Instructor: Lauren Hall

Time: MWF, 11-11:50

Location: DU 252


Office Location: Zulauf 402

Office phone: 753-7055

Office hours:  M 10-11 am, W 12-1 pm, and by appointment

Instructor's e-mail:


Course Syllabus, POLS 251: Introduction to Political Philosophy


The purpose of this course is to examine the history and evolution of political philosophy from its Greek roots to the modern day.  In our analysis we will focus on the following questions: What is the proper relationship between the government and its citizens?  How much control ought the government to have over individual lives?  How do we define the "good life" and how does our definition impact our political views?  What is the relationship between the philosopher and the city?  What is the highest good for humans?  For governments?  What is the best regime?  Are there any limits to our ability to create the best regime?  What role does nature play in political life?  What effect does philosophy have on political life?  What does it mean to live a virtuous life?  Do we have a duty to obey unjust laws?  Are rulers sometimes justified in acting cruelly?  What kind of wisdom is necessary in order to be a good ruler?  In politics, do the ends justify the means?  Is empire good or bad?  What role does human desire play in political life?  What is the goal of politics?  What is prudence?  Do human beings possess rights?  What is tyranny, and why is it bad?  What are the merits of democracy, and what are its drawbacks?   


The instructor will spend a small amount of class time lecturing on key points, but the main section of each class will be devoted to discussion and analysis by all members of the class.  Participation and attendance each make up 5% of your grade, so it is in your best interest for your overall learning experience as well as your grade to participate.  With this in mind, it is required that students bring their copies of the required editions of the readings to class each day, since we will be reading from the works in addition to discussing them.  Students who miss more than 6 classes can expect to fail.  The course is only 15 weeks long, and 6 classes (two weeks) represent a substantial portion of the material presented. 


Roughly each week there will be a quiz or a journal entry due.  Quizzes are generally a few short-answer questions, worth 30 points each.  Quizzes are meant to be easy for those who did the reading.  Journal entries are two pages, double-spaced, 12-font.  The first page is a summary of the reading for that week (I will be more specific on a weekly basis), while the second page is your reaction to/ analysis of that work.  This is not meant to be a polished final essay, but attention to both grammar and organization is necessary.   

The midterm paper will be due on Wednesday, October 20th at the beginning of class.

Late papers will be docked half a letter grade for each day it is late.  Being late to class on the day the paper is due counts as one late day.  The final exam will be during finals week in the regularly scheduled final exam slot.



Plato.  Four Texts on Socrates.  Translated with notes by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West.

Machiavelli.  The Prince.  Translated by Dealvarez.

Locke.  Second Treatise of Government.  Edited by Richard Cox.

Bacon.  New Atlantis and the Great Instauration.  Edited by Jerry Weinberger, 1989 edition.

Orwell.  Animal Farm. 50th Anniversary Edition, 1996


The breakdown of grades is as follows:

11 Quizzes/ Journals (30 points each, lowest grade dropped) - 300 points, 30% of

final grade (Roughly one quiz and one journal for each book we read)

Midterm paper - 300 points, 30% of final grade

Final exam - 300 points, 30% of final grade

Attendance/ Participation - 100 points, 10% of final grade 



1.   The point-system is meant to encourage you to keep track of your grades as the semester goes on.  This class is easy to get an A in if you do the reading, come prepared to class, and try your hardest.  No one has the definite answers to many of these questions.  All I ask is that we make the attempt.  With that said, a large part of learning is asking the questions that lead us toward a certain end.  Questions count as participation.  Chances are good that if you have a question, many others in the class are wondering the same thing.  Also, contrary to popular belief, even instructors in Political Science do not have all the answers, so please do not feel "dumb" for asking.  Socrates did almost nothing but ask questions and he is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time.


2.   Go to the University Writing Center.  I will be requiring that you take one journal to the Writing Center prior to October 13th.  This serves two purposes.  This will prepare you for the types of things I will be looking for on the midterm paper, as well as give you some practice in editing with helpful staff members.  The Writing Center is located in the lower level of Stevenson Tower South.


3.   Students who come to office hours often, who participate often in class, or otherwise show that they care will have an edge, not only with how much they learn, but also as far as my willingness to help out in tight jams.  My office hours are MW 10 to 11 am, but again, I am always willing to make appointments at other times.


ROUGH SCHEDULE (I reserve the right to change this schedule, and it probably will change, since we may focus more on some authors than on others.  I will announce the quizzes and journals one week before they are due)  The dates listed with readings or “Begin so-and-so” are meant to indicate that there is reading due that day.  I will announce specific readings for the next class in class that day.  If you miss the assignment, contact another student in the class for the reading.




23 - Intro to class

25 - Intro to political philosophy

27 - Begin Plato's Apology




3- NO CLASS – APSA Conference in Chicago



10 - Start Plato's Crito



17 - No reading due; lecture on Aristotle's Politics

20 - Aristotle's Politics, cont'd.

22 - Start Machiavelli









11 - Begin Bacon's New Atlantis




20 – Begin Locke, Midterm paper due











12 – Begin Orwell's Animal Farm





24 - No class, Thanksgiving Break

26 - No class

29 – Overview and synthesis


1 - Review

3 - Concluding remarks


Academic Misconduct

I take academic misconduct (including plagiarism, cheating, and any other form of passing someone else's work off as your own) very seriously.  Offenders will be reported to Judicial Affairs and will receive a zero on the assignment in question.



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