Blogging Again. My course notes on: Tragedy, Ethics, Politics; Ancient and Modern Liberty; 20th Centıry Political Theory

I’m back blogging. For the last few weeks I have been completely concentrating on writing class notes which I’ve been posting on my university website. I decided to do all the notes for a semester (14 teaching weeks) in a bloc so that I could concentrate on other projects after getting that out of the way, and so that keener students can get detailed guidance on all course material and topics. Here’s a report on what I’ve been doing. If you want to see the notes click on this link, and if my report interests you at all please do. Go to my website and click on Teaching and scroll down. Responses are very welcome via the log. The notes are to help BA and MA students get a handle on texts and issues; I’ve ended up putting a bit of myself into the notes and they’ve helped me direct my own thoughts.

BA Classes

Introduction to Politics
Ancient and Modern Liberty
More Modern than Ancient Liberty, though I covered a lot of Antique thought in the next class. I wanted to go from Plato to Mill and spend 3 weeks looking at On Liberty properly because it is such a dominant text in discussing liberalism/libertarianism/free speech/individualism/tolerance and so on I also wanted to get a full range of Early Modern, Enlightenment, and 19th Century texts to give a really full background to Mill (though not earlier Utilitarianism which is a shame maybe). I had to include Tocqueville and Humboldt, since Mill invokes them and they are great writers. I had to include Constant to really deal with Humboldt and Tocqueville, in some respects Constant provides a bridge between them. Shame I couldn’t include the very relevant de Stael (or shame on me for not making the effort). Marx had to come in and so did Hegel because he is one of the main people to deal with the Ancient/Modern distinction and relate it to different conceptions of liberty. Montesquieu, Rousseau and Hobbes had to be in there for Ancient and Modern discussion, and so did Machivelli (The Discourses) for his revival of, and commentary on, Roman Republicanism. Antique Liberty has been squeezed into two weeks: one for Plato (Apology of Socrates) and one for Aristotle (The Politics, Book III). No Cicero but plenty of discussion of the Ancient world in the later authors.

Art, Culture, Society
Tragedy, Ethics, Politics
The course alternated between aq week on a tragedy and a relevant text on political/ethical theory. Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Marlowe, Machiavelli, Corneille, Racine and Pascal covered. Sad lack of readiy available Corneille translations, even online, which is why I used Le Cid instead of Horace. Euripides, Seneca and Racine linked by comparing their treatment of Hyppolitus/Phaedra story. Seneca studied as dramatist and ethical thinker in separate weeks. Aristotle studied in separate weeks as ethical and politcal theorist. Machiavelli considered through The Prince (study of monarchical states) and The Discourses (study of republican states) in spearate weeks. Lots of ideas came up while reading, preparing notes and teaching (less than half way through) on how tragedies deal with ethical and political issues. Must do some serious work of my own on this.


Schmitt, Rawls, Nozick, Sandel, Pettit, Derrida, Habermas, Foucault

A mixture of the European and Analytic. Not so easy to bridge them, though Habermas may help when I get there. Derrida text is largely commentary on Schmitt (relevant chapters from Politics of Friendship). I’ve included all of Society Must be Defended for Foucault. Not much direct reference to Schmitt, but emphasis on politics as war connects very nicely. Nozick text is largely a discussion of Rawls, Sandel text is largely a discussion of Rawls and Nozick, Pettit text is particularly concerned with Rawls. The course has two beginnings: Schmitt and Rawls. Habermas text has some reactions to Schmitt and there are obvious parallels with Rawls, and a dialogue with Rawls about Political Liberalism. The reaction to Schmitt tends towards quarantine, but a way maybe ıf unifying topics of sovereignty, friendship, war with rights, contract, entitlement.

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