Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Fall 2008


Political Science 251-1: Introduction to Political Philosophy


Instructor: Travis Smith

Meeting place: DU 246

Meeting Time: MWF 11:00-11:50am


Office: DU 476

Office Hours: Mon. 12-2pm and Wed. 10-10:50am, or by appointment


Course Description:


††††††††††† The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction into the study of political philosophy.This semester we will carefully examine selected texts from Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke.As we do so, we will explore some of the most important and enduring questions related to political matters:What is the foundation of political society?Does government have a natural end or purpose, and if so, what is it?What is the relationship between individual and political ethics?How can political philosophy help us better understand what it means to live a good life?What is the relationship between political theory and political practice?These questions and texts require us to think carefully about the ideas such as freedom, equality, justice, laws, and authority.


Course Goals:


By the end of the semester, students should be able to

  1. Identify and explain the basic positions of the philosophers covered in class and note similarities and differences between these thinkersí ideas
  2. Think critically and discuss coherently the fundamental political questions


Required Texts:


  1. Plato, 4 Texts on Socrates, revised ed., translated by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).
  2. Aristotle, The Politics of Aristotle, translated by Ernest Barker, (New York: Oxford University Press, 19).
  3. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Second ed., translated by Harvey C. Mansfield, (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1998).
  4. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, edited by C.B. MacPherson, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1980).


Course Requirements:


Class Participation: Asking questions and discussing issues are important to gaining a better understanding of the material.This is not the type of course that one can merely memorize facts for an exam.The material requires that we not only read carefully, but consider and wrestle with the problems we come across.Class participation is thus very important.Please bring the relevant text to class each day as we will refer to it often.I encourage you to ask insightful questions and make well-reasoned arguments supporting your views.There is no formal grade for participation, but I reserve the right to raise a studentís grade if I judge that student has participated especially well throughout the semester.


Attendance (100 points): Attendance is necessary for participation.Therefore, after four absences, each class missed will drop oneís attendance grade 10 points.It is your responsibility to sign the attendance roll that I send around.If you do not sign it on any particular day, you will be counted absent.Please remember to sign the roll.

Rather than spending my time and yours trying to determine if an absence is excused I give you four absences to use however you deem fit.I would recommend saving them for unexpected events such as illness or car problems.If you know in advance that you will miss more than four classes for legitimate reasons(University excused absences, religious observances, ect.), you should talk to me as soon as possible or consider taking another class.


Quizzes (200 points; 40 points each): There will be 7 quizzes.These quizzes should not be difficult for anyone who has listened to the lecture, taken notes, and carefully read the assignments.Your 2 lowest scores will be dropped.In other words, only your top 5 quizzes will count toward your final grade.Make-up quizzes will not be allowed, except under the most extreme circumstances and with documentation that the absence could not be avoided.Make-ups may be significantly more difficult than the original quiz.It is therefore in your best interest to try and avoid make-up quizzes.Should you miss a quiz due to illness or other personal reasons, remember that it will be dropped as a low score.


Paper (400 points): A paper of 4-5 pages is due November 3 at the beginning of class. Papers turned in after class on that day will be considered late.For the paper you are expected to analyze and critique some idea or argument from one of the texts.Do not try to tackle the entire text; there is too much there for such a short paper.Instead, try to find a single argument or idea that you find interesting and explore it further.Please feel free to talk to me about possible paper topics.Papers must be clearly and well written, with proper grammar and citations.Remember that failure to cite anotherís work properly constitutes plagiarism.I take plagiarism very seriously.I encourage you to use the University Writing Center to get help polishing your papers.Late papers will be penalized one letter grade (40 points) for each day late and will only be accepted for one week.


Final Exam (30%): The final exam will be given Wednesday, December 10 at 10:00-11:50am, the time scheduled by the University.Please bring a BLUE BOOK. The exam is cumulative and may draw upon any of the material covered in class or from the assigned reading.


Course Policies:


Attendance: Be on time and stay for the entire class.By coming in late or leaving early you miss out and you disrupt the learning process for others.Please notify me early in the semester if you will be missing classes for religious observances or University sponsored activities (athletics, Model UN, ect.).


Cell phones and other electronic devices: Ipods, PDAs, and other electronic devices can be a distraction not only to you but to others.Please turn them off before class begins.Turn cell phones to vibrate so that they are not unnecessarily disruptive.If extenuating circumstances (pregnant wife, child care, ect.) might require you to answer your phone, please let me know, otherwise do not answer your phone during class.Text messaging during class is not allowed.


