The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Could be clearer It's probably an impossible task, trying to summarize complex arguments from such a range of thinkers and eras. But I found myself feeling utterly lost in these lectures all too often. Perhaps I need the high school version.
Date published: 2020-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not Just A Review of the Standard Theorists I was a political science major in college and graduated in 1973. What I particularly liked about this course is that after a review of the usual political theorists, the last half of the course was a discussion of contemporary political developments and concerns. I'm not sure why he decided to start at Hobbes because with the inclusion of Plato and Aristotle he would have completely covered the subject of political theory (and he does talk a little bit about the ancients), but since he defined the course as starting at Hobbes, I can't complain. To get the ancients, buy Dennis Dalton's course, Power Over People, an oddly idiosyncratic course that completely neglects american political tradition, has curious inclusions (Emma Goldman, Ghandi), but is thoroughly delightful and well worth listening to.
Date published: 2019-08-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Broad ranging but dense The course covers a very wide range of philosophers and philosophies, which allows for dipping one's toes into a sea and then deciding whom (or what topics) you may wish you may wish to explore in greater detail. The problem I found with the course was that it was dense and often difficult to follow. Many of these are complicated concepts what may be explained in one lecture and then referred to much later when the memory is fainter. I also found the professor's style a bit dry and droning, which seemed to encourage my mind to wander quite a bit. I found I needed to replay large portions of the course several times. All that being said, this course may be a better choice if one has at least a passing knowledge of the philosophers - or at least the basic concepts - the professor dwells on. (I found the earlier lectures easier to follow for just that reason.) I played a portion of the course to someone who was a philosophy major (albeit before several of the philosophers touched on were well-known) and he found it absolutely fascinating and enlightening. Perhaps it just wasn't to my taste...
Date published: 2019-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Enjoyed Immensely Highly recommend to both beginners and experts
Date published: 2019-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectually economical The lecturer gets to the point quickly and thoroughly. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2019-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific survey of modern political thought This was a terrific survey of modernity's approach to political theory, with just enough depth to get a solid understanding of all the major thinkers and concepts. It's only a survey - there are entire courses devoted to, say Machiavelli or Tocqueville - and is focused on philosophy rather than events. But while there's always room for more, this course didn't seem to miss any of the major developments. Professor Cahoone isn't the most entertaining of lecturers. He's not a natural storyteller like a Prof. Hale, nor does he have a "schtick" like a Prof. Greenberg. What's more important, though, is that he makes no obvious endorsement of one political theory or another, nor does he attempt to prove theory A was right and B was wrong as evidenced by history. Rather, he outlines where each theory was seen to succeed or fall short intellectually, and how the arguments around countervailing theories were constructed. At a time when politics everywhere has been reduced to partisan name-calling, charting its intellectual legacy is a welcome change. I definitely see myself taking this course out for a repeat listen a year or two from now.
Date published: 2019-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modernity: Enlightenment Politics Critiqued After reviewing "The MODERN INTELLECTUAL TRADITION: From Descartes to Derrida" with its concepts of reality (metaphysics) and its basis of knowledge claims (epistemology), I felt the need to explore the political expressions, social implications, and cultural dimensions of Enlightenment thought rooted in the historical development of the NATION-STATE system of MODERN LIBERAL REPUBLICANISM / democracy and its conceptual language. From the 16th to the 21st century -- the canon of political ideas, the range of sociological movements, and the major political philosophers -- are explored and critiqued in "The MODERN POLITICAL TRADITION: Hobbes to Habermas" also by Professor Lawrence Cahoone. This democratic EXPERIMENT in modern liberal republicanism is still in process and is analyzed in three phases. From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the FORMATIVE PHASE surveys the background of classical virture politics of antiquity and the Christian middle ages to the realism politics of the Renaissance, and the explosion of social contract and ethical theories, the AMERICAN and FRENCH REVOLUTIONS, the realm of civil society and the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION and the rise of commercialism in its conservative, libertarian, progressive, and Marxists dimensions. Some modern political and social philosophers and their ideas -- Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Smith, Montesquieu, Mill, Marx -- are presented. From 1900 to 1950, the CRISIS PHASE surveys the shift from TRADITIONAL societies, values, and human meanings, to MODERNITY, facticity, and scientific explanations. Industrial growth, technical weapons, World War I, the Russian Revolution, the 1929 Great Depression, the rise of the left-right ideologies, World War II, atomic bombs, concentration and death camps, etc., reveal the dark side of enlightened reason. The political and social pressures, and the contradictions in appearance and reality upon modern liberal republicanism and capitalism were dangerously extreme. Internally, the new left subordinated economics to CRITICAL THEORY which interrogated reason culturally as to why barbarism and TOTALITARIANISM and not enlightened and EMANCIPATORY ideals accompanied modernity and technical progress. Externally, fascism, communism, in short totalitarian systems of social organization and mind controls offered its solution as alternatives to the liberal democratic capitalist world seen in an increasing disequilibrium state. Some political movements and their ideas -- conservatism, liberalism, nationalism, progressivism, anarchism, socialism, communatarianism, communism, nazism, totalitarianism, relativism, nihilism, postmodernism, etc. -- are presented. From 1950 to 2000 the TRIUMPH and GROWING PAINS PHASE of modern liberal republicanism centers mainly on THEMATIC topics. Giants such as Weber, Nietzsche, Freud, Durkheim, Marcuse, etc., participate in the professor's discussions about issues confronting the individual, society, CIVILIZATION, and its DISCONTENTS. Discussed is the death of Stalin, the cold war, the fall of communism, instrumental reason, anti-foundationalism, anthropology, multiculturalism, feminism, post-colonialism, eurocentrism, environmentalism, etc. The professor raises several questions and PARADOXES from his lectures. In closing this review, here is a random collection of partial quotes / ideas from those lectures: " ...Does the PROBLEMS of relativism, positivism, historicism, nihilism, etc. -- the absence of an adequate foundation for politics -- point to the fact that the Enlightenment was already a WRONG TURN? If modernism is at a dead end, must we choose between postmodernism / Nietzsche or premodernism / Aristotle? When PRAGMATISM places meanings, ideas, and even truth in the context of human action, and the most important part of reason becomes a social or intersubjective phenomenon, is this intrinsically normative or moral which answers the POSTMODERN critique of foundationalism in politics? Is the REVENGE OF CULTURE on a postwar politics the thought that individual liberties and economic justice were all that mattered? Are we at the end of history, or at the clash of civilizations, or at a Jihad vs. McWorld, or at the revenge of God? Our goal is to understand the logic, implications, and arguments for and against those ideas on all sides ... " Very highly recommended, enjoyable, and mind expanding!
Date published: 2018-11-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Well thought out detailed comprehensive course covering a complex subject.
Date published: 2018-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Cahoone is really top notch. What he says is all understandable, but at the same time, he conveys a great deal of very interesting information. He's very familiar with a broad range of information and he puts it into historical context. I find the material fascinating, and his voice is easy to listen to. I hope the Teaching Company will do more courses using Prof. Cahoone.
Date published: 2018-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! I am enjoying the course immensely. Highly analytical and clear, I find the lectures very clarifying on material I have read long ago and perhaps not fully understood back then.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Need more Cahoone Please, TLC, have professor Cahoone make more courses. He is by far the best lecturer, and I have a watched many TLC courses.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A marvelous summary... This is a marvelous summary of the history of political philosophy, with special attention to the founding fathers like Plato and Aristotle, then a run through the great Enlightenment figures, and finally, an updating of what has gone on in the last hundred years. This is actually fun to listen to!
Date published: 2017-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timely! I am enjoying this course as it seems really timely and is a wonderful refresher to some of my favorite political theorists at a time in my life when my perspectives have become more fixed. I’d recommend that anyone who wishes to consider how and why we are where we are today purchase this course.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The course feels like too many things at once I would recommend this course to anyone interested in a relatively high-level overview of modern political philosophy, but not without some caveats. Professor Cahoone is an engaging lecturer (I have listened as well to his Modern Intellectual Tradition). He covers an enormous amount of complex material and he does so in as digestible a format as possible when you're limited to half hour lectures per topic. But the course does and does not try to be comprehensive; does and does not try to engage in philosophical thinking; does and does not try to be a course on intellectual history. Because it tries to do all of these things in some fashion, it does none of them particularly well. First, on trying (and failing) to be comprehensive. The lectures that linger on individual thinkers tend to be the best, but even then Cahoone tries to capture a great deal of writing -- the lecture on Rawls, for example, tries to discuss *both* the theory of justice *and* political liberalism. Just talking about the veil of ignorance would take a full lecture and it would still be superficial. But then two or so lectures later, we're talking about perhaps a dozen thinkers roughly under the "community" heading. It's not clear to me why this was necessary, even if it was interesting to be introduced to certain thinkers, for a few seconds anyway. Second, on trying to engage in philosophical thinking. I think Cahoone is very good at making difficult philosophical problems clear for the listener. But there wasn't very much of this. In some ways the course could have been this, but in fairness it didn't really advertise itself this way; but it's a shame because this was a nice feature of the lectures. Third, on trying to be intellectual history. The course was mostly this, but it didn't really hold itself out this way. The lectures tended to march through the canon from Hobbes onward, but it focused on explicating the thinking rather than contextualizing it in its time, or really in doing what intellectual historians do. What this course did, at its best, was demonstrate just how much political theory in the modern era was one set of reactions following another: reactions to the industrial revolution and change in economic conditions; reactions to capitalism; reactions to war; reactions to political situations. The arc of the course was really structured this way, and this was an interesting concept, but it never really was engaged systematically. So in the end, this felt like a decent course where of course I learned a lot, but it was a disappointment because it was never clear what the course wanted to be, I will note that The Great Courses is making a mistake with the half hour format. I have an attention span that is greater than that of a pigeon. I would appreciate longer lectures if it means greater depth. I also think The Great Courses should consider ways of making these more like "courses" instead of lectures in podcast format. That would mean not just "here are some books you can read" and a summary of the lectures, but something more like a syllabus -- what to read before a lecture and what to review after. I am listening to these because I want to learn. Why not have this option?
