Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

College of Arts and Sciences

Recent Ph.D.s

department of political science

Alexandre Provencher Gravel             

"The Ambiguities of Rousseau's Conception of Happiness"

Abstract: This dissertation is a discussion of the many ambiguities surrounding Rousseau’s conception of happiness. In the first chapter, I expose Rousseau’s various conceptions of happiness in Émile. His main conception is offered at the beginning of Book II. Rousseau defines happiness as the equilibrium between desires and faculties. I show how this definition fits with his conception of human nature as it is developed in the Second Discours. Then I turn to a brief exposition of the alternative ideas of happiness that are exposed in the remaining of Émile. I also discuss various recent interpretations of Rousseau’s understanding of happiness.

I turn to Rousseau’s autobiographical writings for the remaining chapters. The second chapter discusses Rousseau’s self-understanding of what made him miserable during his life. I focus on two episodes of his life: his break with the Parisian life and his crisis during the publication of Émile. I show how Rousseau often blames the circumstances or others for his unhappiness rather than his opinions or his heart.

The last two chapters attempt to define what the happiness was that Rousseau experienced. The third chapter tries to understand what sort of solitude makes Rousseau happy, and if indeed he is happy in this situation. I explore why society is unsatisfying for him and whether his desire to be alone is coherent. The final chapter discusses the nature of Rousseau’s blissful rêveries. I show how melancholia appears to be at the center of his ecstasies in the second letter to Malesherbes. In the Fifth Walk of the Rêveries, however, Rousseau seems to settle for a quasi-lethargic experience. The minimal sentiment of his own existence he defines as happiness is compared to other blissful experiences described in the book. Finally, I discuss whether Rousseau needed to know the truth or to philosophize in order to be happy. In particular, I discuss his claim in the Third Walk to be in need of the doctrine of the Profession de foi du Vicaire savoyard to be happy. Rousseau’s sincerity is ambiguous. Its analysis unveils a few problems about his claims to be selfless and to have dedicated his life to the truth.

Wing Kwan 'Anslem' Lam                  

"The Natural Good of Man in Rousseau’s Confessions: A Reply to St. Augustine’s Confessions"

Abstract: Rousseau’s Confessions is controversial and influential since its first publication. Besides the dispute over the relationship of Rousseau’s autobiographical and philosophical works, by adopting the same title as the famous autobiography in the Christian tradition, Augustine’s Confessions, the effect is striking. However, few scholars were interested in their relationship and they write only a few lines about them or do not focus upon the key idea of Rousseau’s thought, the natural goodness of man, which contradicts the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. Rousseau promises to delineate his self-portrait as a man according to nature in his autobiography in contrast to the picture of a born sinner saved by God’s mercy in Augustine’s Confessions. By comparing with Augustine’s Confessions, it is clear that Rousseau’s understanding of human nature and the source of evil reject the traditional Christian view. It is Rousseau’s ingenuity to compose his Confessions structurally and thematically analogous to Augustine’s Confessions to refute Augustine’s theology and convey his answer to the problem of secular society. I demonstrate their relationship by comparing them according to their structural and thematic similarities. This study will contribute to the study of the relationship between modernity and Christianity and that between secularization and religion.

Raphaël Arteau McNeil                

“An Approach to the Laws: The Problem of the Harmony of the Goods in Plato’s Political Philosophy”

Abstract: This dissertation is an approach to Plato’s longest political work, The Laws, with a view to the problem of the harmony of the goods. Since I understand the problem of the harmony of the goods as a universal one, i.e., as a problem stemming from human condition rather than from the reading of Plato, the first task is to present what it means to adopt a Platonic perspective on this problem. This is what I do in the first chapter through a discussion of the Euthydemus and the Statesman. This discussion leads me to these three questions: (1) What is the relation between the happiness of the individual and that of the city? (2) What is the model that guides the statesman’s work of harmonizing the goods in one whole? (3) How can the knowledge of harmonizing the various goods be passed to the citizens?

Since these three questions concern the city, it is the city that I examine next. But
since there are two cities in the Platonic corpus, I thus turn to a brief exposition of the Republic (Books I-VII) and the Laws (Books I-III). From my discussion of the Republic, in the first part of chapter two, I draw the conclusion that the happiness of the city and that of the individual may not necessarily coincide. This conclusion justifies my turn to the Laws in the second part of chapter two, for in the Laws the emphasis is more on individual happiness than on that of the city, as it is in the Republic. I then show that the first Books of the Laws provide an answer to the central question phrased at the end of chapter one, namely that it is by translating the natural hierarchy of the goods into a coherent and harmonized way of life that the good lawgiver can pass his knowledge to the citizens. Yet, since this solution is challenged in the sequel, I then move on in that dialogue.

