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Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy

Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy

by John Rawls, Samuel FreemanJohn Rawls


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This last book by the late John Rawls, derived from written lectures and notes for his long-running course on modern political philosophy, offers readers an account of the liberal political tradition from a scholar viewed by many as the greatest contemporary exponent of the philosophy behind that tradition.

Rawls's goal in the lectures was, he wrote, "to identify the more central features of liberalism as expressing a political conception of justice when liberalism is viewed from within the tradition of democratic constitutionalism." He does this by looking at several strands that make up the liberal and democratic constitutional traditions, and at the historical figures who best represent these strands—among them the contractarians Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; the utilitarians Hume, Sidgwick, and J. S. Mill; and Marx regarded as a critic of liberalism. Rawls's lectures on Bishop Joseph Butler also are included in an appendix. Constantly revised and refined over three decades, Rawls's lectures on these figures reflect his developing and changing views on the history of liberalism and democracy—as well as how he saw his own work in relation to those traditions.

With its clear and careful analyses of the doctrine of the social contract, utilitarianism, and socialism—and of their most influential proponents—this volume has a critical place in the traditions it expounds. Marked by Rawls's characteristic patience and curiosity, and scrupulously edited by his student and teaching assistant, Samuel Freeman, these lectures are a fitting final addition to his oeuvre, and to the history of political philosophy as well.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674030633
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/15/2008
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 1,044,095
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Rawls was James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. He was recipient of the 1999 National Humanities Medal.

Samuel Freeman is Professor of Philosophy and Law, University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword

Introductory Remarks

Texts Cited

Introduction: Remarks on Political Philosophy

Lectures on Hobbes

Lecture I: Hobbes's Secular Moralism and the Role of His Social Contract

Lecture II: Human Nature and the State of Nature

Lecture III: Hobbes's Account of Practical Reasoning

Lecture IV: The Role and Powers of the Sovereign

Appendix: Hobbes Index

Lectures on Locke

Lecture I: His Doctrine of Natural Law

Lecture II: His Account of a Legitimate Regime

Lecture III: Property and the Class State

Lectures on Hume

Lecture I: "Of the Original Contract"

Lecture II: Utility, Justice, and the Judicious Spectator

Lectures on Rousseau

Lecture I: The Social Contract: Its Problem

Lecture II: The Social Contract: Assumptions and the General Will (I)

Lecture III: The General Will (II) and the Question of Stability

Lectures on Mill

Lecture I: His Conception of Utility

Lecture II: His Account of Justice

Lecture III: The Principle of Liberty

Lecture IV: His Doctrine as a Whole

Appendix: Remarks on Mill's Social Theory

Lectures on Marx

Lecture I: His View of Capitalism as a Social System

Lecture II: His Conception of Right and Justice

Lecture III: His Ideal: A Society of Freely Associated Producers


Four Lectures on Henry Sidgwick

Lecture I: Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics

Lecture II: Sidgwick on Justice and on the Classical Principle of Utility

Lecture III: Sidgwick's Utilitarianism

Lecture IV: Summary of Utilitarianism

Five Lectures on Joseph Butler

Lecture I: The Moral Constitution of Human Nature

Lecture II: The Nature and Authority of Conscience

Lecture III: The Economy of the Passions

Lecture IV: Butler's Argument against Egoism

Lecture V: Supposed Conflict between Conscience and Self-Love

Appendix: Additional Notes on Butler

Course Outline


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