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Yale University

Moral Foundations of Politics

Yale University via Coursera


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 at 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.

Taught by

Ian Shapiro


4.5 rating, based on 15 Class Central reviews

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  • Miguel Teixeira is taking this course right now, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Really interesting course mostly about Political Philosophy but that inevitable reaches economy, Ethics, Justice and other areas of Philosophy. I would really recommend it for all interested in a broad introduction to the basis of Political Sciences…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Engaging and fascinating course touching on history, political philosophy and economics. A good introduction to these challenging topics and a rewarding experience.
  • Dave Rawlings completed this course, spending 7 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    A very useful introduction to political philosophy that goes through a number of traditions from (and against) the Enlightenment and ending with democracy. It focuses on the traditions, the rationale behind them and the problems with them. The delivery of the material is a little one dimensional, but the basic information is there and there is the opportunity to read further if you wish.
  • Oscar González

    Oscar González completed this course.

    I live in Colombia and I am a law student and I want to learn more about the branch and I know that this free course they are offering will be very helpful for my professional life
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    Estado Apolitico
    Very good course for someone who is beginning learning of the subject ! I'm just know starting taking courses in Political Science, and this course alerted me for many foundations I should learn to understand for the future
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