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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2014

Thomas L. Pangle
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Timothy W. Burns
Affiliation:
Baylor University, Texas
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Summary

What is political philosophy? Why is its study important? And why should political philosophy be introduced as it is in this volume – through a sustained encounter with a very few old books, whose authors lived in civic cultures profoundly unlike our own? Why do we not begin from books and thinkers of our own time? How will we get at the problems that are most important for us today through reading long-dead authors? Are not the important issues of politics those that are pressing, urgent, “the burning issues of the day?” What is in these old books that could be more significant?

The answer is simple. The books that we will be studying embody humanity’s most powerful attempts to grapple with the truly fundamental and enduring questions about human existence. What are the ultimate ends or purposes of our lives, as individuals and as political communities? What constitutes human fulfillment and flourishing? Can security, health, prosperity, and entertainment be all that our existence is for? Or must not these goods be understood as, at best, a foundation and means or opportunity, for higher activities and concerns? To speak of the “higher” is to speak of that which has and bestows dignity; what is it that gives our existence dignity? What is it that makes this particular life-form – a human life – deserving of special respect or even reverence? What makes us different in rank from the other animals, so that we feel that we are free to eat and to enslave them, but not our fellow humans?

Type
Chapter
Information
The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
An Introduction
, pp. 1 - 10
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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  • Introduction
  • Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas, Austin, Timothy W. Burns, Baylor University, Texas
  • Book: The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
  • Online publication: 05 October 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139047555.001
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  • Introduction
  • Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas, Austin, Timothy W. Burns, Baylor University, Texas
  • Book: The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
  • Online publication: 05 October 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139047555.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas, Austin, Timothy W. Burns, Baylor University, Texas
  • Book: The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
  • Online publication: 05 October 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139047555.001
Available formats
×