The third and last chapter is devoted to the Books IV and V of the Laws. The core of that chapter consists in a close analysis of the general prelude to the law code of the city to be built in the Laws. I show that the aim of the prelude is to educate the citizens and that the prelude is therefore the means by which the lawgiver passes on his knowledge to them. Yet, since the prelude is a twofold speech which conveys a teaching that can be understood in accordance with the power of the listener’s soul, I come to the conclusion that the answer to the question about the lawgiver’s solution to the problem of the harmony of the goods is inseparable from my own interpretation of the prelude. My interpretation of the prelude is that the harmony of the goods will always remain partly imperfect and that this is why the knowledge of the hierarchy of the goods is, ultimately, more important than that of the harmony of the goods. This I take to be Plato’s position.

Charles M. Robinson               

"Martin Heidegger’s Critique of Freedom"

Abstract: This is a study of thought and politics of Martin Heidegger. It presents an examination of his understanding of freedom, principally as he expressed it in Being and Time, but also considers some of his subsequent essays and lectures, as well as his Rectorate Address. Ever since Heidegger’s public embrace of National Socialism, his defenders and critics have argued about the possible relation between his thinking and his infamous political commitments. While many of his critics have linked his commitments to an alleged lack of understanding of freedom, some of his scholarly defenders have sought to present interpretations of his concept of freedom at odds with his infamous politics, in order to separate his thought from any association with Nazism. The conclusions of these critics and defenders of Heidegger are both mistaken: in Being and Time Heidegger sought the meaning of being in the authentic experience of human self-determination revealed by the conscience, which he worked out as “forward running resolve.” It was this militant concept of freedom that grounded his project for a destined community of battle to be championed by a free corps of freedom fighters, and led him to embrace, in the very name of freedom, the tyranny of Hitler’s new Reich. The study of Heidegger’s concept of authentic freedom reveals that, far from lacking any understanding of freedom, it was rather a central theme and concern of his philosophical efforts, and that his infamous political commitments were indeed its necessary and coherent practical consequence. Heidegger’s thought thus poses a more trenchant and pressing challenge to liberal (and leftist) politics than many of his critics and defenders appreciate.

There have been comparatively few sustained thematic treatments of Heidegger’s understanding of freedom in English. This study accordingly hopes to contribute to an understanding of this central theme of Heidegger’s philosophical efforts, which not only reveals their necessary connection to his politics, but also promises to improve our access to the coherent intelligibility of his thought as a whole.

Phillip D. Wodzinski                       

"Kant’s Doctrine of Religion as Political Philosophy”

Abstract: Through a close reading of Immanuel Kant’s late book, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, the dissertation clarifies the political element in Kant’s doctrine of religion and so contributes to a wider conception of his political philosophy. Kant’s political philosophy of religion, in addition to extending and further animating his moral doctrine, interprets religion in such a way as to give the Christian faith a moral grounding that will make possible, and even be an agent of, the improvement of social and political life.

The dissertation emphasizes the wholeness and structure of Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason as a book, for the teaching of the book is not exhausted by the articulation of its doctrine but also includes both the fact and the manner of its expression: the reader learns most fully from Kant by giving attention to the structure and tone of the book as well as to its stated content and argumentation. The Religion provides the basis not only for a proposed reenvisioning of the basis of existing religious creeds and practices, but along with this a devastating critique of them in particularly moral terms. This, however, is only half of what constitutes Kant’s political philosophy of religion; Kant goes beyond the philosophical analysis of the social-political context of religion and pursues, alongside this effort, a political presentation of philosophy which is intended to relieve the reader’s anxieties concerning the tension between philosophy and political life that it is in the interest of the partisans of the church-faith to encourage.

Heitor Gouvêa

"An Iridescent Dream: Money, Politics, and The American Republic 1865-1976"

Abstract: The United States now has an extensive, publicly controlled, and bureaucratic system of election regulation. Until roughly a century ago, however, elections were viewed as private party contests subject to minimal state regulation. We examine how this changed, considering in particular the role played by the courts, given that for much of the nineteenth century they viewed the parties as private, constitutionally protected associations. We consider how and why the libertarian argument concerning free speech came to prominence in the campaign debate, and find that at first neither the reformers nor the courts at any level viewed this as a fundamental obstacle to—or even an issue to be considered in—the regulation of money in politics. This shift from a private to a public electoral system had a significant impact on American democracy that has not often been examined. To understand these changes, we examine the arguments put forth by advocates of campaign finance reform from the nineteenth to the latter part of the twentieth centuries. We focus on how the proponents justified these laws and how state and federal courts responded to these arguments, paying particular attention to court rulings on the constitutionality of these unprecedented statutes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and to the evolution of their jurisprudence in this regard during the twentieth century.

