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Getting started with political philosophy

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Georgeanna
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Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 14th, 2018, 2:38 pm

This topic follows on from my broader question in the Lounge, here: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=15767

Here, a discussion was started on what was seen as a valuable resource, namely:

The Open Yale free online course.

https://oyc.yale.edu/political-science/plsc-114

with video, transcript and audio files, it covers :

1. The polis experience ( Plato, Aristotle) - lectures 1-9
2. The sovereign state ( Machiavelli, Hobbes) - Lectures 10 -14
3. Constitutional government ( Locke ) - Lectures 15 -17
4. Democracy ( Rousseau, Tocqueville ) - Lectures 18 - 23
5. In Defence of Politics ( references Kant, Bernard Crick, E.M. Foster, and Carl Schmitt ) - Lecture 24 Overview

The video lectures by Steven B. Smith can also be viewed on YouTube:

https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8D95DEA9B7DFE825

At the risk of losing momentum in the conversation, I have moved this potentially valuable exercise in learning about political philosophy here.

If each lecture, chapter is clearly referenced, then anyone should be able to jump in at anytime with either pointers for follow up discussion, a simple request for help in understanding or whatever.

At least that's the theory.
Smith raises many questions and engages the students well, relating the ancients to modern times.

I have watched some of the videos, followed by reading the transcripts and listened to the audio files. The latter are fine but beware listening in bed...

Everyone has their preferred way of learning and we are not all at same stage of understanding political philosophy or the main philosophers.

Some here will have read the original books e.g. Plato's Republic but that is not strictly necessary.

I think that perhaps anyone involved in previous discussion of Lecture 1 might not wish to go over it again.

However, a fresh start could refresh the parts not reached before

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BFn-jSSrBPQ

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 15th, 2018, 2:24 am

First off I'd like to acknowledge the previous contributors to the Lectures discussion, Fooloso4 and chewybrian without their encouragement and enthusiasm I would not be here supping the beer that refreshes the parts not reached before. Actually, I sit here with a cuppa Taylor's Yorkshire Tea - chacun a son gout.
Also others who can be found in the Lounge Chat e.g Hobbes who had interesting things to say about Hobbes. And Rousseau, a favourite of chewybrian. Fooloso4 and chewybrian are in the middle of an interesting discussion about Socrates...

I hope to refresh the opening scenes to our previous discussion about Lecture 1. However, not exactly sure how to go about it. It's not everyday I do this kind of thing. Perhaps a simple brief summary or a copy and paste job with permission...or a complete fresh start...hmmm...

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 15th, 2018, 10:06 am

Following advice from partners in crime:

Decision taken to start afresh.

So, the idea is for me to take a lecture at a time, provide a link, focus on the class content, write a short summary and then leave it open for discussion. Until the next one...

And not to get too stressed...
Well, that's the plan.

Now, how do you write a summary again...?

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 16th, 2018, 4:06 am

Open Yale free online course by Steven Smith
Lecture 1
https://oyc.yale.edu/political-science/ ... /lecture-1

A summary, based on my lecture notes.

1.1 What is political philosophy ?
It frames the study of politics by setting out basic questions and concepts concerning justice,the goals of society, education of the citizen, obligations, freedom, virtue, love, friendship, God. They are permanent questions with no correct answer. When reading the texts, we need to determine what seems right by using own reason and judgement.

1.2 What is a regime ?
A form of government - by the one, the few, many or a mix - by election, birth, lot, outstanding personal qualities.
Also about the entire way of life, morals, religion, that make a people who they are. The question is raised as to how they are established and if this will ever change. Are we capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice - or will we forever depend on e.g. accident and force.

1.3 Who or what is a statesman ?
There are different views as to the necessary qualities.
Plato - versed in poetry, maths, metaphysics
Aristotle - purely practical skill requiring judgement based on deliberation and experience.
Machiavelli - a streak of cruelty and a willingness to act immorally.
Rousseau - capable of literally transforming nature
Hobbes - faceless bureaucrat

Given the background of the above great thinkers, it is claimed that political philosophy is a practical discipline

1.4 What is the best regime ?
Comparison are made between the ancient - only the best rule v the modern , democratic republic where theoretically it is open to all
Between the small closed society and a large cosmopolitan order.