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from before and beyond originalism! this was a wonderful course that traces from early Mediterranean cultures to the present. The most fascinating part to me was the 18th century when many of the ideas in the USA constitution were developed and discussed. The eveolution of political thought in the 19th century in the face of increasing technology and growing populations was also fascinating. The later part of the 20th century was harder to relate to and seemed too abstract. The professor was clear and energetic and enjoyable to learn from.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Analysis of Western Political Thought This course was outstanding. The analysis of the impact of political philosophy on practical politics was worth the price of admission. The professor's knowledge of the subject matter was really impressive. Anyone with a serious interest in politics should listen to these lectures.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modern Political Tradition Excellent and comprehensive treatment of a complex subject. I learned a lot. Professor Cahoon is clearly an authority and an effective teacher of this subject. Excellent!
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely thoughtful I listened to this program and listened to many parts of it again. I then loaned it to a friend, who liked it every bit as much as I did. We both agreed that we would have more confidence in our officials if we knew that they consulted Professor Cahoone from time to time about the sources and uses of government power.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from tedious for beginners Whilst I can understand that this is an overview of world philosophy, the lectures are very tedious for someone who is unacquainted with the subject. The lecturer presumes that the viewer possesses a lot of prior knowledge on philosophy. Not recommended for beginners. My son, whom I purchased this for, could not get past the 2nd lecture.
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now I Understand! This was a really fascinating course on political philosophy. Going through the course one can see the complex tapestry of thought that is the foundation for past and current "politics". Regardless of you personal beliefs and your position on governance, this course will provide you a much deeper understanding of each thread in that tapestry. I would recommend the course to anyone that really wants to understand how we got where we are now.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid exposition of traditional political theory. Comprehensive, professional exposition of a complex subject. Well done.
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive in Depth and Breadth This is an amazing course. It's definitely of an academic nature. It's overwhelmingly informative. It's the type of course in which one may want to listen to each CD a couple times before moving on to the next one.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course And Professor I have had the pleasure of completing both of Dr. Cahoone's courses and have found them informative, detailed and well presented. The subject matter is often complex and the philosophers and political authors difficult to follow, but Dr. Cahoone works hard to make the material understandable to the layman. I particularly enjoyed the final lecture in this course where the Professor expressed some of his beliefs and understandings. I only wish this could be a mandatory course for our modern day leaders.
Date published: 2016-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fine Course, but Not Entirely What I Expected I had great expectations for this course, I really enjoyed Professor Cahoone's course on the modern intellectual tradition, which was a wonderful overview of modern Western philosophy, with a nearly exclusive focus on epistemology and related subjects. So I expected that this course would be a similar exposition of major works and ideas of political philosophy. To be sure, there was a good deal of that in the course, but that was scarcely the sole or even primary focus. The course was more of a overview of specific political, economic, and cultural developments over the past 5 centuries that was presented within the framework provided by a discussion of major theories of political philosophy. There was thus a lot of discussion of of subjects that struck me as falling more in the category of economic, political, and cultural history than political philosophy under any definition of the latter term. For example, a good deal of time was spent discussing historical developments (such as the rise of Mussolini, Hitler, and fascism and the Russian Revolution and the conduct of Lenin and Stalin) that were quite familiar and that struck me as unnecessary digressions. And a major focus of the course was issues related to feminism, multiculturalism, assimilation, and other subjects that struck me as largely independent of the system of government that has been, could be, or should be adopted in any country and the philosophical premises underlying those decisions. For example, the system of government in the U.S. would work just fine if the roles of men and women were reversed and if the country hereafter embraced 10-15 significant discrete cultures (as it arguably at times in the past of our very pluralistic nation; as the professor states, representative republican governments always balance and accommodate interests, rather than arrive at "truth"). Other issues that were discussed struck me as more in the nature of current events or law, but not philosophy. For example, the penultimate lecture addressed how the principles of the Geneva convention and related treaties should be applied to a number of recent wars or events within wars. That certainly isn't an uninteresting subject to me (a lawyer), but that discussion struck me as matters for a course on international law, and not philosophy, at least as it was presented in the lectures. There similarly were discussions of various recent books that address the clashes between the West and Islamic and other cultures and whether the world is now converging on a single political and economic system of organization (an end to history). Again, an interesting subject, but more current events and not something that is terribly germane to a course on political philosophy. Perhaps the explanation is that the Professor's objective in the course wasn't solely to present a