HFIK03753U FILO, Modul 5. Optional Subject 1: Political Philosophy and Public Spheres

Årgang 2017/2018
Engelsk titel

FILO, Modul 5. Optional Subject 1: Political Philosophy and Public Spheres


Kandidat i filosofi, 2017


The course explores themes on the public sphere in historical contexts and in contemporary political philosophy. Prominent conceptions and discussions on the concept of ‘the public sphere’ will be surveyed and their various social, legal and economic aspects will be considered. We will examine the relationship between public sphere and law, public space and information environments, public sphere and rationality as well as assess philosophical arguments for institutional and/or national protection of public spaces.


The course addresses questions such as: What is the public sphere? Are there different types of spheres? Should public spaces be democratic? What is the political, cultural and social importance and/or function of public spheres? How can a public be transnational? Does it even exist? If not, what are the consequences?


An ongoing exercise will be to relate philosophical discussions on public life and space to intuition and everyday life as well as current political discussions and events.


Guest lectures by Leo Catana (University of Copenhagen), Frederik Stjernfelt (Aalborg University Copenhagen), Rune Lykkeberg og Kristian Jensen (Editor-in-chief Politiken), Søren Gosvig Olesen (University of Copenhagen) and more TBA.


Modul 2: Etik og samfund  HFIK03861E 

The following is suggestive and may be revised.


Early Public Spheres


1. “Politics on the street of Classical Athens”

- Alex Gottesman, “Introduction” and “Athenian social networks” (ch. 2) in Politics and the Street in Democratic Athens (2014, Cambridge University Press)


Recommended reading: Mogens Herman Hansen, “The People of Athens” (ch. 5) and “The Assembly of the People” (ch. 6) in The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles, and ideology (1991, University of Oklahoma Press)


2. “Public Spheres in Plato and Democratic Athens” (Guest: Leo Catana)

Readings: TBA


3. “Republican Rome and Forum Romanum”

- Amy Russel, “The definition of political space in the Forum Romanum” (ch 3) in The Politics of Public Space in Republican Rome (Cambridge UP 2015)


4. “The rise of populism and the rise of the public: Shakespeare’s England 1590-1610”

- Jeffrey Doty, “Introduction: Popularity and Publicity in Early Modern England” in Shakespeare, Popularity and the Public Sphere (Cambridge UP, 2017)


5. “Clandestine networks in Radical Enlightenment” (Guest: Frederik Stjernfelt)


- Unknown, Treatise of the Three Impostors (De Tribus Impostoribus)

- Martin Mulsow, “Atheism in the Heart of Orthodoxy” (Ch. 3) in Enlightenment Underground (2015)



The emergence of the concept of the public sphere


6. The idealization of public opinion

- Edmund Burke, “Speech to the Electors of Bristol” (1774) pp. 391-392

- Jacques Peuchet, “On Public Opinion” (1789) pp. ix-xi


7. Hegel’s public sphere dialectics

GWF Hegel, Philosophy of Right (1821) §315-320


8. TBA (e.g. Benjamin Constant)



Debating the public sphere


9. The John Dewey-Walter Lippmann debate on the public sphere in the 1920s

- Walter Lippmann, excerpt from The Phantom Public (1925) pp. 3-29 and pp. 53-64.

- Dewey, The Public and its Problems (1927) pp. TBA


10. Arendt’s Public sphere

- Hannah Arendt, “The Public and the Private Realm” (1958) pp. 28-58


11. The early Habermas

- Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article” (1964) pp. 49-55


12. Agamben and the Public Sphere (Guest lecturer Søren Gosvig Olesen)


13. Pluralizing the Public Sphere, part 1: strong and weak publics

- Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy” (1990) pp. 109-142


14. Pluralizing the Public Sphere, part 2: inequality and intimacy

- Ken Plummer “Public Intimacies, Private Citizens: Inequalities and the Pluralization of the Public Spheres” (2003) pp. 67-83


Recommended reading: Todd Gitlin, “Public Sphere or Public Sphericules” (1998) pp. 168-174


