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.

Texts:

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.

A Free Yale Course on Medieval History: 700 Years in 22 Lectures

In 22 lec­tures, Yale his­to­ri­an Paul Freed­man takes you on a 700 year tour of medieval his­to­ry. Mov­ing from 284‑1000 AD, this free online course cov­ers “the con­ver­sion of Europe to Chris­tian­i­ty, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the ‘Dark Ages,’ Charle­magne and the Car­olin­gian renais­sance, and the Viking and Hun­gar­i­an inva­sions.” And let’s not for­get St. Augus­tine and the “Splen­dor of Byzan­tium.”

You can stream all of the lec­tures above. Or also find them on YouTube, iTunes and this Yale web­site.

The Ear­ly Mid­dle Ages, 284‑1000 will be added to our list of Free His­to­ry Cours­es, a sub­set of our meta col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties. Below, we’ve added a list of the key texts used in the course:

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es

Dis­cov­er the Great Medieval Man­u­script, the Book of Kells, in a Free Online Course

Yale Intro­duces Anoth­er Sev­en Free Online Cours­es, Bring­ing Total to 42

The American Revolution: A Free Course from Yale University

When you have a lit­tle time, you can drop in on a free course that revis­its a sem­i­nal moment in U.S. history–the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. Taught by Yale his­to­ri­an Joanne Free­man, the course explores how the Rev­o­lu­tion brought about “some remark­able transformations–converting British colonists into Amer­i­can rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, and a clus­ter of colonies into a con­fed­er­a­tion of states with a com­mon cause.” You can access the 25 lec­tures above, or on YouTube and iTunes. Also find a syl­labus for the course on this Yale web site.

“The Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion” will be added to our list of Free His­to­ry Cours­es, a sub­set of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of the World in 46 Lec­tures From Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty

14,000 Free Images from the French Rev­o­lu­tion Now Avail­able Online

A Mas­ter List of 1,300 Free Cours­es From Top Uni­ver­si­ties: 45,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lec­tures

Death: A Free Online Philosophy Course from Yale Helps You Grapple with the Inescapable

It pays to think intel­li­gent­ly about the inevitable. And this course taught by Yale pro­fes­sor Shelly Kagan does just that, tak­ing a rich, philo­soph­i­cal look at death. Here’s how the course descrip­tion reads:

There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will exam­ine a num­ber of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mor­tal­i­ty. The pos­si­bil­i­ty that death may not actu­al­ly be the end is con­sid­ered. Are we, in some sense, immor­tal? Would immor­tal­i­ty be desir­able? Also a clear­er notion of what it is to die is exam­ined. What does it mean to say that a per­son has died? What kind of fact is that? And, final­ly, dif­fer­ent atti­tudes to death are eval­u­at­ed. Is death an evil? How? Why? Is sui­cide moral­ly per­mis­si­ble? Is it ratio­nal? How should the knowl­edge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?

Major texts used in this course include Pla­to’s Phae­doTol­stoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, and John Per­ry’s A Dia­logue on Per­son­al Iden­ti­ty and Immor­tal­i­ty.

You can watch the 26 lec­tures above. Or find them on YouTube and iTunes in video and audio for­mats. For more infor­ma­tion on this course, includ­ing the syl­labus, please vis­it this Yale site.

This course has been added to our list of Free Online Phi­los­o­phy cours­es, a sub­set of our meta col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mod­ern Poet­ry: A Free Online Course from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Foun­da­tions of Mod­ern Social The­o­ry: A Free Online Course from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

African Amer­i­can His­to­ry-Eman­ci­pa­tion to the Present: A Free Course from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Watch Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tions to 25 Philoso­phers by The School of Life: From Pla­to to Kant and Fou­cault

How to Listen to Music: A Free Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale pro­fes­sor Craig Wright, this course, Lis­ten­ing to Music, oper­ates on the assump­tion that lis­ten­ing to music is “not sim­ply a pas­sive activ­i­ty one can use to relax, but rather, an active and reward­ing process.” When we under­stand the basic ele­ments of West­ern music (e.g., rhythm, melody, and form), we can appre­ci­ate music in entire­ly new ways. That includes every­thing from clas­si­cal music, rock and tech­no, to Gre­go­ri­an chant and the blues.