Stephen Eide

“Locke, Tocqueville, Liberalism and Restlessness”

Abstract: Why are men in modern societies so busy and anxious? Modern, liberal democratic society is distinguished both by the unprecedented strength and prosperity it has achieved, as well as its remarkable number of psychologists per capita. Why is this?

This dissertation explores the connection between restlessness and modernity by way of an examination of the themes of liberalism and restlessness in the thought of Locke and Tocqueville. “Restlessness” refers to a way of life characterized by three features: limitless desires, mildness, and an orientation towards material goods.

Tocqueville argues in Democracy in America that democracy, by way of individualism, makes men materialistic and restless (inquiét), or restlessly materialistic. The intense, limitless pursuit of material well-being is a historical phenomenon, one of the many results of the centuries-long development of equality of conditions. Modern democrats are restless; pre-modern aristocrats were not.

Tocqueville is ambivalent about restlessness. According to him, the incessant, energetic movement of American life conceals an underlying absurdity and mediocrity. Many of what Tocqueville views as the more undesirable qualities of democratic American life are associated with restlessness, but any solution is likely to be worse than the problem. It could be worse: we must tolerate restlessness if we want to remain free. “All free peoples are grave.”

Locke by contrast could be described as a partisan of restlessness. The anxious understand the world better than the complacent or vegetative. There are two dimensions to Locke’s teaching on restlessness, an “is” (found in Essay concerning Human Understanding Book II Chapter 21) and an “ought” (found in “Of Property,” Chapter Five of the Second Treatise). Our desires are naturally limitless-this we can only understand, we cannot change it. But if we know what’s good for us, we will orient ourselves towards a milder and more materialistic way of life. We master restlessness by becoming more restless, or restless in a more enlightened way. Locke’s teaching on restlessness in the fullest sense is partly his account of necessity, and partly his recommended response to necessity.

This difference in their views on restlessness points to certain important differences in their liberalisms. Tocqueville’s liberalism is more pessimistic than Locke’s: some fundamental problems have no solutions, and some of the highest goods cannot be reconciled with one another. Lockean liberalism is more confident about its ability to find solutions to the fundamental problems of political life, and there is no problem of the harmony of the goods for Lockee.

David Levy                        

“Socrates’ Praise and Blame of Eros”

Abstract: It is only in “erotic matters” that Plato’s Socrates is wise, or so he claims at least on several occasions, and since his Socrates makes this claim, it is necessary for Plato’s readers to investigate the content of Socrates’ wisdom about eros. This dissertation undertakes such an investigation. Plato does not, however, make Socrates’ view of eros easy to grasp. So diverse are Socrates’ treatments of eros in different dialogues and even within the same dialogue that doubt may arise as to whether he has a consistent view of eros; Socrates subjects eros to relentless criticism throughout the Republic and his first speech in the Phaedrus, and then offers eros his highest praise in his second speech in the Phaedrus and a somewhat lesser praise in the Symposium. This dissertation takes the question of why Socrates treats eros in such divergent ways as its guiding thread and offers an account of the ambiguity in eros’ character that renders it both blameworthy and praiseworthy in Socrates’ estimation.

The investigation is primarily of eros in its ordinary sense of romantic love for
another human being, for Socrates’ most extensive discussions of eros, those of the Phaedrus and Symposium, are primarily about romantic love. Furthermore, as this investigation makes clear, despite his references to other kinds of eros, Socrates distinguishes a precise meaning of eros, according to which eros is always love of another human being. Socrates’ view of romantic love is then assessed through studies of the Republic, Phaedrus, and Symposium. These studies present a unified Socratic understanding of eros; despite their apparent differences, Socrates’ treatment of eros in each dialogue confirms and supplements that of the others, each providing further insight into Socrates’ complete view.

