Political Philosophy - Audio
by Steven B. Smith
To listen to an audio podcast, mouse over the title and click Play. Open iTunes to download and subscribe to iTunes U collections.
(PLSC 114) This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course. This class was recorded in Fall 2006.
||01 - Introduction: What is Political Philosophy?||Professor Smith discusses the nature and scope of "political philosophy." The oldest of the social sciences, the study of political philosophy must begin with the works of Plato and Aristotle, and examine in depth the fundamental concepts and...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||02 - Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Apology||The lecture begins with an explanation of why Plato's Apology is the best introductory text to the study of political philosophy. The focus remains on the Apology as a symbol for the violation of free expression, with Socrates justifying his way of ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||03 - Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Crito||In the Apology, Socrates proposes a new kind of citizenship in opposition to the traditional one that was based on the poetic conception of Homer. Socrates' is a philosophical citizenship, relying on one's own powers of independent reason and judgment.||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||04 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, I-II||Lecture 4 introduces Plato's Republic and its many meanings in the context of moral psychology, justice, the power of poetry and myth, and metaphysics. The Republic is also discussed as a utopia, presenting an extreme vision of a polis--Kallipolis...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||05 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, III-IV||The discussion of the Republic continues. An account is given of the various figures, their role in the dialogue and what they represent in the work overall. Socrates challenges Polemarchus' argument on justice, questions the distinction...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||06 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, V||In this last session on the Republic, the emphasis is on the idea of self-control, as put forward by Adeimantus in his speech. Socrates asserts that the most powerful passion one needs to learn how to tame is what he calls thumos. Used to denote ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||07 - The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, I, III||The lecture begins with an introduction of Aristotle's life and works which constitute thematic treatises on virtually every topic, from biology to ethics to politics. Emphasis is placed on the Politics, in which Aristotle expounds his view on ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||08 - The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, IV||The lecture discusses Aristotle's comparative politics with a special emphasis on the idea of the regime, as expressed in books III through VI in Politics. A regime, in the context of this major work, refers to both the formal enumeration of rights ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||09 - The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, VII||This final lecture on Aristotle focuses on controlling conflict between factions. Polity as a mixture of the principles of oligarchy and democracy, is the regime that, according to Aristotle, can most successfully control factions and avoid ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||10 - New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 1-12)||The lecture begins with an introduction of Machiavelli's life and the political scene in Renaissance Florence. Professor Smith asserts that Machiavelli can be credited as the founder of the modern state, having reconfigured elements from both the...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||11 - New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 13-26)||The discussion of Machiavelli's politics continues in the context of his most famous work, The Prince. A reformer of the moral Christian and classical concepts of goodness and evil, Machiavelli proposes his own definitions of virtue and vice...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||12 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan||This is an introduction to the political views of Thomas Hobbes, which are often deemed paradoxical.||1/12/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||13 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan||Hobbes' most famous metaphor, that of "the state of nature," is explained. It can be understood as the condition of human life in the absence of authority or anyone to impose rules, laws, and order. The concept of the individual is also discussed on...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||14 - The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan||The concept of sovereignty is discussed in Hobbesian terms. For Hobbes, "the sovereign" is an office rather than a person, and can be characterized by what we have come to associate with executive power and executive authority. Hobbes' theories of laws...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||15 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (1-5)||John Locke had such a profound influence on Thomas Jefferson that he may be deemed an honorary founding father of the United States. He advocated the natural equality of human beings, their natural rights to life, liberty, and property, and...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||16 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (7-12)||In the opening chapters of his Second Treatise, Locke "rewrites" the account of human beginnings that had belonged exclusively to Scripture. He tells the story of how humans, finding themselves in a condition of nature with no adjudicating authority...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||17 - Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (13-19)||In this lecture, two important issues are addressed in the context of Locke's Second Treatise. First, there is discussion on the role of the executive vis-a-vis the legislative branch of government in Locke's theory of the constitutional state. Second...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||18 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (author's preface, part I)||This lecture is an introduction to the life and works of Rousseau, as well as the historical and political events in France after the death of Louis XIV. Writing in a variety of genres and disciplines, Rousseau helped bring to fruition the political...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||19 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (part II)||The discussion on the origins of inequality in the Second Discourse continues. This lecture focuses on amour-propre, a faculty or a disposition that is related to a range of psychological characteristics such as pride, vanity, and conceit.||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||20 - Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Social Contract, I-II||The concept of "general will" is considered Rousseau's most important contribution to political science. It is presented as the answer to the gravest problems of civilization, namely, the problems of inequality, amour-propre, and general discontent.||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||21 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America||With the emergence of democracies in Europe and the New World at the beginning of the nineteenth century, political philosophers began to re-evaluate the relationship between freedom and equality. Tocqueville, in particular, saw the creation of ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||22 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America||Three main features that Tocqueville regarded as central to American democracy are discussed: the importance of local government, the concept of "civil association," and "the spirit of religion." The book is not simply a celebration of the democratic...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||23 - Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America||Professor Smith discusses the moral and psychological components of the democratic state in the context of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. He goes on to explore the institutional development of the democratic state, the qualities of the...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||24 - In Defense of Politics||This final lecture of the course is given "in defense of politics." First, the idea and definition of "politics" and the "political" are discussed with reference to the ideas of Immanuel Kant and twentieth-century political scientists, novelists, and ...||10/12/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
You will definitely come away from this course with a good understanding of the key questions in Western political philosophy, and the ways in which some major thinkers engaged those questions. You'll also see how vast a subject this is, and when you finish this course you will realize that in fact you have only just begun.
These are great thanks!