discussion of political philosophy, but to address all major forces that arguably bear on the choices of economic, cultural, and political systems that any country should make or support -- perhaps on the theory that these choices all bear on the western political tradition. If the course had been clearly advertised as doing that, I would not have had expectations that were not met. All this said, many lectures in the course were precisely what I had hoped to hear. The lectures on Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Hegel, and Arendt were lucid and insightful. The lecture on post-modernism was a worthy supplement to the excellent lectures on Rorty, Derrida, and Foucault in this professor's course on the modern intellectual tradition. And there was a nice presentation on Habermas. I just wished that there had been more philosophy and less discussion of cultural history and the like. But even though the course did not meet my expectations, it was a very good course that I would recommend even to others who share my quirks!
Date published: 2016-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from not for the novice this course is stuffed to the gills with content in a way that’s not typical for the teaching company. this makes it extremely comprehensive, but at the same time unexpectedly dense and mentally demanding. on the plus side you’re introduced to all sorts of political thinkers who are rarely mentioned in popular culture, even though they’re the ones who began and contributed most cogently to the debates that we’re still having today. on the other hand the compact and often highly technical presentation makes the going hard, and so while i do feel that i learned a tremendous amount from this course, i wouldn’t say i particularly enjoyed it, and to be honest there were a few times i wasn’t entirely sure i was going to make it through. i think part of the reason i found this course so mentally challenging is because the professor, presumably wanting to include as much material as possible, often makes very cursory references to ideas and thinkers that, for a relative beginner, really need to be more fully unpacked. his attempt to summarize hegel’s philosophy in about ten minutes is an example of this. or to take a couple quotes from the lecture on hannah arendt, he says such things as, “[authority’s] proper location is outside politics in domains of ruling and being ruled,” and “arendt makes the point that legislating was not political for the greeks; it was a craft of making the polis.” someone unfamiliar with arendt’s work might reasonably ask how either of these things could be considered “not political” and would expect at least a paragraph in explanation, but instead we find ourselves moving right along, potentially to another complex idea tossed off in just as brief a fashion. in addition, as a philosophy professor he is very careful to discuss all concepts in as close as possible to the original language. a strong case can be made for this approach, but as it makes terms mean something other than what they normally do, sometimes even changing from one lecture to the next, what you gain in precision you lose in ease of comprehension. prof. cahoone does make an effort to explain these shifting meanings, but the fact that all these ideas are presented “in the original” rather than being translated into the modern vernacular inevitably creates an additional layer of difficulty. i think the problem is that this is really a third year philosophy course. it’s meant to be an introduction, but the professor speaks as if his listeners are already reasonably familiar with the philosophical world he’s discussing. this creates an existential tension in the course itself, because a person who could comfortably follow his terminology and shorthand references would presumably not need to take this course. in the end i rated this course “good” because there is a lot of valuable content here; just be aware that for most of us it won’t come easy. concerning the question of bias, prof. cahoone does an admirable job of suppressing his own. by the end of the course i was still debating what his views might actually be, which means you can feel comfortable with his presentation wherever you sit on the political spectrum. i regularly found myself arguing with the philosophers discussed, but i’m pleased to report that i almost never found myself arguing with the professor himself. i watched the video version of this course, but most of the useful visuals are simply text on the screen. the handful of helpful diagrams are reproduced in the guidebook, so unless you really like screen text the audio version should be fine.
Date published: 2016-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provocative, Thorough and Extremely Relevant This is a stupendous achievement, a sophisticated recounting of the whole field of Western political philosophy in one course. And along with its scholarly virtues, it is highly relevant to vital economic, global and social issues in today's world. Where I went to undergraduate and graduate school, philosophy was taught in an ahistorical way, as a series of arguments that we needed to be able to analyze and critique. Professor Cahoone, however, sets the major figures in political theory, from Machiavelli to Marx to Marcuse and more, in their historical context. This was new for me. It enabled me to understand how each of these thinkers responded to the challenges of their time, and in many cases, influenced the course of human events as well. They weren't disembodied brains out of time. Each philosopher or thought movement was clearly presented, except perhaps for Hegel, who of course is hard for anyone to understand. Professor Cahoone was especially good at defining important concepts like nationalism, conservatism, liberal republicanism, progressivism, totalitarianism and so on. For me, the highlights included his discussion of the origins of nationalism, just war theory, the transcendentalism of fascism, John Rawls' theory of justice, and Leo Strauss's look back at Plato, among other segments. When I looked at the course outline, I was a bit skeptical about the last third of the course, which included feminism, multiculturalism and environmentalism, but Professor Cahoone related each of these modes of thought to the fundamental issues discussed throughout the rest of the course in insightful and interesting ways. He also touched on globalization, terrorism and religious fundamentalism and the challenges they may pose for cherished political ideas. Listening to this course during the US presidential campaign was an especially interesting experience because so many of the ideas discussed in it come up in the differences between today's left and right, Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, I had barely finished the lectures on fascism and totalitarianism when I came across a New York Times op-ed piece about Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt, two thinkers discussed at length in the course. As for presentation, the first couple of lectures were a little rough to listen to, because they seemed to be written in dense prose rather than crafted to be spoken. The professor's delivery got much better and much easier to understand by ear as the course went on. I listened to this course on audio and strongly recommend it for anyone who wants a systematic exposure to the main currents of political thinking.
