I started getting interested in political philosophy late last year. I've always been interested in politics, but I never really got to the core of the arguments I was hearing and making.
In the last 3-4 months, I've read:
>Plato - Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Republic, Protagoras, Meno, Gorgias, and Laws (I like Plato's stuff a lot)
>Cicero - De Res Publica
>Machiavelli - Discourse on Livy, The Prince
>Hobbes - Leviathan
>Locke - Second Treatise
>Rousseau - Émile, The Social Contract
In the last couple of months, I've started to see some fatal flaws in my previously libertarian ideology. Once I got to Locke and Rousseau, I was cringing the entire time I read their stuff.
I'm starting to grapple with the thought that, no, people really aren't equal at birth morally speaking. If this is true, then notions like democracy and universal suffrage begin to fall apart. I don't claim to be right, which is why I want to read more.
My question is, where should I go from here? Having read what I have, and thinking what I do. What do I read next?
If you're not in favor of Locke or Rousseau, Hannah Arendt has written a few books that trash their concepts and those of 18th century writers in general, though she isn't necessarily part of the political philosophy canon to my knowledge. On Revolution deals with Rousseau in detail, but if you aren't interested in the French or American Revolution I don't think it would be of much use to you. The ninth chapter of her Origins of Totalitarianism (Decline of the Nation State and the End of The Rights of Man) has been referenced frequently by modern political theorists in regards to the refugee crisis, and chapter five (The Political Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie) is centered around her reading of Hobbes' concept of power. Both are fairly easy to find online as pdfs.
>No suggestions? Or should I just post in qtddtot?
I doubt /lit/ has read much political philosophy, that may be beneficial.
Thank you kindly for the recommendation. Based on what you've said, I think Arendt would follow nicely from what I've read.
However, I think it would be valuable for me to get a better grasp on ethics and morality as well. Do you have any recommendations along those lines - just to get started?
I'm a maths student, so all this reading is taking place in my free time without any kind of guidance or structure. That's why I'm sort of getting lost.
You seem to know your stuff, so I'd be interested to correspond with you. Do you have a throwaway email, or something along those lines, through which I could talk to you more?
You're more learned in the topic than I am honestly; my knowledge is only in proximity to what Arendt concerns herself with. I would however be happy to try and find more of what you're looking for from professors I know. My email is
The only text I can immediately think of on ethics in a political sense would be Utilitarianism by John Stuart Smith, though I am vaugely, if even, familiar with how relevant he is to what you're looking for.
>I'm starting to grapple with the thought that, no, people really aren't equal at tbirth morally speaking. If this is true, then notions like democracy and universal suffrage begin to fall apart. I don't claim to be right, which is why I want to read more.
I certainly wouldn't commit to this position until you've grappled with Rawls. I'm no Rawlsian but any mature thinker ought to have answer to his framework.
I also appreciated this book a lot as a survey of thoughts on the moral foundations of government. It is superbly readable and mostly impartial and the author is quite forthcoming in admitting when he is expressing his own opinion (largely in the last chapter or two). You're obviously focusing on primary texts but this book may still be helpful in deciding who/what you should read going forward. I read it in a weekend.
I was not very outspokenly libertarian, but I had a strong conviction that limited government and equality were better than a strong state and unequal treatment.
Regardless, I'll read Nozick. Where should I start with him?
Anarchy, State & Utopia is always the book I hear referenced with him. But as I said I'm no Utilitarian so.
John Rawls is incontrovertibly the most important philosopher of Liberalism of the 20th century. His philosophy can largely be understood as evolution and application of Kant's ethical theories to political philosophy, so your friend probably hates Rawls for a lot of the same reasons Nietzsche hated Kant.
Two of the absolutely essential texts within political philosophy that you are missing from the list of works you've read in the past few months are Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France" and Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations". I would take the time to acquaint myself with Marx also, though there is hardly a need to read all of "Kapital" -- some well-selected sections will stand you in perfectly good stead.
>I'm starting to grapple with the thought that, no, people really aren't equal at birth morally speaking. If this is true, then notions like democracy and universal suffrage begin to fall apart. I don't claim to be right, which is why I want to read more.
Thomas Carlyle should be your first port of call, particularly "On Heroes". As others have mentioned, Nietzsche is indispensable. "Genealogy of Morals" is where you want to start. I'm also surprised that no one has yet named Evola, who has to be the patron saint of anyone with anti-liberal, counter-modern inclinations. Evola was unapologetically aristocratic and elitist, but also erudite like few others, and utterly fascinating. Read his three major works, "Revolt Against the Modern World", "Men Among the Ruins" and "Ride the Tiger" in that order, which will trace the trajectory of his thought.
After Evola, you start having to look for the more obscure writers if you want people critical of Enlightenment values. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is difficult but rewarding; read some of his essays first to see if you have the taste for his work. A few more names that you can research to see if any strike your fancy would be Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Nick Land, Emmanuel Faye and Alain de Benoist. Note that all of these writers are anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic -- if you'd like something which defends democracy and egalitarianism, I echo the other anon who suggested Rawls. Good luck.
The communitarians would also be worth looking at if you're considering critiques of Rawls. Sandel's already been suggested, but MacIntyre would be better read after having a fleshed out understanding of historic thinkers. I can't imagine After Virtue making much sense without a prior understanding of the history of ethical philosophy.
my semi-introductory course was
1 Shmuel, 5, 11-18
Deuteronomy, 17, 14-20
Afterwards its was some weird summaries that introductory courses tend to contain
Plato Crito, and some basic understanding based on The Republic I believe
Aristotle(I think mainly based on Nicomachean Ethics but I can be wrong)
we also had to write some paper on article by the lecturer about Bernstein critique on Marx, probably because he was Marxist, but he claimed the wrote it without any bias, but its was pretty interesting read nonetheless.
I would add the article "What is Political Philosophy" and even the book named after it by Leo Strauss as its an excellent read.