Introduction to Political Philosophy

Political Science 251, Section 1

Fall 2003

Course Meeting Place:  Du 459

Course Meeting Time:  MWF 11:00-11:50


Instructor:  Jason Jividen                                             

Office:  Zu 424

Office hours: T/Th 10:00-12:00 & by appointment     

Phone:  753-7051 (office)                                            



Course Description

The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the study of political philosophy.  Throughout the semester we will examine some of the permanent questions of importance to political life.  By examining the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke, we will address the following sorts of questions:  What is the nature and basis of a political community?  Does such a community have a natural end and purpose to fulfill?  How can the study of political philosophy help us to better understand what constitutes a good life?  What is the relationship between political theory and political practice?  We will discuss the broader more fundamental ideas underlying the study of politics such as regimes, laws, freedom, rights, the relationship between civil and religious authority, and the relationship between philosophy and the city, just to name a few.


Required Texts


      1.    Plato and Aristophanes, Four Texts on Socrates.  Revised Edition.  Translated by Thomas        

             G. West and Grace Starry West.  Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 1998.

  1. Xenophon. Hiero or Tyrannicus. [A short dialogue on reserve at Founders Memorial Library].
  2. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince. Translated by Leo Paul S. de Alvarez.  Prospect Heights:  Waveland University Press, 1989.
  3. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Edited by C.B. Macpherson.  New York:  Penguin Classics, 1985.
  4. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government.  Edited by C. B. Macpherson.  Indianapolis:  Hackett Publishing Company, 1980.


* As we will be reading and referring to particular passages in these texts, it is essential that each student brings a copy of these editions to class.



Attendance at each class meeting is both expected and required.  Attendance is defined as “being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of each class and remaining until class is dismissed.”  Please do not come late to class, as this is both discourteous and disruptive. Students who come to class after attendance has been taken will be considered absent. If there are special circumstances regarding this matter, please discuss them with the instructor as early as possible. Students with extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce appropriate documentation indicating the nature and duration of the illness.  This note should be provided to the instructor at the first class upon returning.  Extended absences are highly discouraged, as they will adversely affect the student’s grade.  **The student’s final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each absence over 5. 


Class Participation

Proper participation in class is both required and rewarded.  As this is a course concerning the discussion of ideas, simple attendance without participating in discussion is insufficient.  The good student will not only be present and attentive in class, but will also actively participate in class discussion by answering questions about the assigned readings, raising questions, and volunteering thoughtful observations about the material.  Proper class participation also requires that the student behave with proper courtesy and regard for others’ comments.  Frequent class discussion will foster a classroom environment that will be far more interesting and rewarding than one in which the instructor simply lectures every day. The instructor also asks that all mobile phones be turned off, or at least silent, during class. 



There will be 6 quizzes given throughout the semester.  Only 5 of these quizzes will count toward the student’s final grade.  Although the instructor will drop the student’s lowest quiz score, one should keep in mind that the remaining 5 quizzes comprise 20% of the student’s final grade in the course. The quizzes will consist of a few short answer questions to be completed at the beginning of class on the dates specified in the class schedule below.  Each quiz will cover the class lectures and assigned readings from the preceding week as well as readings assigned for the day of the quiz.  Make-up quizzes will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.  The make-up quizzes will be significantly more difficult than the original.  It is in the student’s best interest to avoid make-up quizzes if at all possible.


Short Essay

There will be a short essay (900-1000 words) assigned on the date specified in the class schedule below.  Essays are to be handed in at the beginning of class, two weeks after the assignments are made, on the due date given in the schedule below.  Late papers will be accepted up to three days after the due date, however, these papers will be docked one letter grade for each day they are late.  The 1000-word limit will be taken seriously.  Please provide a word count on the first page of your essay.  Any paper exceeding the 1000-word limit will be docked one letter grade.  Any evidence of plagiarism will be treated in accordance with university and departmental policies and procedures.



There will be 2 examinations in this course—a take-home midterm examination and a comprehensive final examination to be given in class on the date assigned by the university.  Please see the class schedule below.  Students will be expected to bring bluebooks to the final examination. Make-up examinations will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.  The make-up exams will be significantly more difficult than the original.  It is in the student’s best interest to avoid make-up exams if at all possible.



Final course grades are based upon the required written assignment, quizzes, and exams, as well as the regularity and quality of class participation, less any penalties due to extended unexcused absences. The instructor will not give a formal grade for class participation, although he reserves the right to raise a student’s grade if he judges that student’s participation to have been exceptionally good.  Grades will not be lowered merely for lack of active class participation.  Please remember that the student’s final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each unexcused absence over 5. 


