Passions and Politics

Term: Fall 2012

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6666

What are passions? How do they influence our political behaviour? Are there good and bad passions for politics? This seminar explores the way in which these questions have been addressed within some key texts of the western philosophical tradition. In particular, we begin with an analysis of Aristotle's Rhetoric and the Greek model of a discipline of passions, and then move on to analyse the different models provided by modern political philosophers such as Hobbes and Rousseau and the founders of political economy (in particular Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments). We will finally conclude with Tocqueville's diagnosis of a decline of passions in democratic individualist societies and the consequent rise of what he calls "soft despotism."

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