Response to Current Issues – Political Thought

Beginning any philosophy course with the classical Greeks can be a challenge for modern students because many of the references in their writings are not applicable today. What about the more modern philosophers though? Like those of the past, the modern philosophers have significant influence over modern political systems.

 

Sartre, a winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, was a political activist and a member of the Peace Movement. In general, he was opposed to imperialism and believed that society was constantly in conflict as a result of the struggles between those with power (the have’s) and those without power (the have not’s). At the same time, he was an existentialist, holding individuals responsible for their own actions of good faith and toward freedom.

 

Hanna Arendt is the only political theorist (as she preferred to be identified as) we study this term, though there are others. Much of Arendt’s work addresses the nature of political power, specifically the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism. Her perspective as a German-born Jew, as a person who helped Jewish refugees in France during WWII, and as one who was forced to flee France for America as a result of German occupation, provides her a solid perspective on a her focus areas – many of which are used to examine even more current issues.

 

Rawls is the most historically recent political philosopher we study in this course, having just passed away in 2002. As a political philosopher, much of his focus is on justice. His primary argument is that “most reasonable principles of justice are those everyone would accept and agree to from a fair position.” It is not uncommon for his philosophies to be applied to current issues, whether controversial or not. Arendt was presented the National Humanities Medal in 1999 by former President Bill Clinton who suggested Rawls had helped a generation of Americans restore their faith in democracy.

 

Additional Materials

Arendt in Crisis: Political Thought in Between Past and Future

Rawls on Race/Race in Rawls

 

ASSIGNMENT

 

Identify and describe a current issue (this could be a controversy or just an issue of importance) in American Government. Explain in a 2 pages how one of the modern philosophers we’ve studied would respond to that issue.

 

This paper should be 2 pages of complete content (cover page and reference page are separate) and have in-text citations. The paper will be in APA style (both in formatting the paper and reference page). One scholarly article as a minimum should be included in the paper.

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