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"Philosophy and Dictatorship"
Graduate Student Essay

Our seminar is based upon a simple puzzle:  Why did some of the great philosophers of the first-half of the twentieth century choose to align themselves with totalitarian regimes?

In seeking to resolve this puzzle, I have made three assumptions:

1. To understand the political sympathies of these thinkers, one should begin by investigating the way that each responded to basic philosophical questions about epistemology, morality, and human agency.

2. These philosophers' perspectives did not come from nowhere.  They originated in some of the great philosophical debates of post-Enlightenment Europe.

3.  Finally, at some identifiable point(s), each of these thinkers chose to break ranks fundamentally with some of the prevailing conceptions of truth, ethics, and human nature that had been espoused by their intellectual predecessors.

For your semester paper, please investigate these propositions by identifying two separate pairs of thinkers, each of which should comprise one twentieth-century "philosopher of dictatorship" and one philosophical predecessor.  For example, one pair could be Gentile and Kant; the other could be Lukács and Hegel.

Based upon the fact that this seminar is designed to synthesize political theory and comparative politics, your assignment is two-fold:

1) The political theory question:  Considering each of the pairs separately, are there distinctive philosophical differences about epistemology, morality, and human agency that cause one to be a "philosopher of dictatorship" while the other is not?

2) The comparative politics question:  Comparing each of the pairs with each other, are there issues that the two "philosophers of dictatorship" share in common that can help us to resolve the puzzle behind this seminar?

Please respond to these questions in a clearly argued, carefully crafted, and fully synthesized essay of no more than 15 typed, double-spaced pages.  Feel free to think creatively and critically.  There is no one, set answer to these questions.  As in all good debates, there are only better or worse arguments.  For this reason, make sure that you draw upon lots of evidence to make your case.  Please focus on the primary and secondary sources that we have used in this course.

Note:  As you know, you will be writing this essay in two stages.  The absolute deadline for your entire essay is Friday, May 2 (i.e., before Finals Week).  This will also be the undergraduate deadline.