Whatever form the best regime takes it will favour a certain kind of human being, with certin character traits.
Aristotle distinguishes between 1. the good citizen and 2. the good human being
1. is regime specific with virtue of patriotism
2. is good everywhere.

The relation between the best regime or the good regime. The ideal v the actual
Suggestion made that for the philosopher it is difficult to be a good citizen of an actual regime. No loyalty to the particular but to what is best.

------

Now the discussion begins - I will add my own thoughts later.
I hope to be able to follow the course one lecture per week. We will see.

Steve3007
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » August 16th, 2018, 5:21 am

Georgeanna, I'm interesting to know whether your studies of political philosophy so far have helped you to make decisions on who you might vote for in an election. Have you previously voted in elections? Do you think that studying political philosophy helps us to make these kinds of decisions?

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 16th, 2018, 1:04 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
August 16th, 2018, 5:21 am
Georgeanna, I'm interesting to know whether your studies of political philosophy so far have helped you to make decisions on who you might vote for in an election. Have you previously voted in elections? Do you think that studying political philosophy helps us to make these kinds of decisions?
Steve, thanks for being interesting and interested in what the benefits of studying political philosophy might be in forming decisions, especially in important events like voting in an election or a referendum. I'll get to the personal bit later, as part of my Reflection on Lecture 1 and in starting this thread. Thanks for providing interesting example...

Since political philosophy is a part of philosophy, the same kind of question can be asked: Why study philosophy ? How does it help in decision-making ? Would it help in deciding what kind of food to eat, where to bank, how to spend your money ?

Fooloso4
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » August 16th, 2018, 3:33 pm

Steve3007:
Do you think that studying political philosophy helps us to make these kinds of decisions?
That depends on the candidates and their differences. If, for example, it is a matter of economic policy, then a study of economics might be more useful for understanding the consequences of the policies.

Once we begin to consider the larger questions of how we want to live we enter into consideration of political philosophy and the questions outlined in the summary above.

Some trends that illustrate just how vital these questions are:
According to a study published in October 2017 by Pew Research, there’s a division of opinion in many countries today on whether states are more effectively governed by “experts” or elected officials. In advanced economies, young adults are more likely than older people to prefer technocracy to democracy. The study found that in the U.S., 46 percent of those aged 18 to 29 would prefer to be governed by experts compared with 36 percent of respondents aged 50 and older.

A study from Harvard’s Yascha Mounk and the University of Melbourne’s Roberto Stefan Foa published in the Journal of Democracy in January 2017 produced an even more striking result. Just 19 percent of U.S. millennials agreed with the statement that “military takeover is not legitimate in a democracy.” Among older citizens, the total was a still-surprising 43 percent. (In Europe, by contrast, the corresponding numbers were 36 percent for younger people and 53 percent for older people.) Perhaps most alarming was the revelation than one quarter of millennials agreed that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant.” Just 14 percent of Baby Boomers and 10 percent of older Americans agreed. (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/d ... ncna847476)

Steve3007
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » August 17th, 2018, 3:49 am

Fooloso4 wrote:Some trends that illustrate just how vital these questions are:...
Those are interesting findings because, on the face of it, they seem to show a move in the opposite direction from that which we often tend to think politics in places like the US and parts of Europe are going - towards populist politicians who paint simple, black-and-white pictures of the world and away from the whole concept of experts, with their nuance and in-depth analysis. If I believe what I read in the news over the last couple of years I would expect that "so-called experts" are not held in very high esteem.

Maybe young people prefer technocracy because they're used to the idea of living in a highly technologically complex world that it's not possible for non-specialists to understand.

I suppose we might see the apparent rejection of democracy in favour of rule-by-the-technocrats as something approaching Plato's philosopher ruler concept, but only if we equate wisdom with expertise.

