Moral Foundations of Politics

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About this course: When do governments deserve our allegiance, and when should they be denied it? This course explores the main answers that have been given to this question in the modern West. We start with a survey of the major political theories of the Enlightenment: Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition. In each case we begin with a look of classical formulations, locating them in historical context, but then shift to the contemporary debates as they relate to politics today. Next we turn to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking, again exploring both classical and contemporary formulations. The last part of the course deals with the nature of, and ju…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: When do governments deserve our allegiance, and when should they be denied it? This course explores the main answers that have been given to this question in the modern West. We start with a survey of the major political theories of the Enlightenment: Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition. In each case we begin with a look of classical formulations, locating them in historical context, but then shift to the contemporary debates as they relate to politics today. Next we turn to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking, again exploring both classical and contemporary formulations. The last part of the course deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. In addition to exploring theoretical differences among the various authors discussed, considerable attention is devoted to the practical implications of their competing arguments. To this end, we discuss a variety of concrete problems, including debates about economic inequality, affirmative action and the distribution of health care, the limits of state power in the regulation of speech and religion, and difficulties raised by the emerging threat of global environmental decay.

Created by:  Yale University
  • Taught by:  Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Henry R. Luce Director

    The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale
Commitment 8 weeks of study, 12-15 hours/week Language English How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.8 stars Average User Rating 4.8See what learners said Coursework

Each course is like an interactive textbook, featuring pre-recorded videos, quizzes and projects.

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Yale University For more than 300 years, Yale University has inspired the minds that inspire the world. Based in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale brings people and ideas together for positive impact around the globe. A research university that focuses on students and encourages learning as an essential way of life, Yale is a place for connection, creativity, and innovation among cultures and across disciplines.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


Welcome to Moral Foundations of Politics



3 videos, 5 readings expand


  1. Video: Welcome to Moral Foundations of Politics!
  2. Reading: Course Overview
  3. Reading: Meet Your Instructor
  4. Reading: Readings
  5. Reading: Grading and Logistics
  6. Reading: Course Certificate
  7. Video: The Shape of the Course
  8. Video: Expectations


WEEK 2


Enlightenment Political Theory
This module explores what makes a government legitimate. specifically, was the Third Reich illegitimate and was Eichmann breaking some kind of higher law here?


5 videos expand


  1. Video: The Eichmann Case and Problem of Illegal but Legitimate Acts
  2. Video: The Paradox of Discomfort and the Organization of the Course
  3. Video: Politics in the Enlightenment
  4. Video: Early vs. Mature Enlightenments
  5. Video: The Workmanship Ideal

Graded: Mini Quiz - Enlightenment Political Theory

WEEK 3


Utilitarianism: Classical and Neoclassical
Classical and neoclassical utilitarianism are examined in this module starting with the historical context. Professor Shapiro then shifts to the contemporary debates as they relate to politics today.


15 videos expand


  1. Video: Elements of Utilitarianism
  2. Video: The Theory of Classical Utilitarianism
  3. Video: The Utility Monster and the Principle of Diminishing Marginal Utility
  4. Video: The Panopticon and Bentham on Government
  5. Video: Distribution and Diminishing Marginal Utility
  6. Video: Bentham on Equality and Rights
  7. Video: Neoclassical Utilitarianism: The Philosophical Context Beginning
  8. Video: Neoclassical Utilitarianism: The Economic Context
  9. Video: Ideological Stakes of the Transition from Classical to Neoclassical Utilitarianism
  10. Video: Introduction and the Harm Principle
  11. Video: Bentham, Mill, and The Rights-Utility Synthesis
  12. Video: The Harm Principle in Practice
  13. Video: Harm Examples
  14. Video: Is the Harm Principle Conservative?
  15. Video: Office Hours 1

Graded: Utilitarianism: Classical and Neoclassical

WEEK 4


Marxism, Its Failures and Its Legacy
This module on Marx's Enlightenment theory focuses on the foundations of capitalism theory and its major weaknesses.


10 videos expand


  1. Video: Marx Introduction
  2. Video: Marx as an Enlightenment Thinker
  3. Video: Marx's Challenge to Classical Political Economy
  4. Video: The Working Class
  5. Video: Exploitation - The Micro Story
  6. Video: Exploitation - The Macro Story and the Theory of Crisis
  7. Video: Marx's Overall Failures
  8. Video: Failures in the Macro Theory
  9. Video: Rethinking the Labor Theory of Value
  10. Video: Office Hours 2

Graded: Marxism, Its Failures and Its Legacy

WEEK 5


The Social Contract Tradition I
This module looks at classical formulations of the Social Contract Tradition, locating them in historical context, but then shifts to the contemporary debates as they relate to politics today.


13 videos expand


  1. Video: Consent and Thomas Hobbes
  2. Video: John Locke and the Workmanship Ideal
  3. Video: Locke on Consent
  4. Video: Immanuel Kant's Ethics
  5. Video: John Rawls Introduction
  6. Video: John Rawls's Enduring Innovations
  7. Video: The Veil of Ignorance
  8. Video: Principles of Justice
  9. Video: The Difference Principle
  10. Video: Problems with Rawls
  11. Video: Political Not Metaphysical
  12. Video: Political Disagreement
  13. Video: The Overlapping Consensus


WEEK 6


The Social Contract Tradition II
This module looks at classical formulations of the Social Contract Tradition, locating them in historical context, but then shifts to the contemporary debates as they relate to politics today.


10 videos, 1 reading expand


  1. Video: Introduction to Nozick
  2. Video: Features of Nozick's Account
  3. Video: The Invisible Hand Evolution of the State
  4. Video: Necessity and Obligation
  5. Video: Incorporating Independents
  6. Video: Compensation
  7. Video: Liberty Upsets Patterns
  8. Video: Markets and Power
  9. Video: It is Unjust for Chamberlain to Make So Much Money
  10. Reading: Visit the forums!
  11. Video: Office Hours 3

Graded: The Social Contract Tradition

WEEK 7


Anti-Enlightenment Politics
This module explores the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking, again exploring both classical and contemporary formulations.


8 videos expand


  1. Video: Burke's Conservatism
  2. Video: Devlin's Conservatism
  3. Video: Introduction to MacIntyre
  4. Video: Emotivist Culture
  5. Video: Practices
  6. Video: Failure of the Enlightenment Project
  7. Video: Concluding Anti-Enlightenment Thought
  8. Video: Office Hours 4

Graded: Anti-Enlightenment Politics

WEEK 8


Democracy
This module deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking.


13 videos expand


  1. Video: Democracy and its Critics
  2. Video: The Federalist Papers
  3. Video: The Republican Tradition
  4. Video: Discovering the General Will
  5. Video: Habermas' Deliberative Ideal
  6. Video: Deliberation in the Real World
  7. Video: The Westminster System in Practice
  8. Video: The Majority Rule
  9. Video: Competition and Democracy
  10. Video: Electoral Systems
  11. Video: Reviewing the Enlightenment
  12. Video: Democracy and Human Freedom
  13. Video: Office Hours 5

Graded: Democracy
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