PHIL 454.001 – Philosophy, History, and the Social Sciences

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Instructor: Robert Paul Wolff. This course meets W 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 213.

Karl Marx’s great work, Capital, is both the consummation of the century-long tradition of Classical Political Economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo and a powerful critique of the economic system we know as capitalism. It is at one and the same time a great work of economic theory, a great work of historical sociology, a great work of social philosophy, and a brilliantly written literary masterpiece. It is also the single most politically influential work ever written by a philosopher.

In this course we will engage with all of these aspects of the work and weave them into a single integrated interpretation of the text, drawing on Philosophy, History, Sociology, Literary Criticism, and on the mathematical reinterpretation of Marx’s economic theories carried out in the twentieth century by a world-wide array of mathematical economists.

There are no formal prerequisites for this course, beyond what is now generally considered high school algebra, but the discussion will be carried on at a sophisticated level of theoretical rigor for which students should be prepared. It should go without saying that students of every political or ideological persuasion are welcome.

Written work will consist of a number of short problem sets and exercises, followed by a substantial research paper due on the day set by the University for the final examination.

The Instructor has limited the course to twenty enrolled students, but auditors will be welcome.