Classroom Etiquette: Discussion is an important part of this course; please be respectful of others and listen.Do not interrupt others, and respond to your classmates and me with courtesy.Discussions can often become lively; please help me to maintain a civil environment.Do not let challenging anotherís argument become an attack on their person.


Contacting me:The best way to contact me is to come to my office hour; that time is specifically set aside for meetings with students.If you cannot come to during office hours, please send me an email with several times that you are available.Please write professional emails with proper spelling and grammar.That shows respect for me as an instructor and reflects well on you as a student.I will do my best to respond as promptly as I can.If you receive no response after 24 hours send me another email or speak to me in class.


Academic Dishonesty: Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them.Students guilty of or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university."

The above statement encompasses a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgement of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.

Ignorance of how to properly use and cite othersí work is not acceptable.Plagiarism is taken extremely seriously in this class and can result in failure for the assignment, failure for the course, and/or expulsion from the university.

Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided 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 provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need.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 and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities.The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (815-753-1303).


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 Departmentís 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 28th.All copies should have two cover pages-one with the studentís name and one without the studentís name.Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.


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


Course Schedule:


The reading schedule is subject to change according to the discretion of the instructor.Any changes will be announced in class.Dates for quizzes, the paper, and the final exam are firm.


8/25 Introduction to the course

Plato Apology of Socrates

8/27††† 17a-20e (pg. 63-68)

8/29††† 20e-24a (pg. 68-73)


9/1††††† Labor DayóNo Class

9/3††††† 24b-28a (pg. 73-78)

9/5††††† 28a-35d (pg. 78-89)


9/8††††† 35e-38c (pg. 89-92)

9/10††† 38c-42a (pg. 92-97)

Aristotle Politics

9/12 †† Bk. I Ch. 1-2, (pg. 1-7) Quiz 1


9/15††† Bk. III Ch. 1-5 (pg. 92-110)

9/17††† Bk. III Ch. 6-12 (pg. 110-131)

9/19††† Bk. III Ch. 13-18 (pg. 131-153)


9/22††† Bk. IV Ch. 1-2, 8-13 (pg. 154-159, 174-188) Quiz 2

9/24††† Bk. V Ch. 1-4, 8-9 (pg. 203-214, 224-234)

9/26††† Bk. V Ch. 10-11, Bk. VI Ch. 1-3 (pg. 235-250, 255-262)


9/29 †† Bk. VII Ch. 1-3 (pg. 279-289)

10/1††† Bk. VII 13-15 (pg. 311-323) Quiz 3

Machiavelli The Prince

10/3††† Dedicatory Letter, Ch. 1-2 (pg. 3-7)


10/6††† Ch. 3-5 (pg. 7-21)

10/8††† Ch. 6 (pg. 21-25)

10/10Ch. 7-8 (pg. 25-38)


10/13Ch. 9-11 (pg. 38-47)

10/15Ch. 12-14 (pg. 48-60) Quiz 4

10/17Ch. 15-18 (pg. 61-71)


10/20Ch. 19 (pg. 71ó82)

10/22Ch. 20-21 (pg. 83-91)

10/24Ch. 22-24 (pg. 92-97)


10/27Ch. 25-26 (pg. 98-105)

10/29Quiz 5

Locke Second Treatise of Government

10/31 Preface, Ch. 1-2 (pg. 5-14)


11/3††† Ch.3-4 (pg. 14-18) Paper Due

11/5††† Ch. 5 (pg. 18-30)

11/7††† Ch 6 (pg. 30-42)


11/10Ch. 7 (pg. 42-51)

11/12Ch. 8 (pg. 52-65)

11/14Ch. 9-11 (pg. 65-75) Quiz 6


11/17Ch. 12-13 (pg. 75-83)

11/19Ch. 14 (pg. 83-88)

11/21Ch. 14-15 (pg. 83-91)


11/24Ch. 16 (pg. 91-100)

11/26Thanksgiving BreakóNo Class

11/28Thanksgiving BreakóNo Class


12/1††† Ch. 17-18 (pg. 100-107)

12/3††† Ch. 19 (pg. 107-124) Quiz 7

12/5††† Catch up or review for exam.


12/10†† 10:00-11:50am FINAL EXAM Bring a BLUE BOOK.