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Introduction to Political Philosophy provides an accessible entree for college students to the important issues, concepts, and theories that comprise the on-going conversation of western political thought. Rather than offer a comprehensive survey or thematic approach, this five-part text examines and compares the ideas of six key thinkers representing diverse perspectives. Part I, Politics and the Character of the People, explores the enduring impact of Aristotle’s virtue ethics on contemporary debates surrounding justice, citizenship, and the legislation of morals. Part II, The Best Regime, turns to Aristotle’s Politics to address the distribution of political power and the merits of various forms of government. Particular attention is given to the tension in modern societies between the ideals of democratic and republican theory. Part III, The Foundation of Law, examines the sources and scope of law with a survey of Thomas Aquinas’s natural law theory. Part IV, The Basis of Legitimate Government compares John Locke’s classical liberal conception of the just political and economic order with Karl Marx’s socialist alternative. Part V, Politics and the Challenge of Pluralism, focuses on the thought of John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. In addition to considering the egalitarian liberal critique of classical liberalism, this section highlights a central question: How can contemporary democratic societies forge a consensus on principles of justice and the common good when they are characterized by a lack of agreement on philosophical and religious views?
While Introduction to Political Philosophy covers similar ground to other books on this topic, it includes content that is often merely skimmed over, or wholly neglected, in similar texts. First, greater effort is made to elucidate how divisions over questions in political philosophy are often rooted in disagreements over deeper metaphysical and epistemological views. Without getting bogged down in complex arguments, the text introduces students to the sources of these divisions. Second, compared to most texts, this book devotes more attention to the natural law tradition, including arguments by both defenders and detractors of the theory.
Students and instructors will find some user-friendly features within Introduction to Political Philosophy. Key concepts are listed at the end of each chapter to aid in retention and review. In addition, “Questions for Thought and Discussion” promote active learning and critical thinking by providing opportunities for classroom discussion, journaling, discussion boards, and essay prompts. Finally, without sacrificing substance, the length of the chapters in this text has been kept to a manageable length.
Part I: Politics and the Character of the People
1. Introduction to Aristotle and his thought
2. Politics and the Human Good
3. Moral Virtue and the Doctrine of the Mean
4. Specific Moral Virtues and Politics
6. The Intellectual Virtues and the Unity of the Virtues
7. Friendship and Politics
8. The Virtuous Republic
Part II: The Best Regime
9. Historical Background to Aristotle’s Politics
10. Theory of the State and Classification of Regimes
11. Regimes and Distributive Justice
12. Kingship and Tyranny
13. Aristocracy and Oligarchy
15. The Mixed Regime or Republic
16. The American Political System as a Mixed Regime
Part III: The Foundations of Law
17. Introduction to Thomas Aquinas
18. The Grand Design of Law
19. The Natural Law
20. Human Law
21. Objections and Alternatives to Natural Law Theory
Part IV: The Basis of Legitimate Government
22. Introduction to John Locke
23. The State of Nature and the Social Contract
24. Special Problems in Locke
25. Private Property
26. The Dissolution of Government and Just War
27. Political Economy
Part V: Politics and the Challenge of Pluralism
28. Introduction to John Stuart Mill
29. Utilitarianism: Weaknesses and Repairs
30. Utilitarianism and Justice
31. Tyranny of the Majority and Freedom of Speech
32. Freedom of Conduct and Individuality
33. Evaluating Mill’s Concept of Liberty
34. Introduction to Rawls
35. Rawls’s Theory of Justice
36. Evaluating Rawls’s Theory of Justice
Steve Barracca is professor in the Department of Government and Economics at Eastern Kentucky University. He teaches course on political thought and comparative politics.