FALL 2008                                                                                                           OFFICE: DU 476

CLASS MEETS:  12:00-12:50 p.m. MWF                                                     OFFICE HOURS: 1:00-2:30 p.m. MW and

ROOM: DU 246                                                                                                   by appointment




The main objective of this course is to offer an introduction to political philosophy.  Philosophy, by itself, is understood as the “love of wisdom.” What, then, does it mean to qualify philosophy in terms of “the political”?  Cicero, perhaps, says it best: “Whereas philosophy prior to Socrates was concerned with numbers and motions and with whence all things came and where they go, Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from heaven and to place it in cities, and even to introduce it into the household, and to compel philosophy to inquire about life and manners and about good and bad.” Political philosophy is thus chiefly concerned with human affairs.


It should come as no surprise that philosophers, like ordinary human beings, disagree on many things pertaining to human affairs.  One benefit of studying political philosophy is that one might begin to see fragments of one’s own arguments or those of other’s in the texts we will read.  It does not take much modesty to recognize that the political philosophers we will be reading are much more learned than we are, and as such, their arguments will certainly provide fodder for much of the arguments that we might be struggling to make.  In this sense, they will be our guides in helping us formulate coherent arguments as well as our teachers by turning us toward a thought that we have not fully considered.  My task, as your instructor, is to encourage you to take some pains to articulate your own beliefs and to help you reflect upon your beliefs in comparison to other points of view, however similar or different they may be to your own.


To facilitate your introduction of political philosophy, I have chosen to orient our thoughts by two prominent quarrels that have occurred in the history of philosophy.  The first of these is the quarrel between biblical religion and philosophy, and the second is the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.  These quarrels to a great degree are modern, in that it is the moderns who sought to distinguish themselves from all that went before them by claiming that their teaching was something “new” as well as better.  Yet to understand the moderns’ claim of improving upon all that went before their time, one must have a look for oneself at the ancients and the medievals to see whether or not the boasts of modernity are warranted.  To help in this matter, I have chosen Aristotle to represent the ancients and Aquinas to represent the medievals.  It should be noted that Aquinas’s attempt to reconcile the pagan philosophy of Aristotle with Catholic doctrine created much controversy, thus revealing the medieval origins of the quarrel between biblical religion and philosophy, which would only become more incensed with the challenges against Aquinas’ scholasticism from within the Church (namely, nominalism and humanism) and then later from without by Luther’s Protestant theology.  Hobbes’ own thought was informed from these controversies and perhaps could not have made the strides that it did make had it not been for the challenges that Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ thought faced during this period.  Yet, Hobbes aimed to carry this momentum further along, thus contributing in his own right to the dawning of modernity.  For this reason, he will be the main representative of this period.  Although Rousseau doubted the assumption of whether all that came with modernity was better, he nonetheless will act, along with Hobbes, as a representative of the moderns regarding certain fundamental teachings of this period. That said, Rousseau, along with Swift, will also guide our understanding concerning the crisis of modernity, which occurred once the moderns arose victorious over the ancients.  This victory, as the crisis suggests, was not a complete defeat of the ancients, and in turn, some moderns began to take up the weapons of antiquity and put them to use in similar and new ways or emphases in an effort to render smoother or more pronounced some of the ripples left in the wake of the moderns’ victory.  Our task, therefore, will be to grasp as best as we possibly can the significance of the aforementioned quarrels and the resulting crisis.  In doing so, it is my hope that you will begin to understand where we stand today. 








1. Aristotle, The Politics, trans. Carnes Lord, (University of Chicago, 1984).

2. Aquinas, St. Thomas on Politics and Ethics, trans. and ed. Paul E. Sigmund, (Norton & Company, 1988).

3. Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Edwin Curley, (Hackett Publishing Company, 1994).

4. Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses, trans. Roger and Judith Masters, (St. Martin’s Press, 1964).

5. Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (Signet Classics, 1999).


