Introduction to Political Philosophy: A Free Yale Course

Stephen B. Smith, a polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty since 1984, has made avail­able a 24-lec­ture course, Intro­duc­tion to Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy, which cov­ers Pla­to, Aris­to­tle, Machi­avel­li, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Toc­queville.

His approach is high­ly lit­er­ary. In his Repub­lic lec­tures, for instance, he spends a good chunk of the time dis­cussing the metaphors and char­ac­ters involved. One of Smith’s major con­cerns is what cit­i­zen­ship amounts to. The lec­ture above is on Pla­to’s “Apol­o­gy,” and while this may be Pla­to’s most famous work (with its dic­tum that “The unex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing”), it’s less about polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy than about the vir­tu­ous life. Smith sees these top­ics as inti­mate­ly relat­ed, and in his clos­ing lec­ture, he gives a defense of patri­o­tism, say­ing that in the ivy league envi­ron­ment, express­ing an inter­est in patri­o­tism is like con­fess­ing an inter­est in child pornog­ra­phy.

Despite his engag­ing style, he speaks some­what slow­ly. If your lis­ten­ing device offers a “dou­ble speed” fea­ture, I rec­om­mend using this. You can obtain the whole series on the web: Yale web site — YouTube — iTunes (audio) —  iTunes (video). You can also find the course in the Phi­los­o­phy sec­tion of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er runs the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life phi­los­o­phy pod­cast and blog. He also per­forms with the Madi­son, WI band New Peo­ple.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

200 Online Cer­tifi­cate & Micro­cre­den­tial Pro­grams from Lead­ing Uni­ver­si­ties & Com­pa­nies 

Oxford’s Free Intro­duc­tion to Phi­los­o­phy: Stream 41 Lec­tures

Online Degrees & Mini Degrees: Explore Mas­ters, Mini Mas­ters, Bach­e­lors & Mini Bach­e­lors from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

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