Moral philosophy, Political science

Course date

1 July - 25 July, 1997
15 February, 1997
Course Director(s): 

Lorand Ambrus-Lakatos

Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Eszter Babarczy

Eotvos Lorand University , Budapest, Hungary

Zoltan Balazs

Humanities, Sociology, Pazmany Peter Catholic University, Piliscsaba, Hungary

Nenad Dimitrijevic

Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Ferenc Huoranszki

Department of Philosophy, Central European University

Janos Kis

Department of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Maria Ludassy

Eotvos Lorand University , Budapest, Hungary

Imre Orthmayr

Eotvos Lorand University , Budapest, Hungary

The classical way of understanding political phenomena was philosophical: it is safe to say that the most influential political thinkers of the ancient world and of the early modern Europe were philosophers. With the rise of modern sciences, however, politics grew an independent discipline within the domain of social sciences and political philosophy was dormant. Modern political science aspired to describe and to explain every relevant aspects of political life. Normative inquiries about the justification of different political actions and institutions were seldom launched. In the second half of this century the situation changed once again. It became clear that the study of political phenomena demands not only descriptive analyses but also a quest for normative foundations. Universal claims of rights or the workings of a constitutional regime cannot be fully understood without normative accounts which aim at showing why (and whether) particular claims and regimes should be preferred. Many think that this question could only be answered if politics is investigated from a moral point of view. Whether political philosophy should have a moral foundation at all is a difficult issue. First, there is the standard attack against moral foundationalism: even if a normative approach is needed for understanding political phenomena, public political norms cannot be legitimately related to private morality. Second, one of the fundamental virtues of modern liberal societies is tolerance concerning alternative forms of life and different moral convictions. Therefore, attempts to seek the moral foundations of liberal norms seem to be not just foundationalist but also fundamentalist: they regard certain moral values to be constitutive to the possibility of a just political society. Despite these obvious difficulties many of the contemporary political philosophers do seek to relate morality and normative foundations of politics. Thanks to these attempts many classical problems of political philosophy, such as the question of moral foundations of democracy, of rights and constitutions and even that of political behaviour, have been resuscitated. In addition to these old ones new problems have been brought into focus as well: e.g. the relationship between an economic approach to rationality and alternative views of practical rationality or the nature and role of moral intuitions in justifying political institutions and decisions. Lecturers in this course will touch upon these fundamental questions as well as other issues related to the problem of what moral foundations politics could have. We believe that this course addresses then a theme which is peculiarly important for those who study the political development of CEE/fSU, and the examination of which should, at the same time, be able to contribute to the vigour of the intellectual life at CEU. Contingent on the success of the recruiting process, it will promote the interaction between academics from the East and the West. List of lecture titles "The Good of Others in Plato's ' Republic' "Empiricism and Contractualism" "The Morality of Freedom" "Autonomy and Authority" "Political Legitimacy and Moral Justification" "Bargaining and Justice" "Responsibility for Choice" "Three Conceptions of Politics" "Neutrality in a Politics Based on Moral Principles" "Dirty Hands in Politics and in the Personal Domain" "The Paradoxes of Liberty" "Ethics and Politics"