15. Pluralizing the Public Sphere, part 3: Gender, prisons and the public

- Angela Y. Davis, “Public Imprisonment and Private Violence: Reflections on the Hidden Punishment of Women” in New Eng. J. on Crim. & Civ. Confinement (1998)



Public sphere and deliberation


16. Legitimacy and deliberation

Bernard Manin, “On Legitimacy and Political Deliberation” (1985) pp. 338-368

Joshua Cohen “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy” (1989) pp. 17-34


Recommended reading: Zizi Papacharissi, “Democracry Online: Civility, Politeness, and the Democratic Potential of Online Political Discussion Groups” (2004) pp. 259-283


17. The late Habermas

Jürgen Habermas, “Civil Society, Pubilc Opinion, and Communicative Power” (1992) pp. 359-387



Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, “The Sense of Reciprocity” (1996) pp. 52-63

James D. Fearon, “Deliberation as Discussion” (1998) pp. 44-68



Chantal Mouffe, “Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism?” (1999) pp. 745-758

Cristina Lafont, “Is the Ideal of a Deliberative Democracy Coherent?” (2006) pp. 3-25


Recommended reading: Lynn M. Sanders, “Against Deliberation” (1997) pp. 347-375



Problems of public opinion



Pierre Bourdieu, “Public Opinion Does not Exist” (1984) pp. 149-157

Theodor Adorno, “Opinion Research and Public Opinion” (1964) pp. 116-123



Cass Sunstein, “The Surprising Failures of Deliberating Groups” (2006) pp. 45-73

Cass Sunstein, “Neither Hayek nor Habermas” (2008) pp. 87-95



Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, “The Spiral of Silence: A Theory of Public Opinion” (1974) pp. 43-51


Recommended reading: Simone Chambers, “Measuring Publicity’s Effect: Reconciling Empirical Research and Normative Theory” (2005) pp. 255-266



Aesthetic conceptions of the public sphere



Friedrich Schiller, “Theater Considered as a Moral Institution” (1784)

Bertolt Brecht, “On Theatre” (1977) pp. 6-8 and pp. 69-76


Recommended readings: Miriam Hansen, “Early Cinema: Whose Public Sphere?” (1990) pp. 228-246



Ian Watt, “Reading the Public and the Rise of the Novel” (1957) pp.  35-59

Hans Robert Jauss, “On the Social Function of Literature” (1970) pp. 39-45


Networks, internet and the public sphere



Paddy Scannell, “Public Service Broadcasting and Modern Public Life” (1989) pp. 135-166

Mark Poster, “Cyberdemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere” (1997) pp. 201-217


Recommended reading: John Keane, “Publicity” (1998) pp. 169-189, Nicholas Garnham, “The Media and the Public Sphere” (1990) pp. 37-53, Graham Murdock, “Building Digital Commons: Public Broadcasting in the Age of the Internet” (2005) pp. 213-230



Yochai Benkler, “On Power Law Distributions, Network Topology, and Being Heard” (2006) pp. 241-261

Yochai Benkler et al. “Social Mobilization and the Networked Public Sphere: Mapping the SOPA-PIPA Debate“ (2015) pp. 594-624.


Recommended reading: Robert D. Putnam, “Against the Tide? Small Groups, Social Movements, and the Net” (2001) pp. 174-180



Manuel Castells, “The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance” (2008) pp. 78-93

Nancy Fraser, “Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World” (2007) pp. 7-30


Recommended reading: Overview article: “The Politics of Pluralism” ch. 6 in The Digital Difference – Media Technology and the Theory of Communication Effects (2016) by W. Russell Neuman.



Hans-Jörg Trenz, “Uniting and Dividing: The European Public Sphere as an Unfinished Project” (2009) pp. 35-52

James Bohman, “Expanding Dialogue: The Internet, the Public Sphere and Prospects for Transnational Democracy” (2004) pp. 131-155


Recommended reading: Jostein Gripsrud, “Television and the European Public Sphere” (2007) pp. 479-492 and Birgitta Höijer, “The Discourse of Global Compassion: The Audience and Media Reporting of Human Suffering” (2004) pp. 513-531

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