Haverford College
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Semester/Topic Description::

Fall 2007 Description:


This course will focus on the role of morals and politics in accounts of the “good life.” We’ll begin by looking at what several philosophers have to say about the best form of government and at how they try to justify their theories relative to an account of human nature. Our first reading will be from Plato (circa 424-348 BCE): we’ll study his conception of the link between rationality and morality as well as his understanding of what political order might best allow reason to govern human affairs. Then we’ll turn to the starkly anti-Platonic thought of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and the critical reflections on Hobbes provided by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). We’ll end by taking up two thinkers who might be seen as attempting to reclaim some aspect of Plato’s views, albeit in a thoroughly modern context and in radically different ways. They are Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).




Additional information/Expanded description:

Philosophy 107: Happiness, Virtue and the Good Life


Instructor: Ravi Sharma








Description:


This course will focus on the role of morals and politics in accounts of the “good life.” We’ll begin by looking at what several philosophers have to say about the best form of government and at how they try to justify their theories relative to an account of human nature. Our first reading will be from Plato (circa 424-348 BCE): we’ll study his conception of the link between rationality and morality as well as his understanding of what political order might best allow reason to govern human affairs. Then we’ll turn to the starkly anti-Platonic thought of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and the critical reflections on Hobbes provided by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). We’ll end by taking up two thinkers who might be seen as attempting to reclaim some aspect of Plato’s views, albeit in a thoroughly modern context and in radically different ways. They are Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).








Required Texts:


•Plato, Republic


•Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan


•Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings


•Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals


•Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals





Weekly Assignments:


Week 1: Introduction


Weeks 2-4: Plato’s Republic (selections)


Weeks 5-6: Hobbes’ Leviathan (selections)


Weeks 7-8: Rousseau: Second Discourse, First Discourse, Social Contract (Book I)


Weeks 9-11: Kant: Groundwork (Parts I and II); selections from Kant’s political writings


Weeks 12-13: Nietzsche: Genealogy (Essays I and II)


Week 14: Final discussion





Course Requirements:


Weekly short (1 page) writing assignments, three short (4-5 pp.) papers, comprehensive final exam





Prerequisites: none