Political Science 198: The Politics of Culture

Course Description & Justification:

People today commonly mistake manipulative capacity for wisdom and data retrieval for knowledge. Our schools reflect this misunderstanding in their curricula. Core requirements provide a sampling of several disciplines, in which a specialist's complex and sophisticated body of knowledge is summarized and simplified for the uninitiated. Learning hardly takes place in such classes; students merely catalogue information. How else, then, might one design a course of study? What does it mean to learn? How is such learning best facilitated?  Our ancestors -- who for well over two thousand years not only maintained but also creatively contributed to the development of Western civilization -- found nothing more valuable for this purpose than training in the seven liberal arts.  These seven arts, comprising the trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric with the quadrivium of number theory, geometry, music, and astronomy, do not so much constitute "bodies of knowledge" as they do disciplines intended to hone and fortify our natural capacity for understanding reality. This course is intended to offer an abbreviated, but nevertheless authentic, experience of the classical program of liberal education.

Requirements, Expectations and Grading:

You are expected to attend every meeting of this class and to read the assigned texts carefully and on schedule.  (Unexcused absence will result in lowered grades).  There will be daily writing assignments and/or class presentations.  I shall collect for grading four of these written exercises, two by surprise and two judged by you to be your best work.  Additionally, you will often be asked to present your exercises for class discussion.  The quality of your written work and oral presentations will account for no less than 60% of your final grade.  Another 30% of your grade will be determined by the quality of your participation in the discussion of others' written exercises.  A third factor, if warranted, will be a comprehensive final examination or essay, which will account for no more than 10% of your final grade.

You should expect to spend at least 6 hours each and every week studying for this class, in addition to your regular attendance. (If you carry a load of fifteen credit hours, and follow this rule of thumb in all your classes, you will still be investing less time developing your own, human, capital than you will spend enlarging your employer's capital after you have graduated!  I think you are worth the investment.  Do you?)


Assigned Reading

Weeks 1-4


D. Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning, (;
Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos

Week 5 - 7

Geometry and Arithmetic:

Euclid, Elements, I 1-47; IX 9; X ps.117 (Heath v.3 p.2)

Weeks 8-13

Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric:

Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium

Week 14

Music Laboratories:

Problems of Harmony

Week 15

Astronomy Laboratories:

The Orderly Motion of Heavenly Bodies

Department of Political Science

Marquette University
Wehr Physics Building, Room 468
PO Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-6842 (phone)
Visit the contact page for more information