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So What?

December 5, 2010
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I must admit I really had no idea what political theory was before signing up for this class. I knew that that were underlying theories to political ideologies, in that someone obviously had conceived the notion of a democracy, dictatorship, etc… but the extent to which intelligent thinkers had probed into the everyday interactions of life was beyond me. Of course I’d heard of the name Socrates, but the fact that he had set a precedent for others to abide by in his submission to the corrupt law system that sentenced him to death was not only unknown to me, it was inconceivable. Yet, here I am, many months later having read from the classic texts of Plato, Socrates, Lock, and Hobbes, all the way to the more modern pieces of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Supposedly, I am better because of all this. Indeed, while I certainly do know significantly more now than I ever did about the musings of politics and life, I really don’t know how to utilize such information.

So, I have turned to you, blogging student body, posing the question: So what? So what you took this course and read about some of times most revered political thinkers? What are you going to do with this knowledge; how-if it even does-will having taken this course effect you later in life?

In order to get the ball rolling, I’ll present some instances in which I have begun trying to apply this course to the outside world.

  • Questioning basic assumptions of life. For instance, I have simply and always unconsciously assumed that democracy must be the best form of government. I mean America is democratic, America is also great, democracy must thus be great. Yet, perhaps I have been wrong. As Rousseau asks, where does the “minority’s obligation to submit to the majority’s choice” derive from? “Where do one hundred [people]” who want something “get the right to vote for ten who do not.” Good question Rousseau, I really have no idea.
  • Yet, this constant questioning of assumed principals extends far beyond mere political concerns. As Professor LaVaque-Manty brought up in his essay “Being a Women and Other Disabilities” where do handicap people justify their decree to participate along side nondisabled people in sports. I always just thought it was a good thing to try and accommodate for the disabled, but never before have I wondered does justice apply to this situation?
  • Even more, why am I always holding doors open for ladies-as Burke would hope-or helping those around me. Before reading Machiavelli I never would have questioned it, but now I wonder, am I really hurting my chances at success by being a generous individual?

Ultimately, I could go on and on about how I have been applying the lessons of these political thinkers to life, but I want to know what you have to say. How can these lessons be utilized outside the classroom, and what personally have you taken away from this class?

4 Comments
  1. greguff permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:33 PM

    This is an interesting post, however I believe this is not what the class was intended for. Although we read several readings from Socrates to Rousseau, I do not think the class wants us to solely absorb what each theorist believes and how to apply it in the real world. The class helped us read more critically and to understand how these early political theorists shaped the world today. In 10 years you will probably not need to understand Locke’s state of nature, but through reading it in this class you read an extremely difficult piece of work and was able to dissect it and truly understand it. Therefore, this class was extremely useful and you do not have to think so literally on how to apply what these thinkers suggested.

  2. justinrostker permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:58 PM

    I agree with greguff, this course is not primarily meant to directly link theories to everyday life. What I have taken away from this class is the knowledge to form my own political ideas and help me figure out where I stand on the political spectrum.

  3. joshuacy permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:59 PM

    I’ve been thinking of the theorists’ ideas in everyday life.
    For example, I think I may have experienced Rousseau’s idea that the only two things humans possess in nature are self-interest and compassion. From these two things, I realize, society constructs itself, completely based on each individual making himself happy while simultaneously try to make everyone around him happy.
    If there’s one thing that these philosophers have taught me, it’s that you can take one or two ideas and expand them to fit an entire worldview.
    Basically, philosophers are just good with words.

  4. eghat2 permalink
    December 5, 2010 11:26 PM

    I actually believe that this blog can be considered an example of what you are talking about: real world examples which help to illustrate the ideas of the political theorists which we have been reading. In this blog, we generally are not talking about how to apply these theories to our own lives, but rather, where might they exist in society?
    Also, an important thing that I have taken from this course, specifically my discussion section, is how to write a good politically theory paper. I believe this course provided interesting prompts for us, according to our readings, and our GSI’s helped us to write good papers on them. Political theory writing is a type of writing all its own, in which one must know how to write a very clear and specific thesis statement, and express complex arguments or interpretations in a clear and concise manner. For someone who plans on taking more political science classes in the future, it is definitely important to know the style of political theory papers, and this class certainly helps with that.

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