Justice and power are thought to be the elements of politics. However, it is necessary to inquire whether there is such a thing as justice, how it is known, and how it can be distinguished from power. It also must be asked what power is, and what its uses are. This course studies these basic problems and themes as an introduction to the principles of political philosophy. Further, the course aims to help students acquire the discipline and skills needed in theoretical reading and rigorous analytic writing.
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War; Plato, Republic (Larson trans.); Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government; Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings.
It is necessary to attend all of the class sessions to do well in the course. Repeated absences will have natural consequences, in the sense that they certainly will cause students to do poorly on papers, to fail to achieve distinction in class discussions, and, hence, to receive low grades. This will occur automatically, so the instructor will not have to take role more than occasionally.
Students will prepare the readings assigned below for class discussion. The readings are difficult. They cannot be skimmed. Understanding will come only with careful study and reflection. There will be three take-home examinations, or papers, to be done in keeping with the instructions given below. Paper topics and dates will be determined on the basis of discussions between the instructor and the class.
Papers will be expected to display cogent reasoning, mastery of information (factual accuracy, knowledge of arguments, and appropriate selection of texts and data for use in the analysis of problems), elegance of style, and grammatical correctness. Each paper will count one third of the course grade. Effective class participation will result in upward adjustment of grades.
Thucydides pp. 118-123, 143-151, 212-223, 400-408.
Plato 327-367 (Stephanus margin numbers).
Locke chs. 1-9.
Locke chs. 10-end.
Rousseau Discourse on Origins of Inequality.
Rousseau Social Contract Bks I, II.
Each paper will be an essay no longer than 1500 words. Students will write on topics and follow outlines provided by the instructor. The essays will have these tasks: (1) Identify the question that the philosophers raise in the passages mentioned, and explain why it is problematic. The question posed by the instructor will begin this work, but not complete it. (2) Analyze the reasoning about the question that the philosophers offer. (What are the assumptions? What are the arguments? To what evidence do the arguments appeal? What difficulties might render the assumptions or the arguments unacceptable, and how do the philosophers handle them?) (3) With regard to what is problematic in the question, explain how the philosophers' arguments guide us in our own search for truth. (Reason this section especially carefully. This section best shows the student's ability to carry an inquiry beyond recitation of text and lecture notes.)