How can I start learning about political philosophy?



I'm interested in learning about political philosophy. What are the best ways to start? Are there any websites for beginners? Are there any books such as the "For Dummies" series? Are there any audio or video introductions to familiarize myself with the terminology?

saber tabatabaee yazdi

Posted 2012-12-27T04:36:06.757

Reputation: 273




First of all, make you sure you have a good knowledge of general philosophy before you start reading political philosophy. This is not mandatory, but I think you may encounter some problems if you don't know the very basic terms, philosophers and ideas.

To get started with political philosophy, I would recommend the following:

Reading original texts

Once you know enough about political philosophy in general, you can start reading original texts. The very first you should read, is Plato's Republic. Whether you like it or not, other philosophers will refer to it over and over again and it is important to understand it well. A companion is recommended too to make sure you get the most out of it. I've included a TTC-course and a book.

Once you know this book really well, you are ready to move on. There are many texts and I don't really know which one to recommend, so I'll list a few. It's up to you which ones you pick. It may very well be that by this time, you already have your own preferences and therefore don't really need this list anymore. Many, if not all of these will already have been introduced by introductory books.


Posted 2012-12-27T04:36:06.757

Reputation: 2 356

is there any mp3 for starters (basics and terminology) before reading those books? – saber tabatabaee yazdi – 2012-12-29T04:12:40.187

2@sabertabatabaeeyazdi Yes, the Yale and TTC courses can be downloaded as audio files. – Ben – 2012-12-29T12:38:26.673

I'd recommend decent translations of the Republic, Politics, and the Prince. The ones linked to are terrible. – Jon – 2013-02-12T22:35:47.720

@Jon Feel free to edit my answer or make suggestions so that I can edit mine. I've only read the Dutch translations; I don't know much about the English translations, to be honest. – Ben – 2013-02-12T22:58:32.973

@ChaosAndOrder. Sorry have been busy and away. Plato's Republic: Allan Bloom or Joe Sachs translation (the former is the standard translation, and better); Aristotle's Politics: Carnes Lord or Joe Sachs; Machiavelli's Prince: Harvey Mansfield. – Jon – 2013-07-14T03:52:38.717

Two further original texts are a bit important: Locke's Two Treatises and Nozick's Anarchy, State, & Utopia really shouldn't be neglected if you're including Hobbes and Rawls already. – Ryder – 2013-12-14T12:06:17.223


Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are excellent sources for overviews of particular views, philosophers, and traditions. There is a series of "Very Short Introduction" books that are usually pretty good that cover an awful lot of topics in science and philosophy, and I'd imagine there'd be something there.

Resources can be of varying use depending on how much you're interested in learning. If you just want a broad overview, then these resources can be your end-all and be-all. If you're looking to learn more deeply, however, and are just looking for somewhere to begin, there's little harm in jumping directly to the primary classics, especially if you're willing to read patiently and slowly. Those would probably include texts like Rousseau's The Social Contract, Macchiaveli's The Prince and his Commentaries on Livy, Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics, The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, the Federalist Papers, anything by Foucault, the list goes on. Of those, if I were recommending somewhere to start it'd probably by Rousseau or Macchiavelli, but I don't know how universal (if at all) that opinion is.


Posted 2012-12-27T04:36:06.757

Reputation: 725


Lest any "For Dummies" books I recommend e.g. the EconTalk podcast. It has got its built in biases (e.g. Hoover Institution at Stanford legacy) but with interesting twists e.g. towards philosophic pragmatism, or scientific skepticism, or Hayekianism in general: IMO it plays with quite open cards, invites many interesting (both prominent and surprising) guests, and comes with transcripts and good pointers to secondary literature on its web site.


Posted 2012-12-27T04:36:06.757

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