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Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, studies and teaches political philosophy. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and[…]

Harvey Mansfield thinks there is a difference between political philosophy and political science, though there ought not to be.

Question: Is there a difference between political philosophy and political science?

Harvey Mansfield: There oughtn’t to be any difference, but in our age there certainly is.  Political science in its strictest form tries to imitate the natural science, and to be as exact and as universal and as nameless as they, and as objective as they are.  But political philosophy is much more concerned with the big questions than political science.  Political science, in order to be exact and universal, waves aside the big questions because the big questions don’t seem to have clear and … answers.  In fact, the political philosophers disagree as to what they are.  So political philosophy requires an effort of interpretation, of reading great books and trying to understand what they say; whereas political science is much easier.  It’s just scientific communication from one scientist to another.  Both of them are on the same wavelength.  There’s no need to introduce yourself.  There’s no need for rhetoric.  There’s no need for images.  There’s no need for examples.  I’m talking about political science at its strictest.  Of course, most political science isn’t that strict, but that’s the idea of it.

Recorded on: 6/13/07

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