What is the relationship between human nature (assuming there is such a thing) and political obligation? How can the right of the state to punish us be justified? Do we have a right to resist the existing sovereign political power under certain conditions? Such fundamental questions in political philosophy were posed and addressed in very different ways by Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom have had a profound influence on the questions asked by later political philosophers and how they have sought to answer them.
An understanding of Hobbes’s and Rousseau’s key ideas and arguments is therefore essential not only from a historical perspective, but also in relation to modern debates concerning such matters as the basis of legitimate political authority, the demand for equality and the dangers it poses, and the extent to which individual liberty can be justifiably curtailed for the sake of social order. This module aims to set out and critically assess the central ideas and arguments developed in some of Hobbes’s and Rousseau’s best-known writings, including Hobbes’s Leviathan and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men and his The Social Contract.
Timing and CATS
This module will be worth 15 CATS and run in the Autumn term of the 2016/17 academic year.