Freedom

Reading:J.S. Mill, On Liberty. Sir James Fitzj. Stephen, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Mill and Stephen. This dispute was famous in its day, and was to some extent re-fought in the dispute between Devlin and Hart over the ‘enforcement of morals’, when the issue was the specific one that came to the fore …(Read More)

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Law

Reading: Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 1, pp 1-99. Two Approaches: Top Down and Bottom Up. Great emphasis is laid by Rousseau and others in the social contract tradition on the role of legislation. People choose their legislators, and the legislators choose the law, which is then imposed upon the people …(Read More)

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Justice

Reading: Rawls and Nozick. Some of the questions here are familiar from the dispute between Rawls and Nozick. However, the issue is much wider, and of course much more ancient, and evokes the beginnings of political philosophy in Plato’s Republic. For many thinkers justice is the root concept of political philosophy, and …(Read More)

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Culture

Reading: T.S. Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture.  This is a really difficult topic, but one that has been very important among conservatives, for fairly involved reasons. Major conservative thinkers have tended to have interests in aesthetics, the arts and culture which go beyond the curiosity of the philosopher. Burke’s …(Read More)

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Hegel and Pre-Political Order

Reading: Hegel, Philosophy of Right.One of the enduring questions of political philosophy concerns the foundation of political obligation. We have obligations that hold the body politic in place: for instance, we are obliged to obey the law, to defend our country (but what is a ‘country’?), to uphold the fundamental institutions …(Read More)

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Burke and Political Epistemology

Reading:  Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution. Burke is of special importance for two reasons: he is the first political thinker to have had an inkling of the link between utopian thinking and totalitarian government – a link abundantly confirmed in our day. And he is the first political thinker to …(Read More)

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Scepticism and Political Order

Reading:  Hume, ‘Of the Original Contract’ and other essays. Hume’s political vision has three sources: his scepticism concerning the ambitions of philosophy; his empiricism concerning the foundations of knowledge and practical wisdom; and his compendious knowledge of history. He was the first British subject of modern times to write a …(Read More)

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Sex

Reading:  R. Scruton, ‘Phryne’s Symposium’, in Xanthippic Dialogues. At the start of the sexual revolution the American humorist James Thurber wrote a book entitled Is Sex Necessary? , in which he satirised the growing obsession with sex and the psychology of sex, in the first wave of enthusiasm for psychoanalysis. The conservative response …(Read More)

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Ends, Means and Oakeshott

Reading:  Oakeshott, ‘Rationalism in Politics and other Essays’.   Oakeshott’s criticism of rationalism in politics is marked by a characteristic disregard for academic discussions. The long-established division of philosophical thinkers into rationalists and empiricists – a division first given prominence by Kant – is only tangentially connected to Oakeshott’s use …(Read More)

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Constitutions

Reading: de Maistre, The Generative Principle of Constitutions. The United States Constitution is a document, assumed to have a precise, if disputed, meaning, which lays down the fundamental procedures and offices under which the country as a whole is to be governed, and defines the rights and duties of the citizens …(Read More)

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