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Political Philosophy


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Political Philosophy

 

1. What is new in Hobbes’ political philosophy, as against his predecessors? Discuss. You may wish to refer to the state of nature, the faith in ‘political science’, and the role of fear.
2. Can one reconcile Hobbes’ preference for undivided and unlimited sovereignty with his reputation as one of the founders of liberalism?
3. To what extent is Hobbes’ entire political thesis founded on a hedonistic psychology?
4. According to Locke, what makes political power legitimate? Under what conditions, if any, may people rightfully rebel against their government?
5. Compare Locke’s account of “the state of nature” with either or both of Hobbes’ or Rousseau’s accounts of the “state of nature”. Do you find either compelling? Or do they all share problems?
6. A long liberal tradition tends to suggest that although they are both considered founding figures of modern political liberalism, Locke is a genuine (classical) liberal, whereas Hobbes, (despite supporting many positions that are taken for granted in later liberal thought) has a far too authoritarian or even absolutist conception of government to qualify as genuinely ‘liberal’. With an eye to the similarities and differences between Hobbes and Locke, discuss how issues of ‘security’ have a potential to make “Lockean” liberalism reveal a “Hobbesian” side. Explain how political liberal theory, might handle the issue of a Hobbesian shadow raised by questions of sovereignty or security. [Note: aspects of Mill, Hayek and Rawls may all be helpful to this question].
7. In TheSocial Contract is Rousseau a defender or an opponent of the project of the Enlightenment?
8. What is Marx’s attitude toward capitalism and/or “globalization”? Is he against it? And if not, how and why not?
9. What does Marx mean when he says that the history of human relations has been one of ‘class struggle’? Critically discuss with the implications for political philosophy in mind.

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10. Rousseau’s political philosophy has been an influence on both totalitarian and radical democratic thinkers. How do you interpret Rousseau? Does his philosophy contribute to freedom, or justify totalitarian government?
11. Compare and critically discuss Rousseau’s concept of the General Will and Mill’s concern with the “tyranny of the majority.” Is the General Will compatible with freedom for every member of society, or is Rousseau being overly idealistic?
12. Explain Rousseau’s criticism of representative democracy. Do you agree with this criticism? Do you think Rousseau offers a workable alternative?
13. Explain and critically discuss Mill’s “simple principle” of liberty (the “harm principle.”) Is this an adequate principle for regulating the relations between society and individuals? What, if any, limitations might it have?
14. Identify a current Australian law or government policy which may appear to conflict with Mill’s liberalism. Explain how you think Mill would criticize this law or policy, and then explain why you agree or disagree with Mill’s liberal views on this issue. (Some examples of laws and policies from which you might choose are the criminalization of recreational drug use, compulsory wearing of seatbelts, anti-terrorism laws, asylum seekers, and film, literature, and media censorship).
15. Mill’s liberalism seems to rest on the possibility of distinguishing between actions which only affect oneself (“self-regarding” actions) and actions which affect others (“other-regarding” actions). Do you think this distinction can always be made? If not, does this invalidate Mill’s liberal philosophy?
16. “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…” This sentence appears in TheCommunist Manifesto as what many commentators have regarded as a kind of paean to capitalism and to the bourgeoisie. What is it about capitalism (and the bourgeoisie) that endow them with such a revolutionary potential? Given that it has a revolutionary potential, what is a) wrong (for Marx) with capitalism and b) allows it to pave the way for human emancipation?
17. Compare and contrast Marx and Rousseau. To what extent is Marx the heir of Rousseau?
18. Explain Hayek’s criticisms of socialism. Do you agree with them? Justify why or why not.
19. Hayek argues, in effect, that mankind cannot be free unless the economy is free. Explain the reasoning behind this view. Do you agree? Explain why or why not.

20. Imagine yourself in Rawls’ “original position.” Explain what kind of society you would choose to live in. Explain why you agree or disagree with Rawls’ own conclusions.
21. Rawls’ related ideas of the “original position” and the “veil of ignorance” have often been criticized on the basis that it is simply not possible for anyone to detach themselves from their actual social position, even in imagination. Explain the “original position” and the “veil of ignorance,” and why you agree or disagree with this criticism.
22. Discuss the different understandings of freedom (or autonomy) in AT LEAST TWO of the following authors: Marx, Rousseau, Mill, Hayek, Rawls, Locke, Hobbes.

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