On Politics by Alan Ryan - Reviews and Reflections

Some friends and I have decided to read retired Oxford professor Alan Ryan’s magnum opus, On Politics. A welcome addition to the academic literature on political theory, this major (and relatively recent) work seeks to summarize about two and a half thousand years of political thought, mostly from the Western world.

  • How should we govern ourselves?
  • What does the ideal society look like?
  • How do we organize a society that safeguards a life of happiness and liberty for the maximum amount of people possible?
  • What forms of government have been most successful in this endeavor throughout history, and why?
  • What has led to the downfall and breakdown of previously thriving civilizations?
  • What does liberty mean? What is eudaimonia?
  • Are we destined by our very nature to be ruled by an elite few?
  • What is duty, and what is duty in the context of civic life?
  • What is the purpose of society?
  • What is the purpose of human life?
  • What is virtue, and what is the relationship between individual virtue and societal virtue?

These are all questions that the thinkers covered in this book have tackled, from Herodotus and Plato all the way to the modern, globalized world. These are questions that we are also tackling together in our discussions and reflections on the book.

We are reading and discussing one chapter a week, so we should be done by the end of July of this year.

Every now and then, I will write a post with some insights gleaned from both the work itself, and our discussions. These posts will be tagged to this project, so they will all be accessible further below.

Vahid Dejwakh
Vahid Dejwakh
Software Engineer at Microsoft;
Co-Creator of the Fjord Framework

Vahid writes about interesting ideas at the intersection of software, system design, data, philosophy, psychology, policy, and business. He enjoys coffee and has a palate for spicy and diverse foods.

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