Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy (Google eBook)
This last book by the late John Rawls, derived from written lectures and notes for his long-running course on modern political philosophy, offers readers an account of the liberal political tradition from a scholar viewed by many as the greatest contemporary exponent of the philosophy behind that tradition.
Rawls's goal in the lectures was, he wrote, "to identify the more central features of liberalism as expressing a political conception of justice when liberalism is viewed from within the tradition of democratic constitutionalism." He does this by looking at several strands that make up the liberal and democratic constitutional traditions, and at the historical figures who best represent these strands--among them the contractarians Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; the utilitarians Hume, Sidgwick, and J. S. Mill; and Marx regarded as a critic of liberalism. Rawls's lectures on Bishop Joseph Butler also are included in an appendix. Constantly revised and refined over three decades, Rawls's lectures on these figures reflect his developing and changing views on the history of liberalism and democracy--as well as how he saw his own work in relation to those traditions.
With its clear and careful analyses of the doctrine of the social contract, utilitarianism, and socialism--and of their most influential proponents--this volume has a critical place in the traditions it expounds. Marked by Rawls's characteristic patience and curiosity, and scrupulously edited by his student and teaching assistant, Samuel Freeman, these lectures are a fitting final addition to his oeuvre, and to the history of political philosophy as well.
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Lectures on the history of political philosophyUser Review - Book Verdict
After the publication ofA Theory of Justice in 1971, Rawls (1921-2002) became the most influential moral and political philosopher in the Western world. As such, the issuing of this posthumous volume, carefully edited by Freeman (philosophy & law, Univ. of Pennsylvania), a former student and teaching assistant from Rawls's courses at Harvard University, is a major event. Rawls discusses Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J.S. Mill, and Karl Marx (appendixes treat Henry Sidgwick and Joseph Butler as well). He is especially concerned with how each thinker views the fair terms of social cooperation. He distinguishes between being rational (i.e., efficient in pursuit of one's ends) and being reasonable (i.e., willing to cooperate on fair terms with others)-Hobbes did not make this distinction, but it is useful in explaining Locke and Rousseau. Rawls finds in Rousseau the notion of public reason, the key concept of hisPolitical Liberalism . He devotes much attention to the utilitarian tradition, the principal rival of his own approach. An unexpected feature is a sympathetic discussion of Marx. Highly recommended for all philosophy collections.-David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH