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Political Science

A handy online guide to political science: the major figures, problems, study tools, career prospects.

What Is Political Science?
Political science studies governments in all their forms and aspects, both theoretical and practical. Once a branch of philosophy, political science nowadays is typically considered a social science. The history of the discipline is virtually as long as that of humanity. Its roots in the Western tradition are typically individuated in the works...

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Niccolò Machiavelli was one of the most influential political theorists of Western philosophy. His most read treatise, The Prince, turned Aristotle’s theory of virtues upside down, shaking the European conception of government at its foundations.

Liberalism is one of the principal doctrines in Western political philosophy. Its core values are typically expressed in terms of individual freedom and equality. How these two ought to be understood is a matter of dispute so that they are often differently declined in different places or among different groups. Even so, it is typical to...

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
One of the most remarkable and controversial figures in modern politics and philosophy, Karl Marx was a German-born philosopher of Jewish descent, who inspired generations of students through his writings. Author, among others, of the "Capital" (whose second and third volumes were posthumously published by his lifelong fellow Friedrich Engels)...

The Philosophy of Sex and Gender
Is it customary to divide human beings among male and female, men and women; yet, this dimorphism proves to be also ill-taken, for instance when it comes to intersex (e.g. hermaphrodite) or transgendered individuals. It becomes hence legitimate to wonder whether sexual categories are real or rather conventional kinds, how gender categories get...

Plato and Aristotle on the Family: Selected Quotes
Plato and Aristotle have proposed radical views on the family, which influenced the debate on the topic in Western philosophy. This article collects some influential quotes on the topic.

The Right to Ignorance and Genetic Testing
We obviously know a lot about ourselves, at least in a quotidian sense of the verb "to know". For instance, we carry many memories of ourselves and we are often evaluated by others in explicit ways. At the same time, there are also many details that escape us. For instance, you may not know how many sugars are in your blood system at this time, or that the shampoo you have been using was tested in a laboratory in Southern France. Some of those details are petty; others may be quite significant. Is there any detail about yourself that you would rather not know? If there are details you would rather not know, should society make room for your decision not to know?

Charity and False Consciousness
In December 2006 philosopher Peter Singer appropriately titled an article for the "New York Times Magazine" "What Should a Billionaire Give – And What Should You?" In the article, Singer made concrete an old argument of his, first presented in a 1975 paper. His point can be rendered by means of a question. If you were walking by a pond, saw a child drowning, nobody else around to help, and you had the possibility of saving the child with a minor effort, would you do that? Of course. But, wait: as far as we know, donating some money, whatever you can, will save the life of some people somewhere, no matter how remove they may be from you. So, why don’t you donate what you can?

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1787)
Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for her philosophical and political insightful fervor, especially for her strenuous and lucid defense of the rights of women in society. This excerpt, taken from the third chapter of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, bears witness to a well-articulated picture.

Plato and Aristotle on Women: Selected Quotes
Plato and Aristotle defended different views on the nature of women and of their role in society. This article collects some influential quotes on the topic.

Nudge and Philosophy
In 2008, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published a book that aimed to apply choice architecture in a benign way, one that could be openly endorsed also by governments and public institutions. The book title by itself conveys the sort of optimist that surrounded the project: "Nudge. Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness." Within a few years, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom openly endorsed nudge theory, a decision that generated some heartfelt debates.

Humanism was a cultural movement that developed in Europe starting from the second half of thirteen hundreds. It reached its peak in fourteen and fifteen hundreds, most remarkably in Florence (Italy), during that period which goes under the label of Renaissance. Humanism affected all the arts and sciences as well as politics, religion, and...

Cheerfulness and Happiness
What’s the difference between cheerfulness and happiness? Trying to offer an answer to this question may help to shed light on a number of important aspects of ethics, politics, and practical living. In this article I will offer a few remarks on how a philosophy encompassing both cheerfulness and happiness may be developed.

"The Prince" by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince is the most read work by Florentine author Niccolò Machiavelli and one of the masterpieces of Western political thought. It is a small treatise composed of twenty-six chapters and aiming to educate a young adult about how to maintain power in a princedom regardless of the situation. Machiavelli’s precepts subverted Aristotelian...

The Limits of Ethical Consumerism
Ethical consumerism has become a central concept for shoppers around the world. Labels such as Fair Trade and organic are just the tip of the iceberg of a specialized market that kept growing over the years and expanding to the most remote sectors of commerce. Needless to say, however, being an ethical consumer is not that easy. Articles abound detailing the unreliability of labels, or the fact that labels do not convey sufficient or relevant information regarding products that we consume. More hard-nosed criticisms of ethical consumerism can be raised, however. In this article I will present the three that strike me as most compelling.

Wikileaks and What the Public Should Not Know
The controversies surrounding the blog Wikileaks gave a new dress to old questions concerning the ethics and politics of information. Assange has been criticized on a number of counts, including being unprofessional and irresponsible. The criticisms point especially at the fact that Wikileaks publicly released on the blog confidential documents that some whistleblower had sent in; the documents contained sensitive information such as lists of intelligence collaborators, individuals’ phone numbers, home addresses, email accounts and emails. To some, Assange exposed the worst side of blogging, which is the opportunity of disseminating information without the professional standards of those who keep societies informed by working as professional journalists.

The West
The idea of a West was initially also a geographic idea, when first used by the ancient Greeks to indicate the societal structure and culture of those societies that stood West of Persia. Later adopted also to describe the societies falling under the Roman influence, it has since been utilized by early and late medieval Christians, Europeans,...

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