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too much information With the election season upon us I thought it would be interesting to get some historical insights on politics. The professor is very knowledgeable but my 69 year old brain, without much experience in political thought was overwhelmed with information. I struggled through more than 1/2 the course but aside from increasing my knowledge on any given subject, I watch these courses while exercising to distract me from the fact that I am exercising. With so many "isms" as well as "neo" this and that combined with historical figures with whom I was not familiar, my mind would wonder. I took the Great Courses up on their guarantee and gave up on it. If you are knowledgeable on political philosophy and want an indepth course, I suggest you give it a try.
Date published: 2016-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Will force reflection on your political beliefs Audio CD Review I cannot say enough good things about this course; it is fantastic by any attribute you could use to describe a course. It is a marvel of scholarship and presentation. I cannot reconcile my thoughts about this course with the earlier negative reviews. It is as if we were reviewing two different courses. For those who have taken Professor Robinson’s Great Ideas of Philosophy course, this course is a really deep dive into what Dr. Robinson calls the “problem of governance”. Dr. Cahoone basically parses out the thoughts of the most significant modern thinkers in terms of what their intellectual program means for politics and governing. He does a great job of showing how ideas regarding other aspects of Philosophy writ-large intersect with the problem of governance. I would be hard pressed to overstate how much I gained from this course. More importantly than the bounty of facts and ideas imparted, it forced some hard self-examination regarding my own long-standing political beliefs. Dr. Cahoone does an amazing job of faithfully and deeply presenting all perspectives, to include many for which I had not had an appreciation until I had taken this course. For that alone, this course is well worth your time.
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Raises Important Questions Professor Cahonne traces the development of political philosophy from ancient Greek thinkers to current political issues of gender, ethnicity, environment and just war. Enlightenment philosophers, unread by me, (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and others) are brought to life through their influence on Western European and American governmental development. Dr. Cahonne discusses the influence of revolution, and the development of repressive forms of government on the evolution of the current political state of the world. The final eight lectures are focused on contemporary issues. Dr. Cahonne opines that the threat of radical terrorism, though a serious threat, is less of an international threat today than was the threat of nuclear war following World War II. His discussion of just wars (Lecture 35) is worth the price of the entire course. Finally, he concludes that current American political divisions between conservatives and progressives do not veer far from the center. With forthcoming Republican and Democrat conventions, and the national election in November 2016, now is a good time to complete this course. The course raises important questions about the future of American government as we assimilate more, and more diverse, people into American society. Finally, Professor Cahoone presents complex material in an understandable way. He has broad knowledge of his subject and speaks with passion from his knowledge.
Date published: 2016-06-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Sadly, mostly potential. Yes, this course has much interesting material if only I could digest it. Subsequently, I even bought the transcript books, but most of it through either medium still drones on. I must say in fairness that I have a learning disability which makes this course even more challenging, but of the many courses that I have bought from the Learning Company, I have not come up with one that is nearly this esoteric and impenetrable, almost cryptic. I read with interest all of the other reviews and think that many of the reviewers have made some good suggestions for making this course better. It would be nice if The Great Courses and Professor Cahoone did this course again incorporating some of these excellent ideas. My guess is that if the student took the class in person and therefore had the opportunity to steer the presentation with comment and question, that would do the trick. As it is, it is a shame. The course could be very relevant and evenly timely considering what the political system in this country is going through today. It is far too easy now to simply relegate it to the dusty shelves of a frustrated intellectual's library. I said that I would recommend it to a friend, but surely not without the above caveat. I gave it a low rating on value because without amendment, I fear most of its value will remain potential only. Additionally, I have read at various times in the past many, certainly not all, of the authors that the good professor cites and was looking forward in this course to a creditable translation, after which I could go back to some of the original sources, but the way in which this translation is offered here in too many cases is not of much help. I can only hope that the producers are listening. A final summary would be that the course gives loads and loads of good material but rendered commercially and ineffectually. I am painfully aware of the excellent guarantee behind these courses.
Date published: 2016-04-26
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The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas
Course Trailer
Origins and Conflicts of Modern Politics
1: Origins and Conflicts of Modern Politics

