Lectures on the history of political philosophy (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2):pp. 332-333 (2008)
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From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s the most influential American philosopher of the twentieth century treated the students of Harvard University to a course on the history of modern political philosophy stretching roughly from Hobbes to Marx. John Rawls’ lectures and lecture notes have now been carefully edited by Samuel Freeman into a magnificently odd book.As in the earlier collection of his class material, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy , Rawls’ approach to the history of political thought is neither condescending nor particularly showy. One might think of his historical work as the negative image of Bertrand Russell’s. Rawls is modest, diligent, and constructive. “We must have confidence in the author, especially a gifted one” Rawls insists. “If we see that something is wrong when we take the text in a certain way, then we assume the author would have seen it too. So our interpretation is likely to be wrong”



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