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Democracy in Ethical and Cultural Perspective

Vak 2014-2015

Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy.

Description

This course aims at the cross-fertilization between normative political philosophy and the philosophy of culture. It does so by focusing on the idea of democracy. Democracy means rule by the people. It refers to a form of political rule in which the people in some qualified sense collectively govern themselves by participating as free and equal individuals in the political decision-making process. What it means to be collectively self-governing in a democratic way is of course subject to different interpretations and (therefore to) ongoing philosophical debate.

Regardless of which specific variant one endorses – e.g. Schumpeterian elitist democracy, pluralist democracy, radical democracy, liberal democracy, deliberative democracy, or agonist democracy – the normative core of collective self-government typically consists of two related elements. It involves, firstly, democratic decision-making procedures, such as majority or consensus voting, which specify the conditions under which decisions are binding on all members of the political community, and, secondly, a set of underlying, fundamental democratic values or normative ideals, such as equality and freedom, that justify these procedures. To this a third, more cultural dimension can be added. All normative models of democracy presuppose a philosophical anthropological account of the nature of human beings, of their interpersonal relationships, and of society. The discipline of normative political philosophy typically focuses on the first two elements, whereas the philosophy of culture focuses on the third element.

By studying the research on the idea of democracy, theories originating in normative political philosophy are confronted with insights from the philosophy of culture. During the course, we will discuss some of the most influential models of democracy. We will uncover the normative ideals (i.e. democratic procedures and values) and the philosophical anthropological accounts underlying these models, and assess their relationship (i.e. how they interact).

Course objectives

This course aims at the cross-fertilization between normative political philosophy and the philosophy of culture in relation to the idea of democracy, which will be done with the help of a selection of primary texts. Its objective is to inculcate in students an understanding of the major normative models of democracy, the philosophical anthropological presuppositions of these models, and their relationship. In addition, students will be trained in their ability to formulate, both orally and in writing, a critical perspective of their own regarding this topic.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the major normative models of democracy (classical conceptions of democracy, minimalist conceptions of democracy, liberal democracy, deliberative democracy, agnostic democracy) and how they are related;
  • the main philosophical anthropological accounts underlying these models of democracy (regarding the nature of human beings, of their interpersonal relationships, and of society) and how they are related.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • describe and distinguish the normative and philosophical anthropological accounts underlying models of democracy;
  • compare the normative and philosophical anthropological accounts underlying these models;
  • evaluate and criticize, both orally and in writing, these models;
  • write, present and critically review an essay in which a reasoned perspective is defended regarding a specific topic discussed during the course.

Timetable

See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetables MA Philosophy 60 EC/120 EC.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load (10 ECTS credits x 28 hours): 280 hours.

  • Attending seminars: 42 hours.
  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 90 hours.
  • Time for making assignments in preparation for seminars: 48 hours.
  • Time to write individual final paper (including reading/research): 100 hours.

Assessment method

  • Participation during course meetings: affects the final grade by a maximum of 1 point (positively or negatively);
  • Weakly critical notes on course literature: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
  • Individual presentations and critical reviews during the final conference: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
  • Individual paper: counts for 70% towards the final grade.

One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. Any student who did not take the first examination cannot take the resit.

Blackboard

Blackboard will be used by the instructor in order to provide course information, place announcements for students, and possibly to collect assignments made by students.

Reading list

We will discuss a number of influential texts concerning the major normative models of democracy, the philosophical anthropological presuppositions of these models, and their relationship, such as:

  • Joseph A. Schumpeter (1976), Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Routledge: London and New York, pp. 250-283.
  • William H. Riker (1988), Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice, San Francisco: Waveland Press (reissue).
  • Samuel Freeman (1990), ‘Reason and Agreement in Social Contract Views,’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 19, pp. 122-157.
  • George Herbert Mead (1967), Mind, Self, and Society, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Jürgen Habermas (1987), ‘The Normative Content of Modernity’ in id. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. by F. Lawrence, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 336-367.
  • Jürgen Habermas (1990), ‘Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification’ in id. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, Cambridge: Cabridge University Press, pp. 43-115.
  • Seyla Benhabib (1992), ‘Chapter 5. The Generalized and the Concrete Other’ in id. (ed.), Situating the Self, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 148-177.
  • Jürgen Habermas (1998), The Inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 239-264.
  • Joshua Cohen (1997), ‘Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy’ in James Bohman and William Rehg (eds.) Deliberative Democracy. Essays on Reason and Politics, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 67-91.
  • Carl Schmitt (2007 [1932] ), The Concept of the Political, Expanded Edition, trans. by G. Schwab, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Chantal Mouffe (2005), On the Political, London: Routledge.

All other course readings and materials will be made available at the start of the course.

Registration

Please register for this course on uSis.
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable for courses in the column under the heading “Act.nbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

Dr. M. Verschoor

Remarks