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Politics: ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ with Dr Paul Gunn from Goldsmiths, University of London

29th September 2015 @ 09:30 - 10:30


The aim of the session will be to explore the question of how we come to a collective agreement over what we ‘should’ do. To this extent, it will explore:

  • Democracy and legitimacy
  • Fairness and the idea of compromise
  • The place of ethics in politics
  • Political economy and the importance of constraints

The session will not seek to answer the question it poses, but will rather introduce students to the sheer difficulty of reaching agreement in politics, in order to demonstrate the importance of the many non-ideal solutions we turn to in the ‘real world’. The objectives are:

  1. To explore the difficulty of reaching consensus;
  2. To analyse the ways in which our decision mechanisms make consensus more or less likely;
  3. To compare real-world practices with philosophical ideals;
  4. To reach (in sum) a more nuanced understanding of the complexity of political choices.

The session will begin with a simple problem: what should we do in response to the problem of inequality? Students will be asked to engage at multiple points in the process where new questions are raised and where either student discussions themselves will realise the respective learning objective, or where the provision of a counter-argument will realise that objective. This should allow us to move from a relatively simple understanding of how politics responds to the problem of inequality to a relatively nuanced understanding.

Students should benefit by exercising their critical thinking and by developing the insight that there are no simple issues in politics (or indeed in any complex process). They will be given opportunities to argue their points and to respond to others.

Suitable for: Year 12 & 13 students studying, or interested in studying, Politics, Philosophy, Economics

Any Preparation/Pre-Reading: None required


29th September 2015
09:30 - 10:30
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