Social Theories
    Post-modern and anti-modern critique, Michel Foucault, feminist and gender theory, critical race theory, anti-colonialism, radical socialism. Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution and Totalitarianism.

    Chapter 10: [Overflow?]


  • administrators

    @dmgile Hi Douglas, this looks great, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve put this draft in a Google document, in case anyone wanted to leave comments there, and to make it simpler for you to make changes. Let me know if you have trouble accessing it.



  • @apurva Good, thank you. I do not know if I have rights to create Google Docs or what the procedure is for posting new content. I am definitely open to suggestions on the Section Outline.


  • administrators

    @dmgile The easiest thing to do would be for you to create a Google Doc, and share it here on the forum. We can make sure that all the permissions are set, so everyone has access to the file. I’m sure you will see suggestions both here on the forum, and perhaps as comments on the file. You can go ahead and make changes in the file I just shared, and we can treat that as a working document. Hope this clears up the process somewhat!


  • administrators

    @apurva @dmgile I’ll revise Apurva’s comment above slightly to say you can share any docs you create with one of us via email (and post on the forum as well if you like) and we’ll handle the rest!

    And a big thanks for sharing your outline! Will be great to get some feedback and keep moving forward :slight_smile:



  • Hi all,

    Sorry, I wasn’t “watching” this thread yet so wasn’t getting notifications of the messages here!

    Should I post a notice to the main project discussion page, asking for comments on this outline? Maybe also on the Ethics thread too?



  • @clhendricksbc Yes, please do, I have not received much response so far.


  • administrators

    @clhendricksbc Yes, that would be very helpful! We have outlines for quite a few parts now – this one, Ethics, Aesthetics, Logic, Philosophy of Religion, and Philosophy of Mind – and welcome input on all of them.

    There are still some chapters remaining on Ethics and Aesthetics, in case anyone wanted to sign-up for them!


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