Philosophy and Political Thought 1 and 2

This course, taught over two semesters, introduces students to the greatest figures in the history of philosophy and political thought. It addresses fundamental and recurring questions about the nature of reality and how we know it – the nature of the self, consciousness, the gods or God, happiness, moral conduct, and the character of law, justice, and political order – as these questions have been asked and answered in classic works from different civilisations. Students learn to read these works carefully, to dissect arguments into their constituent parts, to understand them in their various contexts, and to assess their truth. Students learn to persevere through difficult texts and search for insight in ideas that might at first seem strange.

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Philosophy and Political Thought 1

Philosophy and Political Thought 1 starts with writings by thinkers in ancient China and India and the ancient Mediterranean world whose search for knowledge proceeds through dialogues with different interlocutors. In seminars, students debate questions such as “How should we live, individually and together?”, “What is the nature of knowledge?”, “What is the nature of reality?” and “What is the nature of the self?”

  • Selected works by Mozi, Mengzi, Xunzi and Zhuangzi
  • Plato’s Five Dialogues
  • Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and Politics
  • Pythagorean women philosophers
  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations
Philosophy and Political Thought 2

Philosophy and Political Thought 2 brings students into closer contact with Buddhist and Islamic ideas and with the intellectual makers of the modern world – the early proponents of modern science and technology, free trade and economic growth, and the modern state – and their critics. We consider how different conceptions of modernity and enlightenment shed light on one another and puzzle over the relationship between thinking and doing.

  • Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara
  • Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan
  • René Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan
  • Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj
  • Hannah Arendt’s ‘Thinking and Moral Considerations’


Student Voices

I remember taking Philosophy and Political Thought 2 and experiencing how thinkers like Rousseau and Nietzsche animated my imagination...the common curriculum as a whole encouraged me to explore, to be curious, to be hungry.

Student from the Class of 2017
Philosophy, Politics and Economics

I had never taken a philosophy class before and assumed it was just like any other subject, but PPT literally changed my entire view on life and death!

Student from the Class of 2020
Major Undecided

Teaching Faculty