Yale’s Free Course on The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy: Do Governments Deserve Our Allegiance, and When Should They Be Denied It?

“When do gov­ern­ments deserve our alle­giance, and when should they be denied it?” It’s a ques­tion that has per­haps crossed your mind late­ly. And it’s pre­cise­ly the ques­tion that’s at the heart of The Moral Foun­da­tions of Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy, a free course taught by Yale polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor Ian Shapiro.

In 25 lec­tures (all avail­able above, on YouTube and iTunes), the course “starts with a sur­vey of major polit­i­cal the­o­ries of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marx­ism, and the social con­tract tradition—through clas­si­cal for­mu­la­tions, his­tor­i­cal con­text, and con­tem­po­rary debates relat­ing to pol­i­tics today. It then turns to the rejec­tion of Enlight­en­ment polit­i­cal think­ing. Last­ly, it deals with the nature of, and jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for, demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics, and their rela­tions to Enlight­en­ment and Anti-Enlight­en­ment polit­i­cal think­ing.”

You can find an archived web page that includes a syl­labus for the course. Or you can now take the course as a full-blown MOOC. Below find the texts used in the course.

The Moral Foun­da­tions of Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy will be added to our list of Free Polit­i­cal Sci­ence Cours­es, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.


Arendt, Han­nah. Eich­mann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking, 1963.

Bromwich, David. “Intro­duc­tion” to On Empire, Lib­er­ty, and Reform: Speech­es and Let­ters. New Haven: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000.

Burke, Edmund. Reflec­tions on the Rev­o­lu­tion in France. Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009.

Hamil­ton, Alexan­der, John Jay, and James Madi­son. The Fed­er­al­ist Papers. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009.

Locke, John. Two Trea­tis­es of Gov­ern­ment and a Let­ter Con­cern­ing Human Under­stand­ing. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1988.

Mac­In­tyre, Alas­dair. After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

Mill, John Stu­art. On Lib­er­ty. Ed. David Bromwich and George Kateb. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003.

Noz­ick, Robert. Anar­chy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.

Rawls, John. A The­o­ry of Jus­tice. 2nd edi­tion. Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Demo­c­ra­t­ic Jus­tice. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Moral Foun­da­tions of Pol­i­tics. New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003.

Tuck­er, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Read­er. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Nor­ton, 1978.

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