NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY

                 DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

                                 

Political Science 651                 Fall 2008

Modernity and Religion               Office Hours: MTW 11-11:50

Class Meets M 3:30-6:10 DU 464        and by appt.

Mr. Glenn                             Office: Zu 113                           

E-mail:gglenn@niu.edu                 Phone 3-1091

 

REQUIRED TEXTS

 

     Three Texts are required of all students.

1) John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration.

2) John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity. These are available at both bookstores.

3) The additional required readings listed below under “Approximate Schedule” are in a photocopied Reading Packet available from the instructor.

4) In addition, all students will write a 1500 word review of what they have learned from reading one of the following books. Vicki Sullivan, Machiavelli’s Three Rome’s: Religion, Human Liberty, and Politics Reformed(1996).Steven B. Smith, Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity(1997.

   Please submit in writing (email is best) which book you intend to review. Please do this by Monday September 8. The reviews are due September 15 (for Sullivan) and October 6 (for Smith). We will set aside some time on these dates for those who reviewed the same book to present a joint oral discussion for the rest of us on what they learned.  

 

Approximate Schedule

                                 

August 25     Introduction. Guiding question of the class: what did the modern political philosophers think they were doing to, with and about revealed religion? What is modernity? What is religion? Leo Strauss on modernity and on reason and revelation.

September 1   No class - university holiday. We will make up the missed class on December 8.

September 8   Students are to notify professor by today in writing whether they intend to review Sullivan or Smith.

September 8  Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch. V-VIII, XIV-XVI, XXV-XXVI

September 15  1500 word review of the Sullivan book is due for those students who have chosen to review it.

September 15  Machiavelli, The Discourses, Bk.I, Ch. XI-XIII,                     XXIII-XXVII. Oral presentations on Sullivan,                   Machiavelli’s Three Rome’s.

September 22  Hobbes,Leviathan, Ch. XII, XXXI-XXXIII.

September 29  Cooke, Hobbes and Christianity, Ch. 1-2 (in reading packet)Hobbes and Christianity. Spinoza, Theological Political Treatise, Ch. VI, VII, XV.

October 6     1500 word review of the Smith book due today for those who have chosen to review it.

October 6     Leo Strauss, "Preface to the English                           Translation" of Spinoza's Critique of Religion.

              Oral Presentation on Smith’s book on Spinoza.

October 13    Locke, [First] Letter on Toleration

October 20    [First] Letter on Toleration (cont.) Fourth Letter on Toleration,(entire).

October 27    Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity

November 3    Reasonableness(cont.)

November 10  Reasonableness(cont.)

November 17   Research Papers due.

              Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding

              (Selections)

November 24   TAKE HOME EXAM HANDED OUT. DUE December 8.                     Rousseau, The Social Contract, Ch. VIII

Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance

December 1    Tocqueville,Democracy in America, pp. 268-77; 393-418; 514-21. 

December 8    (Monday) TAKE-HOME FINAL EXAM DUE. Make-up class.

 

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION

 

     Students are expected to come to each class having done the readings for that day’s discussion and to be prepared both to be interrogated and to raise questions about them. 

 

WRITTEN AND ORAL PRESENTATION REQUIREMENTS

 

     1. A research paper of 2500-3000 words is due Monday November 17.  The exact topic of that paper is to be agreed upon between the professor and student although a list of acceptable topics follows. The purpose of the paper is to see how well you can lay out an interpretive argument, based on some text we have read in class or which is on Reserve, about a question or topic related to the subject matter of this class. The paper should focus primarily on primary sources though at least some references to secondary sources is appropriate. In some cases, a paper which focuses on secondary sources is acceptable.

2. A 1500 word review of either the Sullivan or Smith books. The students who review the same books will be expected to do a joint oral presentation on the book upon our finishing the readings for that philosopher. 

