When historians in the future stand back and reflect upon the 20th century, they will no doubt see it as time period marked by violence. That this will be the legacy of this century is surprising, for as the philosopher Hannah Arendt noted, “All great nineteenth-century thinkers were convinced that the next century would be the one of progress and reason. And yet, from Auschwitz to the Gulag, the barbarians ruled.” Why was this the case? Why, when the world had become smaller and we had mastered a vast array of technology, did we so vehemently turn against each other? And what will be the repercussions of this violence and its increasing acceptance for the 21st century?
This course attempts to address these issues focusing on the problem of legitimation. In a time in which violence infiltrates our public and private lives, it is important to question when and under what circumstances, if any, violence can be employed legitimately. However, before addressing these issues, it is first necessary to examine the meaning of the term violence, to look at the conditions which give rise to violent action and to examine the variety of contexts in which violence flourished in the 20th century. Students will be challenged to reflect on these issues, considering how they inform not only our past but also our future. Students who have taken PHIL 451 Power: 702: The Question of Legitimation cannot take this course.