PLSC/PHIL 371: Classical Political Philosophy

This course serves as an introduction to classical political thought. Through close readings of foundational texts, students will encounter and analyze fundamental political concepts.  Topics include happiness, virtue, justice, aristocracy, democracy, religion, human nature, civic education, and natural law.

The course is intended, first, to help students develop the ability to critically read and analyze philosophical arguments, and, second, to provide students with an introduction to some of the most important texts of ancient and medieval political thought.

Students will examine these concepts, both as they are thematized in the texts and as they manifest themselves in modern theory and politics.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Students will:

1. Demonstrate critical thinking and writing skills with respect to the fundamental works of ancient political theory.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental political theories of antiquity.

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).

Plato, Four Texts on Socrates, trans. T. and G. West, Cornell University Press
Plato, The Republic, trans. A. Bloom, Basic Books
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Hackett Pub. Co.
Aristotle, The Politics, Carnes Lord trans.
Augustine, Political Writings, Hackett Pub. Co.

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.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

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. No one will be penalized for being wrong or imprecise, for expressing uncertainty or frustration, for changing their minds. But it should be clear that you are trying, that you have done the readings and are working toward a mastery of the material.

Aggressive Reading: Unlike other courses in which you read to complete an assignment, 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. 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.

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 throughout the semester. I am almost always available to discuss the course material or other life issues.

Laptops and Cell PhonesLaptops may not be used in class.  Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings.  Students who use laptops or cell phones without explicit permission to do so will be considered absent.

EVALUATION CRITERIA:

  • Think Pieces: 15%
  • Quizzes:  15%
  • Essay Exams:  30%
  • Final Exam:  30%
  • In-class participation:  10%

Think Pieces:  On the Schedule of Meetings (below), you will find study questions for each class session.  All students are responsible for writing one double-spaced page on one or more of these questions.  The think pieces will be due by 7:00 pm on Wednesday (uploaded to SafeAssign on Blackboard).  This is a very firm deadline.  I need to have time to read the papers before we meet on Thursday.  These papers must address study questions posed for the following two class sessions.  They may not address readings already discussed in class. No think piece is required for the first week of class, the week of Thanksgiving, or the weeks when essay exams are due.

The think pieces will be assessed on a scale of 1-5.  A “3” indicates that the student has answered the question accurately.  A “4” is indicative of an accurate answer with some critical reflection on the question.  A “5” indicates critical reflection as well as specific reference to the text.  A “2” indicates that the answer misrepresents the text, while a “1” indicates that the question has not been answered.  At the end of the semester the grade for quizzes will be calculated as follows:

  • mostly 4s and 5s = A
  • mostly 3s = B
  • mostly below 3s = C, D, or F

Quizzes:  Quizzes will be given at the end of most classes.  I will write one question on the board at the end of class.  This question will reflect our discussion and/or the assigned reading for the day.  Students will have ten minutes to answer this question.  The quizzes will be assessed on the same scale used for the think pieces.

EssaysOn the dates listed on the schedule below, 5-page (1250-word) essays will be due.  These essays must answer one of several prompts that will be distributed a week in advance. Students must submit their exams to SafeAssign by 11:59 pm on the day they are due.  Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade per day. The exams will be graded based on the following criteria:

  • 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?

Essay exams must be submitted to SafeAssign on Blackboard.

Final Exam: The final exam will be composed of a variety of short-answer and essay questions.

Participation:  Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion. Beyond that, each student’s frequency and quality of contribution to the class discussion will be assessed and reflected in the class participation score.  Students who miss more than four classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B).  Students who miss more than seven 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 IN HARD COPY will be considered absent.

SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS AND REQUIRED READINGS:

Aug. 29Introduction

  • What are nomos and physis?

Aug. 31:  Euripides, The Bacchae (Blackboard)  NOTE:  When the word “lacuna” appears it indicates a gap in the text.  Dionysos is referred to as “Bromius,” “Bacchus,” “Evius,” and “Leader.”

  • What is the course of action in The Bacchae?
  • Does Pentheus have a ‘tragic flaw’ in his character? If so, what is it?
  • Why does Pentheus think the Bacchic revelries are “immoral?” p. 286
  • What are the various qualities of character of the god Dionysos?
  • Why do only the women go to revel?
  • Why does Pentheus agree to go see the Bacchae?
  • What does The Bacchae reveal about the relationship in the Greek world between religion and the state?

