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PS150: Fundamental Debates on the Common Good

There has always been a major controversy in the history of Western political philosophy over the question of the proper aims and foundation of political rule. Crucial to this debate is the question of the character and limits of a “common good” and, indeed, the question whether such a good can even exist. For if such a good exists, then a just or legitimate foundation for political rule is possible, whereas if it does not, in the end political rule may be nothing but force and fraud. Basic but competing perspectives, drawn from ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary texts, will be examined, and emphasis will be placed on how the question of the “common good” continues to animate political debate as well as on its potential for shaping a student’s own moral and political outlook. This course constitutes a rigorous introduction to college level intellectual inquiry, precise writing, and careful interpretive reading.