Please purchase the editions listed above.  We will frequently refer to them in class, and it will be time consuming and confusing if we do not all have the same editions.  You “must” bring the text to class that we will be discussing that day.  Failure to comply with this requirement will hurt your participation grade.


READING SCHEDULE (subject to change)


Week 1: August 25, 27, 29                                                          Rousseau’s Second Discourse, pp. 101-141

Week 2: Sept. 3, 5                                                                               Rousseau’s Second Discourse, pp. 141-181

Week 3: Sept 8 (Quiz#1), 10, 12                                                       Aristotle’s Politics, Book I, pp. 35-54

Week 4: Sept 15, 17, 19                                                                     Aristotle’s Politics, Book II, pp. 55-85

Week 5: Sept 22 (Quiz #2), 24, 26                                                   Aristotle’s Politics, Book III, pp. 86-117      

Week 6: Sept 29, Oct. 1, 3                                                                 Aristotle’s Politics, Books IV and V, pp. 118-181

Week 7: Oct. 6 (Quiz #3), 8, 10                                                         Aquinas, pp. 3-43

Week 8: Oct. 13, 15, 17                                                                      Aquinas, pp. 44-77

Week 9: Oct. 20 (Quiz #4), 22, 24                                                    Hobbes’ Leviathan, pp. 1-46

Week 10: Oct. 27, 29, 31                                                                   Hobbes’ Leviathan, pp. 50-100

Week 11: Nov. 3 (Quiz #5), 5, 7                                                       Hobbes’ Leviathan, pp. 106-110, 118-119, 136-138,

172-181, 185-189, 190, 203-204, 210-233, 243-244. 314-316, 453-468. 481-482

Week 12: Nov. 10, 12, 14                                                                  Rousseau’s First Discourse, pp. 33-64.

Week 13: Nov. 17 (Quiz #6), 19, 21                                                Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, xiii-xvi, Parts I and II

Week 14: Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Break begins Nov. 26             Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels continued

Week 15: Dec 1 (Quiz #7), 3, 5                                                   Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels Parts III and IV

Week 16: Dec. 8                                                                                  Final 12:00-1:150 PM




Paper 1: On Rousseau and Book I of Aristotle’s Politics  (Due Sept 29)

Paper 2: On Aristotle and Aquinas (Due Oct 27)

Paper 3: On Hobbes, Aristotle and Aquinas (Due Nov 17)

Paper 4: On Swift and Rousseau regarding the Crisis of Modernity (Due Dec 8)




1.  Attendance: attendance at each class is both expected and required. Attendance will be taken during most classes after the first few days.  It will be taken at the beginning of each class.  Should students arrive “reasonably” late, that is, after attendance has been taken, they will not receive full credit.  Instead, they will be marked absent with a note that they arrived late.  If students are “unreasonably” late, they will not receive any credit whatsoever.  In addition, students who leave class early will be counted absent, unless an early departure has been discussed with the instructor.  After three absences, whether excused or unexcused, each absence after it will lower a student’s final course grade by half a letter grade (that is, a “5” point deduction). All school events or religious holidays that will cause someone to miss a class must be discussed with the instructor during the first week of school.    


[“10 Minute Rule”:  In the unforeseeable and unlikely event that the instructor is later than 10 minutes, the class is cancelled.]


2.  Class Preparation:  The best way to prepare for each class is to read the entire assigned portion of each book prior to the first day we discuss that section. Although one may not understand the author’s argument after preparing for class, the lectures and class discussion will be easier to grasp if you have done at least that much.


3.  Class Participation: The proper kind of participation in the class is expected, required and rewarded.  What is meant by the proper kind of participation is as follows:


First, participation means being attentive to the lectures and discussions. Students who sleep, read the newspaper, play with their cell phones, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive to the lectures and discussions will not be tolerated.  At the instructor’s discretion, you may be administratively dismissed from the course.