Sept. 5:  Sophocles, Antigone (Blackboard)

  • What is the course of action in Antigone?
  • Is Creon a tyrant?  What makes a ruler tyrannical?
  • Who is Sophocles’ sympathy with, Antigone or Creon?
  • Is Antigone’s morality “primitive,” as Creon suggests?
  • Is Antigone a figure of anarchy? Keep in mind that Thebes has just finished a horrible civil war and desperately desires stability and order.
  • What is Ismene’s reaction to Creon’s decree?
  • One interpreter of Antigone has reached this conclusion about the play: “The conflict between Antigone and Creon leads to tragic conclusions, not because of their different religious and moral views, but because of the extreme and rigid way in which they both hold their views. And Antigone and Creon are rigid and extreme because of certain features of their own character or familial and political situation. Sophocles aims to teach us that we can escape tragedy only by embracing moderation. To embrace moderation, however, requires us to understand not just what our deepest principles are, but why we hold them.”  Do you find this interpretation of the play plausible? Why or why not?
  • Is it significant that Creon’s decree is being subverted by a woman rather than a man? Why?

Sept 7:  Plato, The Apology in Four Texts on Socrates, 17a-35a, W.K.C. Guthrie, The Greek Philosophers, “Greek Ways of Thinking,” pp. 1-12 (Blackboard)

  • What are the charges against Socrates?
  • What are Socrates’ main arguments of defense in regard to these charges?
  • In what sense did Socrates claim that he was wise?
  • Are the charges against Socrates reasonable?
  • Does Socrates cater his arguments to his audience?
  • Does Socrates refute the arguments advanced against him?
  • Is there anything Socrates could have said to save himself?  Why did he refuse to say these things?
  • Is the verdict in Socrates’ trial lawful?  Is it just?

Sept. 12:  Plato, The Apology, 35a-end, Guthrie, “The Reaction Towards Humanism (The Sophists and Socrates),” pp. 63-80 (Blackboard)

Sept. 14:  Plato, Crito in Four Texts on Socrates

  • Why does Crito think that Socrates should escape from prison?
  • Why doesn’t Socrates agree to escape?
  • What is the Laws’ argument?

Sept. 19:  Plato, The Republic, Book I

  • What is Cephalus’ definition of justice?  How does Socrates criticize it?
  • What definition of justice does Polemarchus try?  How does Socrates criticize it?  How does Polemarchus revise his definition in response?
  • What is Thrasymachus’ definition of justice?  What does he mean?
  • What does Socrates refer to as “a far bigger thing”? (347e)  What is its connection to justice?
  • Why does Thrasymachus blush? (350d)

Sept. 21: FILM: Groundhog Day

Sept. 26: Plato, The Republic, Book II

  • What are the three categories of good things, according to Glaucon? (357b-d)  Name something that falls into each category.
  • To which category of good things does justice belong, according to Glaucon and Socrates?
  • What is myth of Gyges?  What does it tell us about justice?
  • Why, according to Adeimantus, is better to appear just than to actually be just?  How do the gods factor into his reasoning?
  • What method does Socrates propose for discovering what justice is? Why does he think this is a good method? (368c-369b)
  • What is the reasoning behind the division of labor Socrates proposes in the just city?  What makes this division just?
  • Explain how the guardians are educated in the just state.
  • How is the character of a good guardian analogous to the character of a dog?
  • What is the difference between a “true” falsehood, and a falsehood in words? (382a-e)  Which is worse, according to Socrates? Why?

Sept. 28: Plato, The Republic, Book III

  • What qualities must the rulers have and why?
  • What is the myth of the metals?  What is its function?
  • Why can’t the guardians have private property or touch gold and silver?

Oct. 3: Plato, The Republic, Book IV

  • Why is Adeimantus dissatisfied with Socrates’ proposal of communal property for the guardians? How does Socrates respond?
  • What effect does great personal wealth have on citizens?
  • Why doesn’t the ideal state need to worry about being conquered?
  • What are the four virtues?