Steve3007
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » August 17th, 2018, 4:03 am

Georgeanna wrote:Since political philosophy is a part of philosophy, the same kind of question can be asked: Why study philosophy ? How does it help in decision-making ? Would it help in deciding what kind of food to eat, where to bank, how to spend your money ?
This, I think, relates to the question of the difference between wisdom and expertise - the big picture and the details. Expertise could certainly have something to say which might help us to decide what food to eat or where to bank. But wisdom is much more general.

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chewybrian
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by chewybrian » August 17th, 2018, 6:26 am

Georgeanna wrote:
August 16th, 2018, 1:04 pm
Since political philosophy is a part of philosophy, the same kind of question can be asked: Why study philosophy ? How does it help in decision-making ? Would it help in deciding what kind of food to eat, where to bank, how to spend your money ?
Because existence precedes essence. We have to develop the foundations of a free will before we have the informed free will to decide what type of person we wish to be. At this point, we have already become a different type of person. The true philosopher is one who examines himself as he would judge others, and finds some very unpleasant truths, then resolves to work to rebuild himself into what he thinks he should be.

Our political views have the same need to be examined deeply as other moral views outside politics. We need to start at the base of the pyramid and check all the beliefs we hold to see if we would choose to believe them as if they were presented to us for the first time today. We must judge them all harshly and critically to see if they are consistent with the type of person we now wish to become.

Yet, the work is never done. For, having made this examination and verified what we hold to be true to be consistent with the person we decided to become, we must realize the weak position from which we made that decision, and refine it yet again, performing the examination of our new beliefs in the same manner. This self-examination can never stop, but perhaps if you are doing it right, you can slowly evolve into a better person.

Ultimately, these studies of the self might change your seemingly mundane choices of where to eat or bank, because these can have small but important effects on the shape of the world we collectively create. Certainly such a self-examination can have an impact on the arguably more important choice of how you vote. To make a REALLY informed choice at the polls, you'd want to understand what a just society would look like, and what ideals we might be striving for, so you could see if a particular vote might be consistent with such ideals. To not study political philosophy is to drive by turning toward whatever catches your eye. To study it is to pull out the road map and decide on a destination, and turn when the turn would lead in the right direction.

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 17th, 2018, 6:44 am

Reflection
If it's good enough for Aristotle, it's good enough for me. What?
A framework for reflection - the 5 W's.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws

" Therefore it is not a pointless endeavor to divide these circumstances by kind and number; (1) the Who, (2) the What, (3) around what place (Where) or (4) in which time something happens (When), and sometimes (5) with what, such as an instrument (With), (6) for the sake of what (Why), such as saving a life, and (7) the (How), such as gently or violently…And it seems that the most important circumstances are those just listed, including the ‘Why’.”.[7]

The Who. Yes, I like them too.
1.Who: me, other forum members, Steven Smith, his audience, the texts and views of some of the great thinkers.
Me as in a continually growing self, even as I age and bits fall off. Forum members - the readers and contributors at different levels of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Steven Smith - lecturer in political philosophy who brings material alive and kicking into the minds of his students. 'Right ?' 'Think of that!' The audience - anyone who can access Open Yale. How great is the internet ? The texts and views of thinkers past who still have something to say to the modern. See summary provided above.

2. What: the course and thread. Specific, substantive content to work through.
3. Where: internally and externally. Finding a relatively quiet space. Without shouting or distractions.
4. When: time scale - course can be dipped into at any time; you can pick a lecture of a particular philosopher e.g. Hobbes and jump in. I am taking it a lecture at a time. However, I do like the flexibility built in.
5. With what: instrument of mind.
6. Why: motivated by realizing own ignorance about how political world works, and how decisions taken can be life and world changing. 2 main events or upsets being Brexit and Trump. Eduk's thread concerning value of forum - about being philosophically productive; using time and energy wisely with focus on being active rather than passive. To exercise instrument of mind.
7. How: Engaging in reading, listening or watching content - course provides excellent varied means to learn. Writing about it and producing summary and reflection helps me to clarify my thoughts and helps with focus and motivation. Together with inspiration and encouragement from forum members.

