Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science


Political Science 251:                                                                Mr. Reddinger

Introduction to Political Philosophy                                            Office Hours: TBA

Fall 2005                                                                        


Course Objectives:

            Together we will read a few of the classic books in the history of political philosophy.  These books will first help us to think about some of the hardest questions of politics.  For example, what is the relation of philosophy and politics?  What is freedom?  Must we obey all laws?  Does the end justify the means in politics?  Is there a nature common to all humans, and how does that relate to politics?  What is the best type of government?  Is a good governmental structure sufficient to make a good society?  The structure of this course will help us understand how different thinkers across history answered many of these questions differently, and how some of these questions relate to the United States.


Class Grading and Expectations:

20% - Class Participation, Behavior, and Attendance: Good class participation cannot (and should not) mean talking frequently in class discussion.  However, students that never participate should not expect to have a good participation grade.  Being able to answer the instructor’s questions in class will give you a good participation grade.  To be able to do this, students must diligently keep up with readings.  Asking your own questions about assigned readings equally show good participation and evidence of having read.  Evidence of not paying attention while in class discussion will also harm your grade.

            Cell phones must be turned off at the beginning of class.  Having a cell phone go off during class will significantly reduce your participation grade.  Students will receive two unexcused absences for the semester.  Grades will be reduced by 5% of your total grade for the course for each additional absence.  If you fail to have a written excuse of absence on the day on which a pop quiz was given, you fail that quiz.

10% - Quizzes: 6 quizzes will be given during the semester to ensure that students are keeping up with readings  These quizzes will test recall both of previous class discussions and basic points in the day’s assigned reading, though a few quiz questions will require some significant thought.  Only the highest 5 grades will count.

20% - Exam 1: Prior to exam day, the instructor will distribute a list of practice essay questions so that students can study for this essay exam.  On exam day, the instructor will choose just a few of these questions that the student must answer.  Therefore, students are encouraged to prepare by developing answers to all practice questions.

20% - Short Essay: 900-1200 word essay due on November 15.  The instructor will distribute suggested paper topics, though students are welcome to write on any topic of interest to them.

20% - Exam 2: This final exam will use the same format as Exam 1.




Required Texts:

-Plato & Aristophanes, 4 Texts on Socrates.  Trans. Thomas G. West and Grace S. West.      Cornell University Press 1998.

-Aristotle, Politics.  Trans. Benjamin Jowett.  Dover Publications, 2000.

-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.  Trans. Leo Paul S. de Alvarez.  Waveland Press 1989.

-John Locke, Second Treatise of Government.  Ed. Richard Cox.  Harlan Davidson 1982.


Course Outline: The instructor reserves the right to reasonably alter this outline or any part of the syllabus at any time.

I. Introduction to Course


            Aug. 23: Introduction to course.  What is political philosophy?


II. Classical Political Philosophy


            Aug. 25: Plato’s Apology, 17a-35d

Aug. 30: Plato’s Apology, 35e-42a, QUIZ 1

Sept. 1: Plato’s Crito

            Sept. 6: Aristotle’s Politics, Book 1.1-7

            Sept. 8: Politics, Book 2.1-5, 8

            Sept. 13: Politics, Book 3.1-13, QUIZ 2

            Sept. 15: Politics, Book 4.1-2, 7-13

            Sept: 20: Politics, Book 5.1, 11-12, Book 7.1-3

            Sept. 22: Politics, rest of Book 7, QUIZ 3

            Sept. 27: Politics, Book 8

Sept. 29: Lecture and Discussion on Augustine and Aquinas (no readings)


EXAM 1: October 4


III. Modern Political Philosophy

            Oct. 6: The Prince, Epistle Dedicatory, Chapters I-IV

Oct. 11: read The Prince, Chapters V-IX

Oct. 13: read The Prince, Chapters X-XV

Oct. 18: read The Prince, Chapters XVI-XX, QUIZ 4

Oct. 20: read The Prince, Chapters XXI-XXVI

Oct. 25: Lecture and Discussion on Martin Luther and Jean Calvin (no readings)

Oct. 27: Declaration of Independence & U.S. Constitution (easily found online)

Nov 1: Locke’s 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapter I-II

Nov. 3: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapters III-V, QUIZ 5

Nov.  8: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapters VI-VIII

Nov. 10: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapters IX-XIII

Nov. 15: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapters XIV-XV, SHORT ESSAY DUE

Nov. 17: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapters XVI-XVIII, QUIZ 6

Nov. 22: 2nd Treatise of Government, Chapter XIX

Nov. 29: selections from Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (to be handed out

      by the instructor).

Dec. 1: Review Discussion


FINAL EXAM: Date and time TBA


Students with Disabilities: 

NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can help you obtain needed assistance. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to working with you to enhance your academic success in this course.


The Department of Political Science:           

Students 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 this site, go to