Oct. 5: Plato, The Republic, Books V and VI

  • What is the rationale for holding women and children in common?
  • How can we reconcile the equality of women proposed in Book V with the claim that each nature is suited to a different job?
  • What was the aim of the inquiry into justice?
  • What claim does Socrates make which he says will “drown him in laughter and ill repute?”
  • How does Socrates distinguish philosopher or lover of wisdom from other character types?
  • What is the difference between knowledge and opinion, as Socrates understands them?
  • How is philosophy generally regarded, according to Socrates?  How should it be regarded?
  • Why are philosophers necessarily attacked by the many?
  • What is the most important thing to learn about?
  • Is it in a philosopher’s nature to rule over the city?
  • What does Socrates mean by the “intelligible?”  How does it differ from the “sensible?”
  • What is “the divided line?”
  • What is the Allegory of the Cave?

Oct. 10: Aristophanes, Clouds in Four Texts on Socrates

  • What problems is Strepsiades worrying about when Clouds begins? How does he propose to solve his troubles?
  • What sort of establishment is the thinkery? Who occupies it? What do they do? How does Strepsiades react to their concerns?
  • What sort of character does Socrates appear to be in the “Clouds”? How is what he teaches Strepsiades capable of relating to Strepsiades’ troubles?
  • Does the Socrates of this play resemble the one in the Apology, Crito, and Republic in any meaningful way?
  • Is Aristophanes in some way responsible for the trial of Socrates?
  • Why does Pheidippides strike his father?
  • What social problems, if any, does the play address?
  • Is the ending of the play satisfactory? Why or why not?

Oct. 12: Plato, The Republic, Book VII and Book VIII, pp. 221-235 (557a), FIRST ESSAY EXAM DISTRIBUTED

  • What is the myth of the cave?  What do the shadows, fire, and exit  represent? Why do most people prefer to stay in the cave?
  • Are we in a cave?
  • What motivates people to leave the cave?  What motivates them to return once they’ve left?
  • Why is it necessary to “do [philosophers] an injustice?”  What is the injustice that must be done to them?
  • What is the meaning of Socrates claim that there are as many kinds of people as their are kinds of regime?
  • What are the four kinds of corrupt regimes and their corresponding characters?  What causes each regime to collapse?
  • Why will even the ideal state deteriorate?

Oct. 17: Plato, The Republic, Book VIII, pp. 235-249, Book IX, pp. 261(580c)-275 and X, pp. 296(612c)-303

  • What are the bastard pleasures?
  • Why, according to Socrates, is the life of a tyrant unpleasant?
  • Why does it make no difference to Socrates’ argument whether the ideal state exists?
  • What is the myth of Er?  What is its purpose?
  • Has Socrates answered Glaucon and Adeimantus’s concerns about the just life?

Oct. 19: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I

  • How does Aristotle’s conception of the good differ from Plato’s?
  • Why, according to Aristotle, is political science the architectonic science?
  • How does Aristotelian political science differ from modern political science?
  • What are the characteristics of the end of all ends?
  • What are external goods? Are they required for happiness?
  • What is virtue, according to Aristotle?  How does Aristotle’s understanding of virtue compare to Plato’s?

Oct. 20: FIRST ESSAY EXAM DUE

Oct. 24: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II

  • What is “the mean?”
  • Give examples of feelings, capacities and states.
  • How can virtue be pleasant?
  • Name the virtues.  Can the virtues be defined via a list?
  • How do human beings become virtuous?

Oct. 26: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book IV

  • Name the virtues.
  • For each virtue, name the excess and the deficiency.
  • For each virtue, indicate whether most people incline toward the excess or toward the deficiency.
  • Why is shame not a virtue?

Oct. 31: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book V

  • What is the nature of the virtue of “justice”?
  • What is “distributive justice”?
  • What is “corrective justice” or justice as rectification?
  • What is political justice?
  • Does justice vary from society to society or is it the same everywhere?
  • What distinguishes decency or equity from justice?

Nov. 2: Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, pp. 6-10, 51-55, ch. 12 (Blackboard)

  • “There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture.” (p. 6) Why?
  • What are the “three characteristices” of “contemporary moral utterance and argument?” (pp. 8-10)
  • Why, according to MacIntyre, did the Enlightenment project of justifying morality have to fail?
  • What is wrong with the modern conception of human nature? How is Aristotle’s conception of human nature different? (pp. 51-5)
  • What is phronesis? (p. 154)
  • What is MacIntyre’s criticism of Aristotle’s conception of telos?
  • What is his criticism of Aristotle’s conception of the polis?

