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The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas Lecture

The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas

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Publisher's Summary

Without even realizing it, we all use the fruits of political philosophy. From liberty to democracy to community, the terms and concepts originated by political philosophers are ingrained in our global consciousness. Yet many of us have an incomplete picture of how these ideas developed and, quite possibly, a skewed perception of their intentions and implications.

This highly relevant course sheds light on the labyrinth of Western political and social theory, as well as its influence on modern history. Guided by an award-winning professor of philosophy and author, these eye-opening lectures reveal how political philosophers, in responding to the societal problems and changing conditions of their day in revolutionary ways, created virtual blueprints of action for leaders. You'll gain not only the tools to comprehend the omnipresent language of politics, but a thorough understanding of the wellspring of thought that has emerged over centuries of political philosophy and the intellectual origins of major historical movements and events.

Throughout, questions of democracy, freedom, and distributive justice are addressed, and revolutionary figures who have left an indelible mark on history - from Niccolo Machiavelli to Ayn Rand - are encountered.

By the conclusion of lecture 36, you will have the context necessary to appreciate the evolution of a myriad of political ideas, including hot-button topics of today such as libertarianism, neoconservatism, feminism, and environmentalism.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC

What Members Say

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  •  
    Dana Garrett 06-02-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Excellent Survey of Western Political Thought"

    This is an excellent survey of the philosophical foundations of Western political thought. It covers not only the foundations of Western political thought (Plato and Aristotle) but also recent developments in western political thought (the animal rights movement and feminism). The explanations are clear, objective, and without a lot of philosophical jargon. At a certain point the standard becomes Liberal Republicanism and it is against this standard that other alternate theories are measured. That privileging of Liberal Republicanism seemed unnecessary to me. Yet when alternate theories are presented their critiques of Liberal Republicanism are presented as well. I will most certainly be listening to this book again. It's worth it.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Per 09-09-15
    Per 09-09-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent primer"

    Having no background on the subject, I picked this book up to get a primer. In that capacity, it is an excellent book, covering political philosophy from the ancient greeks to modern society. Excellent and pleasant narration. Recommended!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Torgersen 06-02-16 Member Since 2014

    kaelcarp

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    "Interesting topic, somewhat dull narration"

    The ideas and concepts in this course, as well as the material it covers, are fascinating. The course gives a bird's eye view of politics leading into our modern day situation and provides a thorough and balanced understanding of how we got to where we are.

    Professor Cahoone is clearly knowledgeable and has many good insights, but I did find his narration a bit monotonous. Unlike other Great Courses lecturers, he is clearly reading his notes with little improvisation or deviation from them. This might work well for some, but I prefer lecturers who are more animated. I think I may have zoned out for swaths of some lectures and would need to re-listen in order to fully absorb them.

    It's still a good course worth taking if you are interested in the material.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-17-17
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-17-17 Member Since 2016

    l'enfer c'est les autres

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Listen to this before talking politics with me"

    I hate talking politics. Most political discussions are void of thought. The espoused values of the individual are determined by anecdotal observations taken out of context or by emotionally processed feelings about how we observe the real world. Our understanding about the world around us is based on our feelings that we have of the world but our feelings are determined by how we perceive the world we live in. Liberty and equality (or equivalently we can say 'justice' and 'fairness') will always conflict. Everybody at one time or another has said or thought 'that is not fair' or 'can you just leave me alone'. Liberal Democracy grows out of this conflict and this lecture delves into how to think about the paradoxes inherent within any system more complex than a family.

    I would love it if people who want to talk politics with me had first listened to this lecture and would base their mundane quotidian political arguments based on the principals from this lecture. I shouldn't really use the word principals because in the world of political theory that implies a deontological structure based on Kantian metaphysics in contrast to a utilitarian (Bentham, J.S. Mills), invividualist (Rawls or Nozick) or communitarian structure. This lecture puts all of these stray schools together and gives the context for how they fit coherently within themselves and how they relate between each other. I think my political conversations with others would be way more edifying if the person I was forced to talk politics with had this kind of rudimentary background in their conversational repertoire.

    I usually don't read topical books, but I did read "Age of Anger" available here at audible. I like the book, but I faulted it because it didn't always give context to the person he was talking about. This lecture covers most of the same players (Burke, Karl Schmidt (sp?), Tocqueville, Strauss, et. al. ), but within this lecture I always got a context that filled in the blanks. An essence of Fascism beyond the 12 or so bullet point characteristics itemized in text books is the embracing of a spirit of the nation which transcends the nation itself and as summarized by Mussolini a 'real man' must have a war or be willing to sacrifice himself completely for the state (the community) in some fashion. The lecturer also has a lecture concisely summarizing Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit" and how he fits in to political thought through recent history. One does not need to have read the original works of the political thinkers in order to agree or disagree with that school of politics, but it would help to know where somebody is coming from. The lecture really helped me tie together how to understand our current politics in the USA.

