Semester 1 Teaching: Freedom and Domination (PHL254)

Here is the blurb on my teaching for Semester 1 at Macquarie (Unit Guide). I’m teaching 19th C. German philosophy:

The term ‘freedom’ is frequently used today, but what does the concept of freedom really mean? Is there more freedom in modern liberal societies than in other forms of society? If so, does this make them better? Is it always a good thing to increase individual freedom? Or does the pursuit of freedom in the modern world have individual and social costs that outweigh the benefits? In a world that often deploys the concept of ‘freedom’ for various political or ideological ends, should we rethink the meaning of the value of freedom? This unit explores these questions by investigating the modern conception of freedom and its ‘dark’ or other side, the experience of alienation. We begin by examining the emergence of the Enlightenment conception of freedom as moral and individual autonomy (Kant), exploring important criticisms of individualist notions of autonomy and analyses of the social and political conditions of freedom (Hegel). We then examine various radical critiques of modern society that challenge the claim that modern individuals are genuinely free, focussing on the problem of alienation in modern social, economic, and political life (Marx). Finally, we explore the crisis of meaning in modern culture, asking whether modernity can provide adequate forms of social and cultural meaning in response to the crises afflicting the value of freedom (Nietzsche).

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