Kick off the course with a discussion of political philosophy's continuing influence in the world and its major concepts, including democracy, republicanism, and liberalism. Consider moral realism versus moral relativism, and learn how the history of modern political thought has evolved from its formation through its contemporary period.

35 min
Ancient Republics, Empires, Fiefdoms
2: Ancient Republics, Empires, Fiefdoms

Modern political philosophy emerged, along with the rise of modernity, out of medieval feudalism. Delve into the history of politics leading up to 16th-century Europe, including the development of ancient political organization, the ideas of Plato and Aristotle-the first Western political theorists-and the contributions of medieval philosophy, such as the notion of "just war."

30 min
Machiavelli's New Order
3: Machiavelli's New Order

Does politics demand behavior that is ethically immoral? Do the ends justify the means? Explore the legacy of Niccolò Machiavelli, the first modern political philosopher and political scientist, who broke with the classical virtue politics of Plato, Aristotle, Rome, and medieval Christianity, establishing a new order of political thought that focused on politics in the real world.

29 min
Hobbes, Natural Law, the Social Contract
4: Hobbes, Natural Law, the Social Contract

Explore the first version of social contract theory as espoused by Thomas Hobbes, who based his view on moral relativism and a pessimistic state of nature in which there is a war of all against all. Learn why for society to function, according to Hobbes, the people must give up control to the sovereign, upon which no limits can be placed.

32 min
Locke on Limited Government and Toleration
5: Locke on Limited Government and Toleration

Turn to John Locke and his more "liberal" notion of the state of nature and the social contract, which reinterpreted civic republicanism in terms of the preservation of property. Follow the arguments he presented in his Second Treatise on Government and Letter on Toleration, which ultimately established the foundation of the Anglo-American version of modern republicanism.

33 min
Rousseau's Republican Community
6: Rousseau's Republican Community

As the Enlightenment's greatest champion of equality, Swiss writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau endorsed the social contract-but his ideas differed from Hobbes and Locke in critical ways. Here, examine Rousseau's legacy and thought, which sought to structure modern civil society in a way that might recapture what he saw as the independence and equality of primitive society.

32 min
Kant's Ethics of Duty and Natural Rights
7: Kant's Ethics of Duty and Natural Rights

Immanuel Kant is attributed with creating one of the two most influential theories of ethics, deontological ethics-the other being utilitarianism-each of which became the background for an enduring view of modern republicanism. In this lecture, examine Kant's fundamental arguments, which are key to understanding much of modern political theory....

31 min
Smith and the Market Revolution
8: Smith and the Market Revolution

Inspired by the commercial success of Holland and England, a number of 18th-century intellectuals argued that a society of self-interested producers is good, despite its flaunting of traditional, classical, and Christian virtues. Investigate these thinkers, including Voltaire and Adam Smith, who each believed commerce promotes liberty, peace, and prosperity.

32 min
Montesquieu and the American Founding
9: Montesquieu and the American Founding

The complexities of the American Constitution and system of government are a consequence of disagreements between Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Look at their arguments and contributions to political thought-including the Declaration of Independence, parts of the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers-along with the ideas of Montesquieu, whose notion of the separation of...

31 min
Debating the French Revolution
10: Debating the French Revolution

As the greatest political event of the 18th century, the French Revolution inspired political thinkers around the world. In the first of three lectures tracing the uprising's philosophical impact, delve into the liberal, conservative, and proto-progressive arguments made during "the battle of the pamphlets"-the first intellectual feud over the meaning of the Revolution.

31 min
Legacies of the Revolution-Right to Left
11: Legacies of the Revolution-Right to Left

Where do the political terms "right" and "left" come from? Find out here, in a lecture that explores powerful 19th-century thinkers on both sides of the spectrum, whose reactions to the polarizing French Revolution helped pave the way for more extreme conservatism and anarchist socialism that lasted throughout the century.

33 min
Nationalism and a People's War
12: Nationalism and a People's War

Part of the legacy of the French Revolution was the development of two phenomena: nationalism and the modern way of warfare. Look at the philosophical work of military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, who distinguished between "real war" and "pure war" (the latter being the type ushered in by Napoleon), as you consider the novelty and significance of these changes.

29 min
Civil Society-Constant, Hegel, Tocqueville
13: Civil Society-Constant, Hegel, Tocqueville

Between the extremes of left and right, Benjamin Constant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Alexis de Tocqueville made major contributions to political theory by examining the idea of what a free republic can and should be. Examine their writing, which demonstrated that two kinds of republicanism exist: liberal and civic.

