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PHI 118 — Democracy and Its Discontents: Philosophical Roots of America’s Reactionary and Radical Politics

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 12—Mar 16
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 14
Units: 2
Tuition: $520
Instructor(s): Frederick M. Dolan
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 12—Mar 16
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 14
2 Units
Frederick M. Dolan
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
It's now two years after the insurrection at the US Capitol attempting to overturn the results of the presidential election, an unprecedented manifestation of the political divisions in the nation. While the grievances and hopes of Trump’s supporters are complex and varied, one highly visible coalition has emerged. Known as the alt-right, this coalition rejects the core values of liberal democracy—above all, that of equality. Illiberal sentiments also inform some on the radical left. Antifa (a militant left-wing group) advocates the use of intimidation and violence to deny political opponents the right to free speech and assembly.

Some of these activists draw on a “counter-enlightenment” philosophical tradition that holds that liberal democratic societies fail to adequately shelter the higher and deeper aspirations of humanity. The tradition includes figures commonly associated with right-wing politics, such as Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), and Julius Evola (1898–1974), and others typically associated with the left, such as Michel Foucault (1926–1984), Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), and Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979).

In this course, we will seek to evaluate and understand the counter-enlightenment political philosophy invoked by America’s most radical political groups, exploring the possible limits of liberalism and asking whether our current frameworks of political thought have the resources necessary to articulate a meaningful and moderating response.

Professor of Rhetoric, Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Frederick M. Dolan’s interests include political and moral philosophy, theories of interpretation, and aesthetics and the philosophy of art. He received a PhD from Princeton.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Friedrich Nietzsche, Basic Writings of Nietzsche (ISBN 978-0679783398)
(Required) Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings (ISBN 978-0061627019 )
(Required) Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader (ISBN 978-0394713403 )
(Required) Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (ISBN 978-0804736336)