Second, participation requires that you are prepared to be questioned about each reading. Moreover, the lectures will presuppose students’ familiarity with the readings.  Good students will not only be present and attentive in class, they will also actively participate by answering the instructor’s questions about the reading, by asking intelligent questions and by making thoughtful observations.


It is important that you understand the kind of discussion sought.  The purpose of discussion is to enable students to raise questions concerning the meaning of the lectures or texts and to relate different arguments, passages and insights to each other. Above all, discussion and the instructor’s questioning of your comments are meant to help you learn how to express your thoughts coherently.


Some classes will be mainly lectures, while most will involve reading and discussing relevant passages in the texts.  Since classes are usually conducted by reading and discussing passages from the assigned readings, it is necessary that you bring the appropriate readings to class.


4.  Quizzes and Papers


Quizzes are given at the beginning of the class.  No make-up quizzes will be given.  The quizzes are short answers, fill in the blanks, or multiple choice.  They will cover the assigned readings and what has been discussed in class.


In your papers, you are to respond as thoughtfully as possible, given the space allotted to you, to the topic that the instructor will distribute in class.  The length of each paper is between 500-800 words.  You must include a word count at the end of each paper.


An “A” on a written assignment requires that you show clarity, economy, and focus.  In other words, one’s paper must be written in an orderly and well-reasoned manner as well as argued from the text with proper citations.  A “B” would mean that you displayed most of these requirements, a “C” only some, a “D” perhaps one, and an “F” none. To achieve satisfactory results, you must first attempt to understand the author as he understood himself.  This attempt requires that you cite the passages of the author that are relevant to answering the paper topic.  When citing, however, it is best if you paraphrase the author’s thoughts, so that the instructor can determine if you know what the author is saying.  In other words, you should rarely quote from the text.  Instead, paraphrase the thought of the author and then place the page number of the text you are paraphrasing at the end of the sentence.  This way the instructor will know that you have diligently read the text and will also be able to compare your paraphrase to the author’s own words.  It should be noted that you are not expected to reword common ideas (e.g., “state of nature” or “the best regime”).  In fact, it is best if you stick to the wording or phrasing of the author while making your argument.  These common ideas will become apparent to you as the class moves along.  What I do not want, however, is for your paper to be made entirely of quotes that contain sentence after sentence of the author’s own words.  Lastly, there is no need to appeal to the arguments of the scholars of Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Swift.  In fact, it is best if you do not, for this often gets students into trouble as regards plagiarism.  Stick to the original text and you should be fine, which means do not quote from the instructor’s lecture either.  You must supply textual evidence for your argument.  That said, your class notes, however, might help guide your analysis of the original text.       


Papers are due on the date specified. Late papers will be immediately reduced by a letter grade, and then a letter grade each week it is late. 


Plagiarism will result in you failing, at least, that assignment and, perhaps, the course.  In addition, a report documenting your plagiarism will be filed with the department and possibly, depending on the circumstances, with Judicial Affairs.  Lastly, if you are caught plagiarizing, then we will have to decide how to determine your final grade, since the normal procedure for calculating your final grade will no longer apply.


5.  Final Grade: 


a. Final grades are based on 5 out of the 7 quizzes, 3 out of the 4 papers, the quality of class participation, and, to a certain degree, on attendance.  The lowest quizzes and paper grade will be dropped.

·             Quizzes                                                         15%

·             Participation                                                  10%

·             Papers                                                            75%


b.       No one will receive an “A” who does not demonstrate the kind of class participation indicated above.

c.     Final course grade is reduced half a letter grade for each absence over the 3rd one.

c.        An “Incomplete” will only be given in extreme situations.  Students who request an “I” but are not passing the course at the time of the request will not be granted an “I”. 





Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that mandates reasonable accommodations be provided for qualified students with disabilities. If a student has a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact the instructor early in the semester (preferably within the first two weeks) so that he can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations the student may need. If a student has not already done so, he/she 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 and its phone number is (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 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 28th. 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.


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