33 min
Mill on Liberty and Utility
14: Mill on Liberty and Utility

Despite later declaring himself a socialist, John Stuart Mill is admired by neoliberals and libertarians for his "harm principle" and rejection of paternalism as expressed in On Liberty. Investigate Mill's doctrine of individual liberty and redefinition of utilitarianism, as well as his economic stance, all of which became crucial to subsequent political and economic theory.

30 min
Marx's Critique of Capitalism
15: Marx's Critique of Capitalism

German philosopher Karl Marx's critique of capitalism and vision of communism went unapplied until 1917 in Russia. By 1980, approximately one-third of the world's population lived in countries adhering to his work. Explore Marx's basic claims (formulated in conjunction with Friedrich Engels), which represented the most powerful version of socialism and the greatest threat to liberal capitalism.

31 min
Modern vs. Traditional Society
16: Modern vs. Traditional Society

The modern world brought higher standards of living, unprecedented scientific knowledge, and widespread literacy, yet it also undermined tradition and, for many, led to a loss of community. Learn how figures from the newly emerging social sciences, including Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche, changed the intellectual environment in attempting to describe this shift.

32 min
Progressivism and New Liberalism
17: Progressivism and New Liberalism

From 1900 to 1920, American progressives such as Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Dewey argued for an "organic" view of society against the natural rights, atomistic individualism, and limited government of the 19th century. Understand the role, effects, and issues raised by progressivism and new liberalism in America, including the welfare state.

30 min
Fleeing Liberalism-Varieties of Socialism
18: Fleeing Liberalism-Varieties of Socialism

Explore the growing variants of socialism, including a milder, "evolutionary" socialism in western Europe, an intermediate version of "Western Marxist" political theory, and a more radical, authoritarian communism in Russia. Look closely at the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and get a clear explanation of capitalism vs. communism.

31 min
Fleeing Liberalism-Fascism and Carl Schmitt
19: Fleeing Liberalism-Fascism and Carl Schmitt

In the 1920s, opposition to bourgeois-led parliamentary democracy split between internationalist socialism and a new nationalist socialism, which came to be called fascism. Explore the roots of fascism and its most sophisticated political thinker, Carl Schmitt, who presents a deep philosophical critique of parliamentary democracy and liberal republicanism.

32 min
Totalitarianism and Total War
20: Totalitarianism and Total War

Explore the events surrounding World War II, including the role philosophers played and how political philosophers interpreted the new totalitarianism of Russia, Italy, and Germany. Grasp how this period produced our familiar spectrum of international politics, with communism on the far left and fascism on the far right.

31 min
Conservative or Neoliberal-Oakeshott, Hayek
21: Conservative or Neoliberal-Oakeshott, Hayek

Neoliberals and economic conservatives disagree widely on many points, but they share a common enemy: expansive, progressive government. See the two paths conservatism took in the post-WWII world and examine the thought these camps produced-all of which serves as background for today's arguments about government and economy.

30 min
Reviving the Public Realm-Hannah Arendt
22: Reviving the Public Realm-Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, one of the 20th century's premier political philosophers, was critical of the modern dominance of economics over politics in both communism and liberal capitalism, and she called for a return to civic republicanism. Here, look closely at the ideas she puts forth in The Human Condition and related works.

31 min
Philosophy vs. Politics-Strauss and Friends
23: Philosophy vs. Politics-Strauss and Friends

Now, turn to another German émigré philosopher who, like Arendt, probed further into the conflict between politics and philosophy while turning to the ancients for a political approach that avoids the mistakes of modernity. Examine Leo Strauss's work, which has significantly influenced American neoconservatives, and the related writings of his friend, Alexandre Kojève.

29 min
Marcuse and the New Left
24: Marcuse and the New Left

Although the "old" left declined in the West after WWII, Frankfurt School thinker Herbert Marcuse was able to help create what was sometimes called a Freudian left through a psychological reinterpretation of Marxism. Delve into the New Left of the 1960s and Marcuse's ideas, which critiqued capitalism's seduction of society through the welfare state and culture industry.

31 min
Rawls's A Theory of Justice
25: Rawls's A Theory of Justice

Is it just for one man to drive a luxury car and eat at expensive restaurants while another goes homeless and hungry? Consider such questions of justice as you explore the views of John Rawls, whose 1971 A Theory of Justice became the most famous justification of welfare liberalism in the late 20th century.

32 min
Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick, Libertarianism
26: Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick, Libertarianism

Take a nuanced look at libertarianism, starting with the views of novelist Ayn Rand, who defended laissez-faire and espoused a philosophy of "objectivism." Then turn to the work Anarchy, State, and Utopia, in which philosopher Robert Nozick provided a libertarian rebuttal to Rawls, laying the groundwork for future disagreements over the welfare state.

