In this course, we will read, discuss, and analyze a selection of especially significant works of modern political thought. These texts will provide the context for conversations on the key concepts of modern political thought—sovereignty, rights, freedom, revolution, rationality, legitimacy, constitutionalism, liberalism, conservatism, republicanism, equality, democracy, relativism, and self-making.Students will examine these concepts, both as they are thematized in the texts and as they manifest themselves in contemporary political life. LEARNING OUTCOMES: Students will:
1. Demonstrate critical thinking and writing skills with respect to the fundamental works of modern political theory.
2. Demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental political theories of the modern period.
REQUIRED TEXTS:Some course readings can be accessed through Blackboard. In addition, the following books must be purchased. They are widely available online (please use the links given below).
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, University of Chicago
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Hackett Publishing Co.
Karl Marx, Selected Writings, Hackett
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Vintage Books
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Vintage Books
Texts IN HARD COPY must be brought to class on the day they will be discussed. Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the day it is discussed.
This course will emphasize critical reading and analysis of the assigned texts. The reading load will be approximately 75 pages per week. Class meetings will be a combination of lectures and discussions. Readings should be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed. This enables students to get the most out of the lectures and to participate effectively in discussion.
Discussion: During class discussion you are not expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials, but you are expected to participate. You will be rewarded for trying; you will not be penalized for being wrong or unclear, but it should be clear that you have done the readings and are working toward mastery of the material.
Aggressive Reading: Unlike other courses in which you read to complete an assignment—in which you read in order to read every word—you will benefit most from this course by reading aggressively. Rather than attempting to read every word, you should attempt to understand and ponder every idea. That may allow you to skim/skip repetitive paragraphs, or you may need to read some sections two or three times. The key is that you read for understanding, not completion. You are most likely to do this if you read with a pen and paper in which you write down ideas, questions, quotes, points of confusion, and points of disagreement.
Hybrid Structure: This course will meet in person (60%) and online (40%). We will select a time for remote sessions that allows all students to attend.
Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.
Availability: I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me at some point during the semester. I am available to discuss the course material, either during office hours, at other times, over the phone, or through email. If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.Course Conduct: In order to build and maintain a supportive and productive learning community, students and instructors must treat one another with respect. For students, this includes but is not limited to:
- Being prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day;
- Regular attendance;
- Notifying the instructor of any scheduling conflicts;
- On-time arrival to class;
- Minimizing trips in and out of the room during class;
- Minimizing side-conversations;
- Refraining from use of cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Neither laptops nor tablets may be used in class. Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings. Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent.
- Being accessible to students;
- Communicating clear expectations for student success;
- Addressing students respectfully, including use of preferred names and pronouns;
- Returning graded work in a timely fashion;
- Creating a open exchange of ideas to which all students are encouraged to contribute;
- Facilitating the interrogation and critical analysis of ideas, including interrogation of the instructor’s views, biases, and values.
- Weekly Assignments: 20%
- Quizzes: 10%
- Essay Exams: 30%
- Final Exam: 30%
- In-class participation: 10%
- Does the paper demonstrate knowledge of the course materials?
- Does the paper have a clear thesis?
- Is the paper’s thesis supported consistently and coherently?
- Students who attend classes in person will receive full credit for attendance. Students who attend classes by Zoom with a valid medical excuse will receive full credit. Students who attend classes by Zoom without a valid medical excuse will receive 3/4 credit for attenance.
- Students may miss up to three classes without penalty. Students who miss more than three classes will suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B). Students who miss more than five classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+).
- Students who are in class but do not have the assigned reading will be considered absent.
- Multiple instances of tardiness may result in a deduction of one-third of a grade.