    Politics is just a character that ties this lecture series together. For me, at the heart of this lecture was something much more. It gave me insight into how to think about myself within the world. I can give you a hint on why I thought that. Take his lecture on Leo Strauss of the Frankfurt school. Strauss influenced Saul Bellow and Alan Bloom. Two authors who I have read previously. They don't like the modernity which came out of the enlightenment and like Nietzsche's post-modernity even less. They despise relativism and think truth must be around albeit not always knowable, they reject nihilism because ultimate value must exist in order for life to have meaning (according to them), and that some things beyond life itself must be the cause of itself such as conscience, morality, duty or obligation. All of those beliefs will lead to a political system of some kind (ultimately they morph into neo-conservatism of the 1960s but not the 2000s kind), but when one can understand the premises that are assumed, one can understand the political argument such that one can refute it or embrace it with firmer convictions.

    The enlightenment, Nietzsche, Plato and Aristotle, and Kant are all mentioned in this lecture series, but aren't covered in detail. Most of the lectures within this lecture and each of the previously mention items are also in "Great Minds of the Western Tradition", but for the same cost you also will get about half of the lectures in this series and more in depth lectures on topics that help give this lecture even more depth. I recommend both lectures, but if you can only afford one I would recommend the "Great Minds" since you get most of this lecture and many lectures in addition.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-06-16 Member Since 2016
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    "brilliant synopsis of political philosophy"

    he covers a host of controversial topics from fascism to veganism without having an aparant bias and presenting their argument from their own point of view.

    He takes a deep dive into the history of political philosophy and applies various philosophical models to a broad spectrum of political topics.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 09-01-16
    Richard 09-01-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing objective and descriptive analysis ."

    Great narration.
    Thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Some comcepts were difficult but it's worth researching.
    Will go through one more time.
    Will recommend to others.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-17-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "exceptional"

    Clarified politics for me beautifully. Without being partisan. would recommend to anyone who is even slightly confused about our current politics.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deep Reader 10-14-14
    Deep Reader 10-14-14

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1471
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    "Enlightening"

    While this course is dry compared to some other Great Courses offerings, it's still fascinating if you stick with it.

    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hendrick Mcdonald 04-02-16 Member Since 2014
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    "An Excellent Listen"

    I loved listening to these lectures on the political philosophy, though normally I dislike philosophical musings. The speaker was engaging and even handed. The story follows the twists and turns of philosophical thought from early questions of the power of the sovereign vs. the people's power, the natural rights of man, the role of economics, the role of institutions, the role of society on itself and what duties if any people have to society. There is no cut and dry, black and white here. Throughout the evolution of 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' ideas are traced, but often boundaries are crossed and rationalized and criss-crossed in ways that really enlighten the listener to the plethora of justifications for the ways a state may choose to run itself. Excellent, excellent listen.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deux 09-12-17
    Deux 09-12-17
    ratings
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    "The second Cahoone survey course I've listened to."

    This course covers an incredibly vast history of political philosophy in a mere 18 hours. With the amount of material packed in here, that's hardly any time at all.

    But that's okay! By the end--even though I find it difficult to recall which philosopher was responsible for which idea or manifesto--I feel I have a general understanding of the main thrust of our political-philosophical evolution, which I believe was the point of this survey course. The course has opened me up to delving deeper into any of the individual moments discussed in the lecture without fear of missing the big picture.

    The course grounds itself in philosophy, and extrapolates to the political from there, so you end up getting a more traditional philosophical summary in addition to the political exploration.

    Cahoone is an intelligent, clear lecturer that does a great job of explicating the finer points of the dense works he references.

    And if you're wondering, the course seems to have been recorded somewhere around 2011-2012, as references to that time are made.

    Highly recommended for someone interested in philosophy with an emphasis on understanding its practical use in the realm of politics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Michael
    Clonmel, Ireland
    10/14/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Another gem from Cahoone"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Cahoone does a great job of distilling complex theories often expressed in difficult language and rendering these easily accessible to the listener.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas?

    I thought the explanation of Habermas was excellent. While understandably selective and simplified, Cahoone gets down to the bones of what Habermas says. He renders the obfuscatory Habermas coherent - which is not an easy job!


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    N/A - although I did enjoy the anecdote about the student in the lecture on Walzer; it was both entertaining and illustrative.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    N/A


    Any additional comments?

    I really do hope Cahoone does another lecture series. His previous lectures series (Decartes to Derrida) was also excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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