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on 24 July 2017
I'm keen on taking a second degree and this book is recommended by Oxford Uni for reading PPE.

I'm about halfway through and there are good and bad bits about it.

The good is that I now have a decent grip on at least three main philosophical viewpoints; those of Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau.

The problem however is that the author doesn't take the time to reframe things in proper context, and one is often quickly taken a long way down a philosophical rabbit hole until bewilderment begins to creep in.

Another issue is that it is often quite difficult to relate and apply the musings of these philosophers to both the questions they relate to, each other and modern society (although the extent to which this criticism applies varies).

However, I should add that there is some way yet to go. I hope as it goes on and the author has had a complete opportunity to communicate his argument, that the whole thing may yet come together.

So far though? I'm not convinced I'll get there.
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on 15 June 2012
Reading a political philosopher is a refreshing contrast from the bogus certitudes of politicians. Wolff considers key topics such as the state, democracy, liberty, and justice, aspiring to guide us from `muddled ignorance' to `informed bemusement'.

Firstly, we learn that, despite the general consensus that we need an appointed authority to prevent general breakdown in society, no theory can be found to demonstrate definitively that that all citizens should be compelled to obey it !

Secondly, the different forms of democracy are analysed -it would work better than the alternative (benign dictatorship with exhaustive opinion polls) if people voted according to their conscientious estimate of the best solution for the whole of society. It is actually of more doubtful efficacy if we (as we tend to) simply choose what's best for ourselves (`the tyranny of the majority'). Unless of course democracy has an added function - perhaps to promote a culture of universal respect.

As to the questions: How much liberty should we each possess ? Which is more important when social justice competes with liberty? Which should be our primary concern, the individual or society ? After elegant exposition of the arguments, I was left to agree with Wolff that `there can be no final word' in political philosophy.

Finally, there are other equilibria to recognize: should we be radical and progressive, placing our weight behind whichever argument we find most plausible? Or conservative, and sceptical of the usefulness of political theories? And should we prioritise reforming the law, or focus on applying it with sensitivity and compassion?

Thanks to this book, I am now more intrigued by politics, less impressed by politicians, and a fully signed-up floating voter !
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on 11 April 2014
This book proved ideal for my undergraduate module in Political Philosophy, I would recommend to any fellow students. It is very comprehensive while remaining crystal clear. It explains a variety of approaches within each chapter, tackling one issue at a time. As you progress, links are made with previous arguments that have arose. Personally I did not think I would enjoy reading a book on Political Philosophy, however I was nicely surprised about the fluidity and ease of the language, sparking a real interest. I breezed through the book in a matter of days. Serves as a good study/revision book.
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on 20 January 2013
Jonathan Wolff's introduction to political philosophy is by far the superior of all within its kind. Whilst many introductions to philosophy tend to overlook political and social philosophies, Wolff provides a sweeping and impartial review of the main debates in political philosophy through a series of intriguing and engaging questions. This unusual structure is one of the highlights of this peerless work; it maintains an interesting atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and provides an arena for the contention of different views. Furthermore, it allows for a development of political philosophy from the ground up; a real and unmissable novelty.
Another feature of this work, which I have heard offered as a criticism, is a lack of decisive conclusion; Wolff remains entirely objective in his treatment of the arguments and his indecision is one of the many highlights of this work. This is most eminent in his conclusion to the book itself, in which he claims that despite a lack of answers, we ought to continue to practice our political philosophising.
In writing this review, I must confess, I endeavour to remain objective in my dealing with the work and have tried to find grounds to criticise it. However, there is nothing in this work which I find I can provide negative report of, at least without making trivial or unfounded attacks.
Overall, this is by far the greatest introduction available and one which is entirely deserving of its great reputation.
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on 30 July 2016
An outstanding introduction to the subject. The author has a very relaxed writing style that enables you to absorb the points being made. Would strongly recommend
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on 18 February 2015
This is a very good introduction. It is easy to read with good examples and original quotes from biggest thinkers and philosophers
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on 4 March 2011
My daughter read this book from a library, but it is so good it is helping with her philosophy degree at Oxford
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on 3 July 2017
Essential reading for anyone with an interest in the subject
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on 12 December 2012
This book has really good info on political philosophy and was a lifesaver for me. Attempting to actually read all of Hobbes and Rousseau in the time I had was impossible, but this really helped me understand what they were on about.
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on 11 April 2017
informative read
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