You can watch the 23 lec­tures above, on YouTube, or Yale’s web­site, where you’ll also find a syl­labus and infor­ma­tion on each class ses­sion. The main text used in the course is Lis­ten­ing to Music, writ­ten by the pro­fes­sor him­self.

Lis­ten­ing to Music will be added to the Music sec­tion of our ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

It’s also worth not­ing that Prof. Wright has cre­at­ed an inter­ac­tive MOOC called Intro­duc­tion to Clas­si­cal Music. You might want to check it out.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Eve­lyn Glen­nie (a Musi­cian Who Hap­pens to Be Deaf) Shows How We Can Lis­ten to Music with Our Entire Bod­ies

Down­load 400,000 Free Clas­si­cal Musi­cal Scores & 46,000 Free Clas­si­cal Record­ings from the Inter­na­tion­al Music Score Library Project

Play­ing an Instru­ment Is a Great Work­out For Your Brain: New Ani­ma­tion Explains Why

1200 Years of Women Com­posers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist That Takes You From Medieval Times to Now

Yale Presents a Free Online Course on Literary Theory, Covering Structuralism, Deconstruction & More

It’s been a hall­mark of the cul­ture wars in the last few decades for politi­cians and opin­ion­a­tors to rail against acad­e­mia. Pro­fes­sors of human­i­ties have in par­tic­u­lar come under scruti­ny, charged with aca­d­e­m­ic friv­o­li­ty (some­times at tax­pay­er expense), will­ful obscu­ran­tism, and all sorts of ide­o­log­i­cal crimes and dia­bol­i­cal meth­ods of indoc­tri­na­tion. As an under­grad and grad­u­ate stu­dent in the human­i­ties dur­ing much of the nineties and oughts, I’ve wit­nessed a few waves of such attacks and found the car­i­ca­tures drawn by talk radio hosts and cab­i­net appointees both alarm­ing and amus­ing. I’ve also learned that mis­trust of acad­e­mia is much old­er than the many vir­u­lent strains of anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism in the U.S.

As Yale Pro­fes­sor of British Roman­tic Poet­ry Paul Fry points out in an inter­view with 3:AM Mag­a­zine, “satire about any and all pro­fes­sion­als with a spe­cial vocab­u­lary has been a sta­ple of fic­tion and pop­u­lar ridicule since the 18th cen­tu­ry… and crit­ic-the­o­rists per­haps more recent­ly have been the easy tar­gets of upper-mid­dle-brow anti-intel­lec­tu­als con­tin­u­ous­ly since [Hen­ry] Field­ing and [Tobias] Smol­lett.” Though the barbs of these British nov­el­ists are more enter­tain­ing than any­thing you’ll hear from cur­rent talk­ing heads, the phe­nom­e­non remains the same: “Spe­cial vocab­u­lary intim­i­date and are instant­ly con­sid­ered obfus­ca­tion,” says Fry. “Reac­tions against them are shame­less­ly naïve, with no con­sid­er­a­tion of whether the recon­dite vocab­u­lar­ies may be serv­ing some nec­es­sary and con­struc­tive pur­pose.”