32 min
What about Community?
27: What about Community?

As Rawls's theory of distributive justice, and some libertarian critics, were dominating political philosophy, a new group of political theorists called communitarians emerged to critique their views. See how this diverse movement of thinkers concerned with community, civic republicanism, and civil society responded to the individualism and neutrality of Rawls and Nozick.

33 min
Walzer on Everything Money Shouldn't Buy
28: Walzer on Everything Money Shouldn't Buy

Michael Walzer created perhaps the most interesting alternative to the distributive justice theories of Rawls and Nozick in his Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. Explore his more communitarian theory of distributive justice and the distinction he draws between "thin" and "thick" political discourse, in attempting to deal with criticisms of his view.

30 min
Identity Politics-Feminism
29: Identity Politics-Feminism

The personal is political. This phrase, coined by Carol Hanisch in her 1969 essay of the same name, succinctly describes how feminism forever altered the boundary between the private and the public, which liberalism has always tended to reinforce. Here, consider the feminist challenge to liberal republican political theory and look at the many versions of feminist philosophy.

30 min
Identity Politics-Multiculturalism
30: Identity Politics-Multiculturalism

Is "color-blindness" inherently unequal? Does a cultural group have rights? Is the goal of liberal democratic equality to treat citizens indifferently with respect to their racial, ethnic, or cultural distinctiveness, or to take that distinctiveness into account and value it? Here, explore the question of how recognizing cultural differences changes liberal republicanism.

30 min
The Politics of Nature-Environmentalism
31: The Politics of Nature-Environmentalism

Environmentalism has been associated with the political left because it is often in the position of opposing major economic interests. Yet it's fundamentally conservative in that it wants to "go back" to an earlier time. Survey some of the ideas and arguments of this movement and gauge its effect on liberal republican political theory.

31 min
Postmodernism, Truth, and Power
32: Postmodernism, Truth, and Power

Postmodern critique has changed the discussions of sociology, literature, philosophy, and political theory by pressing feminist and multiculturalist versions of egalitarian liberalism or progressivism in a radical, anti-Eurocentric direction. Explore some of the ideas-both leftist and conservative-behind postmodernism in politics, as put forth by Cornel West, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, and o...

31 min
Habermas-Democracy as Communication
33: Habermas-Democracy as Communication

No one has done more to give both a historical and a systematic philosophical defense of modern republicanism in the postwar period than Jürgen Habermas. Explore his philosophy of communication, as well as his arguments for liberal republicanism and social democracy against philosophical and theoretical attacks by conservatism, Nietzschean "will to power," and postmodernism.

32 min
The End of History? Clash of Civilizations?
34: The End of History? Clash of Civilizations?

The fall of communism and rise of economic globalization appeared to solidify the supremacy of liberal republicanism. Yet we have since witnessed a reassertion of ethnic nationalism and radical Islam, leading to an even more politically complex world. Is liberal republicanism destined to be universal, or is it inapplicable to some civilizations?

30 min
Just Wars? The Problem of Dirty Hands
35: Just Wars? The Problem of Dirty Hands

Revisit the topic of the ethics of war, which was touched upon earlier in the course. First, review the three active philosophical positions-pacifism, realism, and just war theory-then look at Michael Walzer's version of just war theory and his take on recent wars from a moral perspective.

32 min
Why Political Philosophy Matters
36: Why Political Philosophy Matters

Do we need more government or less? Will the liberal republican model stand up to and address the problems its ever-modernizing society will create? Professor Cahoone concludes by demonstrating how he would work through some of the issues covered. Also, see how Americans-while seemingly hopelessly divided politically-actually disagree less than we might believe.

33 min
Lawrence Cahoone

The Great Courses deeply challenged my skills in teaching philosophy, while making it fun too.


Stony Brook University


College of the Holy Cross

About Lawrence Cahoone

Dr. Lawrence Cahoone is Professor of Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where he has taught since 2000. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. A two-time winner of the Undergraduate Philosophy Association Teaching Award at Boston University who has taught more than 50 different philosophy courses, Professor Cahoone is not only a skilled teacher, but also an author. With a background in recent European, American, and social and political philosophy, as well as interests in postmodernism, metaphysics, and the latter's relation to the natural sciences, he has written:

  • The Orders of Nature
  • Cultural Revolutions: Reason versus Culture in Philosophy, Politics, and Jihad
  • Civil Society: The Conservative Meaning of Liberal Politics
  • The Ends of Philosophy: Pragmatism, Foundationalism, and Postmodernism
  • The Dilemma of Modernity: Philosophy, Culture, and Anti-Culture

He edited From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology and his play, Wise Guys: A Philosophical Comedy, is available at

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