Nov. 7: Aristotle, The Politics, Book I; Steven Smith lecture (optional)

  • Why does Aristotle believe that “man is by nature and animal intended to live in a polis”?
  • Why does Aristotle introduce a book on politics with a discussion of the household?
  • What do the relationships between master/ slave, husband/wife, and father/child have in common (and how do they differ)?
  • What are Aristotle’s arguments in defense of slavery?
  • Is slavery ever illegitimate?  When?

Nov. 9: Aristotle, The Politics, Book II

  • Will the best city be homogeneous or heterogeneous?
  • Is Aristotle fair to Plato, or has he distorted aspects of Plato’s political philosophy?
  • Does Aristotle believe property will be held in common in the best regime?
  • What are the essential characteristics of Hippodamus’ best regime? What are Aristotle’s criticisms of this city?
  • Based on what he says in Book II, what do you think Aristotle’s preferred city will be like?

Nov. 14: Aristotle, The Politics, Book III

  • How does Aristotle define the concept of “the citizen” in Book III?  Why is the citizen he speaks of “a citizen above all in a democracy”?
  • How does Aristotle here define “the virtue of the citizen”?
  • Is there a difference between the good man and the good citizen?
  • What are the different kinds of regimes?  What makes a regime “deviant”?
  • What virtue does Aristotle associate with ruling?   Why?
  • Who are the “vulgar persons” Aristotle describes?  Why will the best city not make a vulgar person a citizen?
  • How does Aristotle define justice in Book III?  Does justice vary or is it the same everywhere?
  • How will democracies treat outstanding men? Why?

Nov. 16: Michael Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, ch. 1 and Conclusion (Blackboard)

  • What are the concerns at the heart of democracy’s discontent?
  • What are liberal and republican freedom?
  • What is the unencumbered self?  Why is it a flawed conception?
  • What do the abortion debate and the Lincoln-Douglas debates illustrate for Sandel?
  • What is wrong with the neutrality of the procedural republic?
  • What are the arguments against a revival of republicanism?
  • What is the liberal argument against inequality? What is the republican argument?
  • What is Sandel’s critique of cosmopolitanism?

Nov. 21: Aristotle, The Politics, Book IV, SECOND ESSAY EXAM DISTRIBUTED

  • How does Aristotle define the concept of “regime” in Book IV?
  • What are the different kinds of democracy according to Aristotle?
  • What are the different kinds of oligarchy according to Aristotle?
  • Which regime does Aristotle describe as best “for most cities and most human beings?”

Nov. 23: THANKSGIVING

Nov. 28: Augustine, City of God in Political Writings, Books I, II, IV, and V

  • Explain and evaluate Augustine’s injunction, “Love God and do what you will.”
  • What is the city of God?
  • How is Augustine’s theology rooted in Adam and Eve’s Fall? What role does Original  Sin play in Augustine’s theology?
  • What’s the difference between the city of God and the city of man?
  • Does Augustine believe that a good Christian can be a good citizen?  Does he think a good citizen be a good Christian?
  • Does Rome meet Cicero’s definition of a republic?
  • Can earthly cities achieve justice?
  • Is the city of God realizable?

Nov. 30: Augustine, City of God in Political Writings, Books VI, VIII, XIX

  • Which of the three philosophical possibilities of the Supreme Good does Varro prefer?  How does Augustine contrast this with the supreme good sought by Christians?
  • Augustine holds Plato above the rest of the ancient Greek philosophers. What is the relationship between Plato’s idea of the Good and Augustine’s idea of God?
  • What are the sources of peace and discord between the two city of God and the city of man?
  • What is true justice according to Augustine?

Dec. 1: SECOND ESSAY EXAM DUE

Dec. 5: Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, chs. 14, 17 (Blackboard)

  • What does Christian virtue share with Aristotle?  How does it differ?
  • How is Aristotle’s view of virtue like Franklin’s?  How is it different?
  • What are the stages in the development of virtue? pp. 186-7
  • What is a “practice” as MacIntyre defines it?  How is it related to virtue?
  • What is virtue, according to MacIntyre? p. 191
  • What is the relationship between internal and external goods?
  • What is Rawls’ principle of justice?  What is Nozick’s?
  • For all of their differences, what do Rawls’ and Nozick’s conceptions of justice have in common?

Dec. 7: MacIntyre (cont’d)

FINAL EXAM: Dec 12, 7:00 am – 9:45 am

Style Guide:

The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk).

Exam Proctoring Guidelines:

  1. One seat space between students when possible.
  2. 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.
  3. No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
  4. Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
  5. Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.

Grading:

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:

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s