History of Political Philosophy from Plato to Burke

History of Political Philosophy from Plato to Burke

History of Political Philosophy from Plato to Burke

History of Political Philosophy from Plato to Burke

Excerpt

Anyone who proffers a new textbook on an old subject, without benefit of the excuse that the subject matter has changed or been considerably added to since earlier works appeared, is manifestly required to justify his course.

The determination to write this book arose out of criticisms and complaints of American undergraduates, made over a period of five years in a course on The History of Political Ideas presented by me in Columbia College. These were confirmed and clarified during the past academic year, when the book was taking shape. They came in the main from intelligent and interested students, who gave thier reasons for finding existing texts, which I recommended, inadequate and who occasionally suggested how the inadequacies might be remedied.

The American undergraduate, frequently taking a diverse program of courses, desires the haven of a textbook. Unlike his English confrère he does not specialize from an early age, and even in his college years does not select and work in a major subject until his Junior year--and not always and everywhere then. Hence he needs an introduction that is clear, sufficiently full in content, and lacking in that use of learned or literary allusion that frequently marks English writing. He does not want to be flattered as already, of the cognoscenti: at best he hopes ultimately to enter their august circle. His textbook is only his first step along that difficult path.

Believing, therefore, that a gap existed, I have endeavored to fill it as completely and fairly as possible. It is the task of the textbook writer to present problems and raise questions, to promote a sceptical attitude and encourage the inquiring mind. Eclecticism, though often condemned today as a cowardly avoidance, seems most calculated to do this. Granted that no one can reach that mirage of scholars, complete objectivity, one must present the philosophy of other men as fairly, and even as favor-

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