Maybe you’re scratch­ing your chin, shak­ing or nod­ding your head, or glaz­ing over. But if you’ve come this far, read on. Fry, after all, acknowl­edges that jar­gon-laden schol­ar­ly vocab­u­lar­ies can become “self-par­o­dy in the hands of fools,” and thus have pro­vid­ed jus­ti­fi­able fod­der for cut­ting wit since even Jonathan Swift’s day. But Fry picks this his­to­ry up in the 20th cen­tu­ry in his Yale course ENGL 300 (Intro­duc­tion to The­o­ry of Lit­er­a­ture), an acces­si­ble series of lec­tures on the his­to­ry and prac­tice of lit­er­ary the­o­ry, in which he pro­ceeds in a crit­i­cal spir­it to cov­er every­thing from Russ­ian For­mal­ism and New Crit­i­cism; to Semi­otics, Struc­tural­ism and Decon­struc­tion; to the Frank­furt School, Post-Colo­nial Crit­i­cism and Queer The­o­ry. Thanks to Open Yale Cours­es, you can watch the 26 lec­tures above. Or you can find them on YouTube, iTunes, or Yale’s own web site (where you can also grab a syl­labus for the course). These lec­tures were all record­ed in the Spring of 2009. The main text used in the course is David Richter’s The Crit­i­cal Tra­di­tion.

Expand­ing with the rapid growth and democ­ra­tiz­ing of uni­ver­si­ties after World War II, lit­er­ary and crit­i­cal the­o­ries are often close­ly tied to the con­tentious pol­i­tics of the Cold War. Their decline cor­re­sponds to these forces as well. Since the fall of the Sovi­et Union and the sub­se­quent snow­balling of pri­va­ti­za­tion and anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment, many sources of fund­ing for the human­i­ties have suc­cumbed, often under very pub­lic assaults on their char­ac­ter and util­i­ty. Fry’s pre­sen­ta­tion shows how lit­er­ary the­o­ry has nev­er been a blunt polit­i­cal instru­ment at any time. Rather it pro­vides ways of doing ethics and philoso­phies of lan­guage, reli­gion, art, his­to­ry, myth, race, sex­u­al­i­ty, etc. Or, put more plain­ly, the lan­guage of lit­er­ary the­o­ry gives us dif­fer­ent sets of tools for talk­ing about being human.

Fry tells Yale Dai­ly News that “lit­er­a­ture express­es more elo­quent­ly and sub­tly emo­tions and feel­ings that we all try to express one way or anoth­er.” But why apply the­o­ry? Why not sim­ply read nov­els, sto­ries, and poems and inter­pret them by our own crit­i­cal lights? One rea­son is that we can­not see our own bias­es and inher­it­ed cul­tur­al assump­tions. One osten­si­bly the­o­ry-free method of an ear­li­er gen­er­a­tion of schol­ars and poets who reject­ed lit­er­ary the­o­ry often suf­fers from this prob­lem. The New Crit­ics flour­ished main­ly dur­ing the 40s, a fraught time in his­to­ry when the coun­try’s resources were redi­rect­ed toward war and eco­nom­ic expan­sion. For Fry, this “last gen­er­a­tion of male WASP hege­mo­ny in the acad­e­my” reflect­ed “the blind­ness of the whole mid­dle class,” and the idea “that life as they knew it… was life as every­one knew it, or should if they didn’t.”

Fry admits that the­o­ry can seem super­flu­ous and need­less­ly opaque, “a pure­ly spec­u­la­tive under­tak­ing” with­out much of an object in view.  Yet applied to lit­er­a­ture, it pro­vides excit­ing means of intel­lec­tu­al dis­cov­ery. Fry him­self doesn’t shy away from satir­i­cal­ly tak­ing the piss, as a mod­ern-day Swift might say. He begins not with Coleridge or Keats (though he gets there even­tu­al­ly), but with a sto­ry for tod­dlers called “Tony the Tow Truck.” He does this not to mock, but to show us that “read­ing any­thing is a com­plex and poten­tial­ly unlim­it­ed activity”—and as “a face­tious reminder,” he tells 3:AM, that “the­o­ry is tak­ing itself seri­ous­ly in the wrong way if it exhausts its rea­son for being….”