Grade Distribution:


1.         5 of 6 Quizzes =            20%                 *Final grades will be assigned according to a ten-point system:

2.         Short Essay   =            20%                    A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, F=0-59%.

3.         Take Home

            Midterm Exam  =            30%

4.         Final Exam    =            30%


Some Suggestions:


1. Class Preparation--The best way to prepare for each class is to do the readings at least once (some require more than one reading) prior to the first day we begin each unit.  You will be much better able to participate in discussion and to grasp the class discussions if you have done so. 

 2. Good Note Taking--Good note taking is important to your success in this class.  Learn to listen carefully to the arguments made and write them down as best you can. Review your notes after class to see if they make sense.  By reviewing them soon after they are taken, sometimes you can remember things that will make sense out of what is confusing. Get together with other students periodically to go over one another’s notes.  If you got 50% of the lecture and your study partners got 50%, perhaps between you, you will have 75%.  What remains unclear can be discussed with the instructor.  Be sure to write down the questions asked by the instructor and those asked by other students.  If you write down their questions, as well as their answers, you will benefit.



The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to you.  If you cannot come during his scheduled office hours, please e-mail him to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.  His office number, phone number, and e-mail address are at the beginning of the syllabus.  If you call during his office hours and are unable to reach him, try to call again after a few minutes.  If he is still unavailable, please e-mail him and he will get back to you promptly. 


Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to



Class Schedule


*Note:  The following schedule is meant to serve as a broad outline of the course.  The instructor reserves the right to make reasonable adjustments to the schedule if necessary.


I.  Introduction


8/25-8/27                      What is political philosophy?  Why study political philosophy?


8/29-9/1 NO CLASS


II.  Plato’s Apology of Socrates


9/3                                17a-24b (pp.63-73)


9/5       QUIZ 1          24b-28b (pp.73-79)


9/8-9/10                        28b-38b (pp.79-92)


9/12                              38c-42a (pp.92-97)



III.  Plato’s Crito


9/15-9/17                      43a-50a (pp.99-108)


9/19     QUIZ 2          50a-54e (pp.108-114)



IV.  Xenophon’s Hiero or Tyrannicus


9/22-9/24                      Sections I-VII (pp.1-14)


9/26                              HAND OUT TAKE-HOME MIDTERM EXAM—DUE 10/10

Sections VIII-XI (pp.14-20)



V.  Machiavelli’s The Prince


9/29                              Epistle Dedicatory and Chapters 1-3 (pp.1-24)


10/1                              Chapters 4-6 (pp.25-38)


10/3     QUIZ 3            Chapters 7-8 (pp.41-56)


10/6                              Chapters 9-11 (pp.57-70)


10/8                              Chapters 12-14 (pp.71-92)


10/10                           MIDTERM DUE     

Chapters 15-17 (pp.93-106)


10/13                            Chapters 18-19 (pp.107-125)


10/15                            Chapters 20-23 (pp.126-145)


10/17   QUIZ 4            Chapters 24-26 (pp.146-158)



VI.  Hobbes’ Leviathan


10/20                            Author’s Introduction (pp.81-83), Chapter 10 (p.150, 1st paragraph only), Chapter 11 (pp.160-161, 1st paragraph only) and Chapter 13 (pp.183-188)


10/22                            Chapter 14 (pp.189-201)


10/24-10/27                   Chapter 15 and Chapter 17 (pp.201-217; pp.223-228)


10/29                            Chapter 18 (pp.228-239) and Chapter 19 (pp.239-251)


10/31   QUIZ #5        Chapter 21 (pp.261-273)


11/3                              Chapter 29 (pp.363-376)



VII. Locke’s Second Treatise of Government


11/5                              Preface and Chapters 1-3 (pp.5-16)


11/7-11/10                     Chapters 4-5 (pp.17-30)


11/10                           HAND OUT SHORT ESSAY—DUE 11/24  


11/12                            Chapter 6 (pp.30-42), Chapter 7 (§87 only, p.46)


11/14   QUIZ #6        Chapter 8 (pp.52-65)


11/17                            Chapter 9 and Chapter 11 (pp.65-68; 69-75)


11/19-11/21                   Chapter 12 (pp.75-77), Chapter 13 (§150 only, p.78), Chapter 14 (pp.83-88),

and Chapter 18 (pp.101-107)


11/24                           SHORT ESSAY DUE

Chapter 19 (§211-230) (pp.107-116)


11/26-11/28                 NO CLASS—THANKSGIVING BREAK


12/1                              Chapter 19, continued (§240-243) (pp.123-124).


12/3                              Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (on reserve at FML; also easily found on-line)


12/5                              REVIEW and CATCH-UP


12/10                           FINAL EXAM             10:00-11:50 am        

(Be sure to bring bluebooks)