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Political Science
Course Code
Joseph H.Carens

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Modern Political Thought
Wed. Sept. 9, 2009.
All texts have been ordered through the Toronto Woman’s Bookstore at 720
Harbord St.
There is no class November 11.
No Tutorials for the first two weeks.
Each text/assigned reading is accompanied by a reading guide that is posted
on blackboard. It includes key study questions.
The course reader may be posted on blackboard.
The Enlightenment- the age of reason
Aristotelian political philosophy- any political philosophy that draws on
Modern political philosophy- begins in the 17th century and comes to full
articulation in the 18th century. The term “modern” implies ‘Western.’
Reason- The age of reason occurred in the 18th century. 17th century
philosophers (Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke) were characterized by
rationalism. 18th century philosophers (Voltaire, Rousseau, Smith, Kant)
were characterized by the role of reason.
Everyone can use his or her own reason.
Reason functions in the same way for every human being.
Handout quotes-
“Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian”- Encyclopedia-
This means that reason saves you. Reason is the modern equivalent to the
all-knowing god who gives you eternal life. One is liberated from ignorance,
external authority, and the past. To exercise reason one must not simply be
given the answers.
Kant quote on handout- Kant calls people to use their own reason.
Voltaire quote on handout- Voltaire points out the freedom from the past

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that is offered by reason. Just because people believed something for
hundreds of years doesn’t mean it’s true. This new attitude towards the past
and the undermining of the authority of the past are central themes to the age
of reason.
There is a deep skepticism of religion in the age of reason. This skepticism
is not about distaste for God, but for church and priest.
1st Diderot quote on handout- most enlightenment thinkers were anti
religion, but not anti-god. Access to God is through reason, and not through
revelatory texts.
Deism is natural religion. It is a relationship with god that is separate from
the church. It is inside of the individual.
2nd Diderot quote on handout- Deism does not divide like organized religion.
It is more in line with the true principles of Christianity in this sense.
The public sphere
As the idea develops that everyone holds reason, a parallel idea forms of The
Public Sphere. In the 18th century there was an explosion of public venues
such as the salon. This public sphere was central to the spreading of the
enlightenment. The notions of progress and rights were the key notions
being circulated in the public sphere.
Progress- Condorcet quotes in handout- Condorcet was an optimist. He
rejects the medieval view that history repeats itself. Instead, we are on a path
of progress with advancements in science and technology.
Commerce and morality are key factors to progress at the time of the
enlightenment. Here we see the development of capitalism. People are
making money, and the general standard of living is going up for everyone.
The theory started to float around that commerce made people better, not
just their living situations. The idea here was that people were no longer
driven by their passions. Honor was no longer the cornerstone of a man’s
life. Instead men began to be concerned with interests. Capital interests
calmed the passions. There was no presence of honor, insults, bravery, etc.
With the introduction of commerce men were simply concerned with
strategic, instrumental reason.
It has been argued that the cost of commerce was the industrial revolution,
the deadening of the passions, and robotic relationships, amongst others.

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As the past has no more authority, the idea develops that we must create a
constitution- the designing of a rational plan.
The plan is sold as being a contract. There is always only the idea of a
contract. It is said to be what the people want, and therefore always right.
In France, the only way they could create a constitution, and subsequently
liberty, was through revolution. In order to bring about the ideas of the
enlightenment they has to draw upon the practices of the past.
Wed. Sept. 16, 2009
There will be no course reader for purchase. The readings will be
posted on blackboard
Wednesday, March 10, 2010.
Niche (1844-1900)
Niche in Context- Beyond Good and Evil and Beyond
Niche often seems to turn against his own thought. He is at one time about
self-discovery, and the next, self-mockery.
Marx Pg. 476, “All that is solid melts into air.”
Niche and aphorism
Niche is attempting to dissolve the idealism of Kant and Hegel. Niche uses
aphorism to avoid giving a clear political program for others to follow. He
didn’t want to found a new dogma.
Aphorism 296- Niche turns on his own thoughts and ideas.
Niche doesn’t seem sure that he is using the right language or grammar to
project what he is thinking.
Niche considers himself something of an artist and a poet.
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