BSFS International Political Economy, Georgetown University, 2015
Political and Legal Philosophy, Political Economy, Feminism, German Philosophy
“Critical Theories of Freedom and Agency”
PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial
Topic: Autonomy and Liberation
This course explores and compares two determinations of the concept of freedom in the history of philosophy. In the first half of the course, we examine Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the German Idealists’ idea that to be free is to be autonomous, obeying only those laws that one has legislated for oneself. In the second half, we turn to the radical philosophies of anticapitalist Karl Marx and feminist Catharine MacKinnon. For Marx and MacKinnon, the central question of freedom is not autonomy but rather liberation: How can we transition from an unfree world to a free one? Philosophers from both halves of the course conceive of freedom as in some sense self-grounding. We will think deeply about what this means and thereby discover two potential challenges. (1) If all freedom and authority derives from autonomy, how can we make sense of autonomy itself? It seems it would need to create itself. (2) If liberation must come from ourselves, then it cannot depend on anything outside of the social world that already exists. But this means that the tools of liberation must come from the very systems that make us unfree. How is this possible? We will evaluate and compare these two challenges and see whether the philosophers can offer satisfying answers.
Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.