- Is Machiavelli moral, immoral, or amoral? Marcela
- Machiavelli wants to teach practical lessons for morality and politics through the use of history. Why is history the best method? Aaron
- What is the virtue of the new prince? How does it differ from conventional notions of virtue as Machiavelli presents them? Ariana
- Machiavelli argues that it is more difficult to maintain a state than it is to conquer one. What steps should a prince take to maintain control over newly conquered states? Michael
- What is Machiavelli’s view of human nature? Jack
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using mercenaries versus auxiliaries versus one’s own arms? Jesse
- Why is it better to be feared than loved? David
- Should the new prince encourage his subjects to be religious? Victor
- What is the relationship between fortune and virtue? Can fortune be overcome? Erick
- According to Hobbes, what are the characteristics of philosophy? How does it differ from what Hobbes calls “Aristotelity?” Sheccid
- Why does Hobbes discuss metaphysics (the nature of reality) in a book on politics? Ariel
- What is the difference between prudence and science? Which does Hobbes prefer? Marcela
- According to Hobbes, what is happiness? Aaron
- Why does Hobbes spend so much time defining terms? Ariana
- How does Hobbes’ method of inquiry differ from Machiavelli’s in The Prince? Michael
- What is learned by looking into oneself (pp. 4-5)? Jacques
- On what grounds does Hobbes argue that all people are by nature equal? Jesse
- Does materialism necessarily eventuate in a theory of men as free and equal? David
- What qualities or behaviors follow from human equality? Viktor
- What is the natural condition of human existence? Does Hobbes say that this is a good condition? a bad condition? a desirable condition? an undesirable condition? a necessary or unavoidable condition? Erick
- Is it possible to overestimate the value of peace? Scheccid
- How can one get rid of a right that one possesses? Ariel
- Must one keep one’s promises? Always? When? Marcela
- Under what conditions is one obligated to obey authority? Aaron
- What is law? Ariana
- What is natural law? Is it binding? Michael
- What are the first two laws of nature for Hobbes? Explain why he thinks they are laws of nature. Jacques
- Under what conditions, if any, could we describe the sovereign’s actions as unjust? Jesse
- When, if ever, is it permissible to disobey the sovereign? Why? David
- What is the origin of religion? Victor
- What is freedom, according to Hobbes? What freedoms do citizens retain in the commonwealth? Is there freedom of expression in the commonweatlh? Eric
- What is the difference between a good law and a just law? Sheccid
- What is Astell’s reason for writing anonymously? Ariel
- What is the basis for the argument that women are inferior to men? How does Astell respond to this argument?
- How does Astell compare the rule of husbands to the rule of monarchs?
- How do men and women compare in “sense?” How do they compare in “learning?”
- Why is there little chance of a feminine rebellion? Marcela
- According to Locke, what is freedom? How does Locke’s understanding of freedom differ from Hobbes’?
- Why, according to Locke, are human beings naturally free and equal? Aaron
- What is life like in Locke’s state of nature? How is this different from Hobbes’ account of the state of nature?
- Does Locke’s political theory depend on the existence of a deity? Ariana
- What is the definition of the state of war? How does it arise?
- What gives property its value? Michael
- What’s so great about money?
- What is the purpose of the social contract? Jacques
What is the purpose of civil society?
- Does Locke favor limitations on sovereign power? What type? Jesse
- When, if ever, is it permissible to revolt against the sovereign?
Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
How did the arts and sciences develop? David
What’s wrong with the arts and sciences? Are they all bad?
Describe Rousseau’s conception of virtue. Victor
Why does Rousseau prefer the ancients to the moderns?
What effect do the arts and sciences have on love of the fatherland? Why? Eric
Does Rousseau wish to return to the dark ages? to antiquity? to barbarism?
- What stands in our way when we try to discover human nature? Sheccid
- What kinds of human “inequality” does Rousseau recognize and what kind will the 2nd Discourse focus on?
- Why do writers go back to a “state of nature”? How will Rousseau’s inquiry differ from that of others? Ariel
- What is the difference between men and animals? Is it human intelligence?
- What moral standards are applicable to primitive man living in a state of nature?
- Does inequality exist in the state of nature? In other words, is inequality “natural”? Explain Rousseau’s view at the end of the First Part.
- What forced man out of his simple animal existence? Marcela
- What consequences for the human condition followed from man’s new mode of life? Aaron
- What are the origins of morality and law?