Thanks. There are specific elements within Lecture 1 which gave me pause to think. I'm still thinking...

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 17th, 2018, 6:48 am

Steve3007 wrote:
August 17th, 2018, 4:03 am
Georgeanna wrote:Since political philosophy is a part of philosophy, the same kind of question can be asked: Why study philosophy ? How does it help in decision-making ? Would it help in deciding what kind of food to eat, where to bank, how to spend your money ?
This, I think, relates to the question of the difference between wisdom and expertise - the big picture and the details. Expertise could certainly have something to say which might help us to decide what food to eat or where to bank. But wisdom is much more general.
Yes. And about forming decisions as to how to vote. I could say that study such as this improves reading, thinking skills with a view to being more informed about party political policies. However, chances are that my previous experience, perhaps wisdom and philosophical views already gleaned over a lifetime will make any vote almost automatic.

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 17th, 2018, 7:04 am

Regarding writing the summary for the introduction. It's kinda putting the cart before the horse. I could simply have pointed the way to or copied the Overview of the course. However, this was a valuable learning experience for me.

A summary comes at the end of the process of reading and active engagement with the text so that main points can be outlined. Difficult for me and it is interesting to compare it with my previous posts on Lecture 1 in the Lounge Chat.
I would recommend any student to write one at the end of any lecture. It requires certain skills and types of reading e.g. skimming first, and re-reading more closely to extract the essence -the juiciness, even though it looks skeletal in form.
Decisions have to be taken as to the main points and key terms. Bits to leave out. It's not perfect and if anyone can advise as to improvement I'm all ears.
All good but more time and energy consuming than I had bargained for.
I should now be heading towards Lecture 2 but there's this discussion going on.

Georgeanna
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » August 17th, 2018, 7:52 am

The different types of regime and necessary qualities of statesmanship and elections

Again - both Brexit and Trump are on my mind a lot.
I keep hearing about the decision to leave the European Union as being the democratic will of the people.
Trump's view of the press as the enemy of the people. And more besides...

I'm not sure about the worth of a democracy any more.
This relates to one of the issues outlined in summary - as to whether societies of men would be capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice - or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

This course is a base for further exploration.
My questions regarding the worth of a democracy or how legitimate the system is led me to this wiki article on 'Deliberative Democracy' :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_democracy

However, I even question whether this would be sufficient - I have concerns that our current election systems are being tampered with...
Who gets to decide the outcome - is it the people or the will of powerful agents...

Fooloso4
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » August 17th, 2018, 10:47 am

Steve3007:
Those are interesting findings because, on the face of it, they seem to show a move in the opposite direction from that which we often tend to think politics in places like the US and parts of Europe are going - towards populist politicians who paint simple, black-and-white pictures of the world and away from the whole concept of experts, with their nuance and in-depth analysis.
Interesting point. I think the apparent contradiction may have something to do with what the expertise is in; a rejection of political and sociological expertise in favor of technological fixes. A form of political science versus political philosophy. In this sense the solutions might be seen as black and white. Smith points out that the questions of political philosophy have no answer, but math and science (or at least a crude notion of science) does yield the right answer.“Real” expertise as opposed to so called “experts”. The Right has made ‘expert’ into a term of derision, applicable to those who are out of touch - the “elite” who run things for their own benefit, with their foot on the neck of the people.

Perhaps the young feel disenfranchised from the voting process believing the “system is rigged” or does not offer real choice. Older voters, however, having grown up believing in the power of the vote and being in the habit of voting believe that they have the opportunity to vote the right person into office. Once in office, however, they may be more inclined to keep them in office by eliminating term limits or postponing elections. And in order to get things done the current corrupt political system must be dismantled. There may be generational and other differences as to who the right person for the job is, but a shared willingness to relinquish control to an autocrat. An outsider. A man (f political correctness) of the people.

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