Equality and Power: Hobbes, Rousseau, and Tocqueville

The superiority of liberal democracy to other forms of government rested, in the thought of the early modern philosophers who sought to establish it, upon more fundamental claims about the truth of human equality, the right to individual liberty and, more surprisingly, on the primacy in human life of the need for power. Through careful study of the writings of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, we will explore the philosophical and political questions surrounding these claims, questions such as: What is the philosophical case for human “equality,” and what is its relation to justice? What do we mean by “power,” why do human beings pursue it, and how does that pursuit relate to our concerns for equality and justice? For freedom? Are equality and freedom in harmony, or in tension with one another? 1 unit (Not offered 2023-24).

1 unit

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