- What role did inequality play in the development of society? Was it a cause? an effect? both cause and effect? Ariana
- Why is Rousseau so worried about dependence — i.e. personal dependence? Do you think such dependence is as much a danger as Rousseau makes it out to be? Michael
Why, according to Wollstonecraft, are women’s minds “not in a healthy state?” (p. 9)
- What’s wrong with “susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste?” (p. 11) Jacques
- What is the relevance of the “distinction of sex?” David
Why, according to Wollstonecraft, will both men and women be vicious if women are not permitted to enjoy legitimate rights?
- What does Wollstonecraft propose to do about the problem she identifies? Jesse
- What are ‘pure theoretical’ and ‘pure practical reason’? (p. 1) Victor
- What is the good will? How do we know it? How is it different from a holy will?
- Why, according to Kant, are people moral (when they’re moral)? Eric
- Is it possible for an action to be both pleasant and moral? Ariel
- What is the difference between a hypothetical and a categorical imperative?
- What is the source of happiness? Marcela
- What is the categorical imperative? Aaron
- Is the categorical imperative a guarantee of morality?
- Can actions always be organized into maxims? Ariana
- What is the difference between a hypothetical and a categorical imperative? Michael
- Can the categorical imperative be known prior to experience?
- Are Kant’s examples all required by the categorical imperative? Jacques
- How does Kant understand freedom? How does his understanding differ from Hobbes’, Locke’s, and Rousseau’s? David
- What is the “legal and political superstructure”? How is it related to the “mode of production of material life”? (p. 211)
- What is the “Jewish question”? Jesse
- What was Bruno Bauer’s argument? On what grounds does Marx reject it? Victor
- Was Marx an anti-semite? What does he mean when he says society must “eliminate the Jewish element”?
- What is the difference between ‘political emancipation’ and ‘human emancipation’? Eric
- What do religion and capitalism have in common, according to Marx? Ariel
- What’s so bad about capitalism?
March 8-9: Marx, Selected Writings, pp. 54-101 “Marx“
- Describe Marx’s conception of our ‘species-being’? What are its characteristics? How does it differ from previous accounts of ‘human nature’? Marcela
- What are alienation and objectification? How are they related? Aaron
- What are the four different forms of alienation? Ariana
- Is capitalism dehumanizing? Michael
- By what process does the bourgeoisie ‘produce its own gravediggers’? Jacques
- What is communism? David
- What is the process by which societies move from capitalism to communism? Jesse
- What, according to Marx, is the function of the state? Victor
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 15-56; “Nietzsche on Power, Knowledge and Morality“
- What is Nietzsche’s opinion of his contemporaries? Eric
- What is genealogy? Ariel
- How is the distinction between good and bad different from the distinction between good and evil? Marcela
- What’s wrong with morality? Aaron
- Describe ‘knightly-aristocratic values? Ariana
- What is slave morality? How is it related to ‘ressentiment?’ Michael
- Why does Nietzsche believe it is important to know how to forget? Jacques
March 15-16: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 56-96; “Nietzsche on Morality“
- What is the purpose of punishment? David
- Why does Nietzsche wish to eliminate the concept of sin from the world? Jesse
- What is ‘bad conscience’? What effect does it have on human beings? Victor
- According to Nietzsche, what is justice? Eric
- Does Nietzsche have anything to teach us about designing political institutions? Ariel
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, pp. 1-41; “Nietzsche“
- What would it mean for philosophy to “descend into the depths” (section 23)? Marcela
- Does Nietzsche establish or presuppose perspectivism? Aaron
What are the characteristics of the “philosopher of the future” and the “free spirit?” Ariana
Describe the difference between the good skepticism and the bad skepticism? Michael
- Does Nietzsche have anything to teach us about designing political institutions? Jacques
March 21: ESSAY EXAMS DUE
- What is the origin of religion? David
- What is sublimation? How do societies sublimate instincts? Jesse
- How did civilization begin? Victor
- What is the purpose of civilization? Eric
- What is the pleasure principle? Ariel
- What are eros and thanatos?
- What are civilization’s discontents?
- One seat space between students when possible.
- No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency. Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.
- No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
- Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
- Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.
Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
A—designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.
B—designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.
C—designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.
D—designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.
F—designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.
Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy.
Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:
The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.
Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.
Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.
The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.