Search Results for: Great Thinkers

Resource: Great Thinkers

Great Thinkers is a web project dedicated to introducing readers to the great thinkers of Western thought, with a particular emphasis on political philosophy. Featuring biographies, introductory essays, bibliographies of the best secondary literature, as well as multimedia content on thinkers from Herodotus

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Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen (1642)

Hobbes’s contribution to international relations theory is, for all its significance, rather indirect. Hobbes sets out to give an account of the origin and preservation of internal political order. His practical intention is to foster peace, primarily within and only secondarily among nations. Yet Hobbes invites us to draw lessons about international relations from his political theory when he identifies the state that countries find themselves in as the state of nature. The way to Hobbes’s theory of international relations is therefore largely inferential in character.

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Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)

Few, if any, works of political philosophy have been more important for grand strategy and diplomacy than The Prince. Written by the Florentine philosopher and statesman, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince, along with Machiavelli’s other major work, Discourses on Livy, brought about a transformation in political theory and political practice.

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The Sage of Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew is often referred to as “the Sage of Singapore.” The Cambridge University-educated Lee was the founding father of that modern independent city-state.  He served as its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, overseeing its rise as the first of the Southeast Asian “tigers.”  He was also one of the region’s most influential international statesmen, renowned for his geopolitical acumen as well as his far-sighted economic vision. When Harry Lee spoke, people listened.

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Kissinger and China

Ten years after publication of Kissinger's On China, the reader is invited to assess Kissinger’s judgment in light of such events as the unwinding of the global financial crisis and increased Chinese assertiveness, the shift in American foreign policy towards a great power competition framework, and Covid-19. His book appeared shortly before Graham Allison’s influential and controversial work on the Thucydides trap. I extrapolated from his argument at the time — perhaps inaccurately, but worthy of consideration — that Kissinger concluded the rise of China towards its historic position as the Middle Kingdom, if accommodated properly to a globalized world, is more or less inevitable and, rightly understood, desirable.

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Cicero on Justice, Empire, and the Exceptional Republic

Cicero played no significant commanding role in the civil wars that marked the end of the Roman Republic. Nor could he boast of a distinguished military or diplomatic carreer prior to that chaotic period. Cicero had risen from an obscure family to the height of consular power in Rome, through his forensic and rhetorical ability and by forging a link between Rome’s old aristocracy and the equestrian class. Cicero could claim neither conquest of Gaul, nor subjugation of a foreign enemy like Carthage as grounds for posterity considering him an authority on grand strategy. Despite this, we find in Cicero’s moral and philosophic works a powerful theoretical framework for understanding (and justifying) the strategy and policy of an imperial republic such as Rome. Within this framework are serious thoughts about the relationship between power, interest, and the values of a republican polity. Not only are these thoughts profound and worthy of consideration in their own right, but they proved deeply influential to later thinkers. Importantly, these ideas would ultimately inform the ideological self-image of the Roman Empire.

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Institute of World Politics

Course Objectives  This course is designed to teach students to think strategically and analytically, sharpening the student’s ability to assess a variety of situations and compare alternative courses of action to achieve overall national political purposes.  Students will be asked to think in a disciplined,

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Reading “On War” for the First Time

Where to begin? Authors felled forests in pursuit of analyzing On War, the seminal work of Carl von Clausewitz. Renowned strategic thinkers in the ages since its publication expanded on, clarified, or critiqued its insights into the conduct of war. In this light, the vast collections of materials associated with On War hardly seem to call for another addition to their midst. What else is there to say? As it turns out, there is a great deal to discuss with one particular group – first-time readers of the classic.

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Henry Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822 (1957)

A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problem of Peace, 1812-1822, Kissinger's first book, was written in the early 1950s while Kissinger was a young doctoral student at Harvard. The book was initially not as famous or as influential as his later books. Its focus on diplomatic negotiations following the fall of Napoleon was seen by his peers as esoteric and out of tune with the times. In a world featuring nuclear weapons, why dissect the diplomatic wrangling of the 19th century? This view may have characterized the dissertation turned book at the time of its writing, but today Restored is widely regarded as essential reading for the student of strategy and diplomacy.

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