Intro­duc­tion to The­o­ry of Lit­er­a­ture will be added to our list of Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es, a sub­set of our meta col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Quick Intro­duc­tion to Lit­er­ary The­o­ry: Watch Ani­mat­ed Videos from the Open Uni­ver­si­ty

How to Spot a Com­mu­nist Using Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism: A 1955 Man­u­al from the U.S. Mil­i­tary

Hear Roland Barthes Present His 40-Hour Course, La Pré­pa­ra­tion du roman, in French (1978–80)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The American Novel Since 1945: A Free Yale Course on Novels by Nabokov, Kerouac, Morrison, Pynchon & More

Taught by pro­fes­sor Amy Hunger­ford, The Amer­i­can Nov­el Since 1945 offers an intro­duc­tion to the fer­tile lit­er­ary peri­od that fol­lowed World War II. The course descrip­tion reads:

In “The Amer­i­can Nov­el Since 1945” stu­dents will study a wide range of works from 1945 to the present. The course traces the for­mal and the­mat­ic devel­op­ments of the nov­el in this peri­od, focus­ing on the rela­tion­ship between writ­ers and read­ers, the con­di­tions of pub­lish­ing, inno­va­tions in the nov­el­’s form, fic­tion’s engage­ment with his­to­ry, and the chang­ing place of lit­er­a­ture in Amer­i­can cul­ture. The read­ing list includes works by Richard Wright, Flan­nery O’Con­nor, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Ker­ouac, J. D. Salinger, Thomas Pyn­chon, John Barth, Max­ine Hong Kingston, Toni Mor­ri­son, Mar­i­lynne Robin­son, Cor­mac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Edward P. Jones. The course con­cludes with a con­tem­po­rary nov­el cho­sen by the stu­dents in the class.

You can watch the 26 lec­tures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes (videoaudio). To get more infor­ma­tion about the course, includ­ing the syl­labus, vis­it this Yale web­site.

The main texts used in this course include:

The Amer­i­can Nov­el Since 1945 will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties. There you can find a spe­cial­ized list of Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vladimir Nabokov Names the Great­est (and Most Over­rat­ed) Nov­els of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ in Rare 1959 Audio

Cor­mac McCarthy’s Three Punc­tu­a­tion Rules, and How They All Go Back to James Joyce

Roman Architecture: A Free Online Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale pro­fes­sor Diana E. E. Klein­er, this course offers “an intro­duc­tion to the great build­ings and engi­neer­ing mar­vels of Rome and its empire, with an empha­sis on urban plan­ning and indi­vid­ual mon­u­ments and their dec­o­ra­tion, includ­ing mur­al paint­ing.”

The course descrip­tion con­tin­ues: “While archi­tec­tur­al devel­op­ments in Rome, Pom­peii, and Cen­tral Italy are high­light­ed, the course also pro­vides a sur­vey of sites and struc­tures in what are now North Italy, Sici­ly, France, Spain, Ger­many, Greece, Turkey, Croa­t­ia, Jor­dan, Lebanon, Libya, and North Africa. The lec­tures are illus­trat­ed with over 1,500 images, many from Pro­fes­sor Klein­er’s per­son­al col­lec­tion.”

You can watch the 24 lec­tures above, or find the com­plete lec­ture set on YouTube and iTunes. To get more infor­ma­tion on the course, includ­ing the syl­labus, please vis­it Yale’s web­site.

Texts used in this course include:

Roman Archi­tec­ture will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties. Find more cours­es focused on the Ancient world here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rome Reborn: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Rome, Cir­ca 320 C.E.

The His­to­ry of Rome in 179 Pod­casts

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Time­lapse Map Ani­ma­tion (753 BC ‑1479 AD)

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

Free Cours­es in Ancient His­to­ry, Lit­er­a­ture & Phi­los­o­phy

What Life Was Like for Teenagers in Ancient Rome: Get a Glimpse from a TED-ED Ani­ma­tion

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.