Lecture: Natural Law Roots of the Social Contract Tradition

Ian Shapiro - Yale

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Lecture Description

Before exploring the three Enlightenment traditions in particular, Professor Shapiro examines the Enlightenment holistically, using John Locke as the foundation for the discussion. The first tenet of the Enlightenment is a commitment to science as a way of ordering politics, and Professor Shapiro introduces the Cartesian philosophy of science and segues into an elucidation of the workmanship ideal, a central feature of Enlightenment thinking. Corollary to the workmanship ideal, the second tenet of the Enlightenment is the equality of men, ergo an emphasis on individual rights. Does this latter tenet give the basis for the resistance of authority? Throughout the lecture, Professor Shapiro uses a number of primary sources to depict the foundations of Enlightenment thought. Although Locke's thinking is deeply rooted in theology, these topics will reemerge time and time again in different contexts during the course of the semester.

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

from course: The Moral Foundations of Politics


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