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Summary

What is the connection between individual freedom and social and political authority? Are human beings fundamentally equal or unequal? In 16 in-depth lectures, Professor Dalton puts the key theories of power formulated by several of history's greatest minds within your reach.

These lectures trace two distinct schools of political theory, idealism and realism, from their roots in ancient India and Greece through history and, ultimately, to their impact on the 20th century - via the lives and ideas of two charismatic, yet utterly disparate leaders: Adolph Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi. The issues Professor Dalton addresses in these lectures - and in Western political theory generally - fall into three sets of fundamental questions you'll get to unpack. The first set involves the essential characteristics of human nature and the good society. The second focuses on the intricate relationship between the individual and society. And the final set of questions involves theories about change.

Through these lectures and their historical case studies, you'll be able to identify the fundamental questions and concerns that shape classical and modern political theory:

  • Describe the influence of one's understanding of human nature upon one's vision of the good society.
  • Compare and contrast the views of theorists regarding the purpose of the state, the relationship between politics and ethics, and the qualifications for exercising political power.
  • Discuss views of leading political theorists regarding the meaning of freedom, the sources of legitimate political authority, and the obligations of individuals to the state or society, and more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1991 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1991 The Great Courses

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    5 out of 5 stars

A well written and fascinating course

This course of lectures covers political philosophy from the ancients right up to Ghandi. Starting with an overview of Ancient Indian political philosophy, before moving to Greece and the more traditional Western view of this history. The lecturer is a very good speaker, and his writing is simply fantastic. He covers Plato, Socrates, Hitler and many more in great detail. Included in the course is also discussions of art and literature relevant to the topics, which adds colour to what could otherwise be a dry series.

If I had to give it a negative, I would say that the course is too short, and the topics left out are a real shame. Hobbes is barely touched, along with Locke and Paine as well, all three only get a small mention in reference to Thoreau. However, the course is so overwhelmingly good that I cannot take points away for lack of these writers. The lecturer is an expert on Ghandi, and the episode on Ancient hindu philosophy is superfluous for people like me (really interested in the Western theory), but I'm sure very interesting for some.

Overall, I would say this is the best Great Courses series I've heard so far, and I'm just hoping he writes a new edition with a few more conservative philosophers! The course concentrates on more radical ideas and these does leave some of the debates behind.

Fantastic, cannot recommend enough.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Enjoyed it immensely

It is a detailed examination of political theory that was appropriately detailed. Would recommend it

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • Darlington, UK
  • 30-01-17

Best Great Courses book so far

Professor Dalton is my favourite lecturer so far. He has helped me understand philosophy using a warm and friendly style. Now I understand!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thoroughly enjoyable and an easy listen

This covers some essential characters and their political arguments stemming millenia. The lecturer is passionate, clear and engaging. There was nothing I found difficult or overly cerebral here, no philosophy of logic, no convoluted arguments. Mostly because this was a lesson in the historical development of major political movements rather than a debate about who was right, although I think the leanings of the lecturer do come across they are not overtly explicit. My conclusion is that applying rational argument always comes second to the feeling of what is right from all perspectives.

The fact that we don't know what the purpose of humanity actually is means people can invent one and use the propaganda of their times for good or evil to convince others that they are right. The less capable of independent thought and action a populace becomes the more prone that society is to becoming capable of committing atrocities.

It is a stark warning of the potency that an unchallenged right or left wing media could have in a world which is currently quite clearly dominated by one side.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Learned a lot! Great lectures.

The lecturer is fantastic - gets to the essence of political philosophy, tge key philosophers and the contexts in which they gave their ideas.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Entertaining but light on the theory

A well thought out course introducing aspects of the application of political power, but it is light on the theory of politics, not to mention the interconnected subjects of philosophy and economics.

But overall an informative course done by an excellent and passionate narrator.

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  • Zachary Lank
  • 13-03-15

Fantastic

An excellent listen. The professor wove the lectures together beautifully, almost poetically at times, with consistent themes and references from one lesson to the next.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Spencer
  • 07-06-16

Incredibly enriching course!

This is an excellent book! Anyone interested in political theory should listen! My only complaints would be that the lecturer sometimes seems to ramble on, not finishing a sentence for thirty seconds to a minute, which can make it difficult to find a good stopping place. Professor Dalton is, nevertheless, an incredibly skilled teacher and will serve as an accessible guide to any listener through the history of political thought. It left me craving more.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ahmed
  • 10-03-18

Best book!!

That was one of the best books i've read in my life!
A genius mix of philosophy, political science and history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Brandon
  • 30-08-17

Interest View Point

This Great Course surprised me in the choice of topics and persons. He covers the classical or Western and Indian political thought. He also focuses on the power of the self which is evident in his coverage of Freud and Gandhi. However, the main focus is still how to rule over people whether that is the idealism of Rousseau or Plato or the gritty realism of Machiavelli.