In the Republic, Socrates’ opposition to eros, as displayed in both his discussion
of the communism of the family in book five and his account of the tyrannic soul in book nine, is traced to irrational religious beliefs to which he suggests eros is connected. Socrates then explains this connection by presenting romantic love as a source of such beliefs in the Phaedrus and Symposium. Because eros is such a source, this dissertation argues that philosophy is incompatible with eros in its precise sense, as Socrates subtly indicates even within his laudatory treatments of eros in the Phaedrus and Symposium. Thus, as a source of irrational beliefs, eros is blameworthy. Yet eros is also praiseworthy. Despite his indication that the philosopher would be free of eros in the precise sense, Socrates also argues that the experience of eros can be of great benefit in the education of a potential philosopher. Precisely as a source of irrational religious belief, the erotic experience includes a greater awareness of the longing for immortality and hence the concern with mortality that Socrates believes is characteristic of human beings, and by bringing lovers to a greater awareness of this concern, eros provides a first step towards the self-knowledge characteristic of the philosophic life.

Kazutaka Kondo                       

“Socrates’ Understanding of His Trial: The Political Presentation of Philosophy”

Abstract: This dissertation investigates how Socrates understands his trial. It is a well-known fact that Socrates is accused of impiety and corruption of the young and is subsequently executed. Unlike an ordinary defendant who is supposed to make every effort to be acquitted, Socrates, behaving provocatively, seems even to induce the death penalty. By reading Plato's and Xenophon's works, this dissertation clarifies his thoughts on the trial that must be the basis of his conduct and explains how he achieves his aim.

To deal with Socrates' view of the trial as a whole, this study examines three questions. First, does he believe in his own innocence? I argue that before and even at the trial, Socrates does not intend to prove his innocence effectively. He does not reveal his belief clearly, but at least it is clear that to be acquitted is not his primary purpose. Second, what does Socrates want to achieve at the trial? Socrates' primary purpose is to demonstrate his virtue in public. His speech that provocatively emphasizes his excellence as a benefactor of the city enables him to be convicted as a wise and noble man rather than as an impious corrupter of the young. Third, why does he refuse to escape from jail? I argue that by introducing the speech that defends the laws of the city, Socrates makes himself appear to be a supremely law-abiding citizen who is executed even when escape is possible.
This study maintains that Socrates vindicates his philosophy before the ordinary people of Athens by making a strong impression of his moral excellence and utility to others. His presentation of philosophy makes it possible that being convicted and executed are compatible with appearing virtuous and being respected. Socrates promotes his posthumous reputation as a great philosopher, and thus secures the life of philosophy after his death by mitigating the popular hostility against him and philosophy as such.

Socrates' understanding of his trial leads us to his idea of the nature of philosophy and the city, and of their ideal relationship. This dissertation is therefore an introduction to Socratic political philosophy.

Paul Nolette                      

“Advancing National Policy in the Courts: The Use of Multistate Litigation by State Attorneys General”

Abstract: This dissertation examines the use of coordinated multistate lawsuits by state attorneys general (SAGs) as a tool to create national policy. Entrepreneurial SAGs have increasingly employed multistate litigation against private industry and the federal government, reaching numerous out-of-court settlements and favorable court judgments. These lawsuits have imposed new national regulatory requirements across several policy areas and have challenged regulatory regimes established by Congress and federal agencies.

This study investigates three interrelated questions about multistate SAG litigation: (1) how SAGs have used this litigation to achieve national regulatory goals, (2) why this activity has increased over time, and (3) what the consequences are for American politics and policy. Employing both qualitative and quantitative analysis, I examine these questions through two stages. First, I present an analysis of an original dataset containing SAG lawsuits and legal settlements in four key policy areas covering 1980 through 2009. Second, I examine three case studies involving pharmaceutical litigation, air pollution control litigation, and lawsuits against the firearms industry.

I find that changes in federal law instituted by Congress and the federal courts have created new opportunity points for SAGs, helping spur a dramatic increase of multistate litigation. The SAGs built upon earlier successful efforts, including their blockbuster settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998, to create new avenues of collaboration among their fellow SAGs, public interest groups, and the private bar. The result has been to substantially alter the regulatory landscape in areas including prescription drug pricing, pharmaceutical advertising, and greenhouse gas emissions.

By shedding light on this significant form of "regulation through litigation," this dissertation illustrates how SAGs have seized upon the trend towards adversarial legalism in America by using the courts to achieve policy goals when attempts to do so in other venues fail. This runs contrary to a line of scholarly literature suggesting that litigation and courts have a limited impact on significant social change. This study also demonstrates how American federalism, commonly thought to serve as a restraint on the federal government by diffusing power, can be used by skillful political actors to create more energetic government and stronger national regulation.