     3. A take-home final examination. This will be handed out November 24 and is due at the scheduled exam time December 8. However, we will hold a regular class May 4 to make up for the class we will missed September 1. I have not scheduled any readings for that day on the assumption that we will be behind.   

 

GRADING AND INCOMPLETES     

Except as indicated above, incompletes are given only for unforeseeable events which make impossible completion of the course work in timely fashion and especially by the end of the semester. Students are responsible for informing the professor of such events, and for securing his consent to an incomplete, as promptly as possible.

    

     An "A" grade in the class requires regular (daily) evidence of having read and seen relationships among parts of the text; raising questions about what the text seems to mean or whether what it seems to mean makes sense, either in itself or in relation to the text's apparent meaning elsewhere.  It also helps to be able to answer, both thoughtfully and to the point, questions put by the professor. Comments not germane to the topic under discussion are discouraged.

    

     An "A" in the class also requires that the book review, research paper and final exam be written with clarity, economy, and focus. Both the paper and the final examination must show understanding of the material beyond the obvious.  Showing how the text sheds light on contemporary issues is important but should not get in the way of first understanding the text in the manner intended by the author or authors.

 

     Course grades are based on both written assignments and quality of oral participation in the seminar.

 

     The following are recommended additional reading and will be put on reserve.

                       

Studies on Leo Strauss’ understanding of 1) the relation of reason and revelation and 2) on what constitutes “modernity.”

 

In class, we will pay only brief attention to Strauss’ thought on the question of reason and revelation. However, that thought is important for understanding the context within which the professor understands the subject matter of this class. Hence, some relevant essays of Strauss are included in the Reading Packet mentioned above under Required Texts. Those essays could be profitably read, but are not required readings for the course. These readings would be suitable for papers.

 

Here are some useful secondary readings on this topic which I have placed on Reserve.

Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper eds., Faith and Political     Philosophy: The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964 (1993). Voegelin was the major    Christian political theorist trying to understand    modernity during Strauss’ lifetime. The two made common      cause in trying to resuscitate political philosophy against the positivism and historicism which had come to    dominate contemporary thought. This volume records their    efforts to understand each other’s very different     enterprises. Their differences centrally concerned      “religion.”

Kenneth Hart Green, Jew and Philosopher: The Return to    Maimonides in the Jewish Thought of Leo Strauss (1993).

David Novack ed., Leo Strauss and Judaism: Jerusalem Athens            

     Critically Revisited (1996).

 

 

Recommended studies on the topics central to this class which are also on Reserve.

 

Modern Political Philosophers and religion

I have found the following books competent and helpful for understanding the question central to this course: what were the early modern political philosophers trying to do to, with and about revealed “religion.” In various ways, the studies all are influenced by the view that modernity represents a fundamental break with, and a rejection of, Christianity specifically and with revealed religion generally. Whether they go further and suggest that the modernity they recommend can do without Christianity or revealed religion is something we will try to understand. I believe “a fundamental break with Christianity” means that modernity is not some sort of secularized Christianity but a root and branch rejection of it. This is in contrast to the Hancock and Walsh readings below.

 

Vicki Sullivan, Machiavelli’s Three Rome’s: Religion, Human

Liberty, and Politics Reformed (1996). The three are Christian Rome, ancient pagan Rome, and a new Rome Machiavelli proposes which will overcome the deficiencies of the first two. Of special importance is Machiavelli’s understandings of Christianity’s essential political defects. In a word, Christianity is tyrannical. Overcoming that, requires a revolutionary reconstruction of politics and religion.

 

Paul D. Cooke, Hobbes and Christianity: Reassessing the Bible in

Leviathan(1996). The second half of Leviathan is political theology, though of a new kind. It is systematically materialist. Everything that is, is body. Hence whatever is not body, is not. So no spirits. Hence, God is body, etc. In other words, from the perspective of traditional religion, this is (implicitly at least) atheistic political theology. Today Hobbes’ political theology is rarely studied. But Cooke argues that Hobbes thought theology of the kind he was proposing was needed in order to support the political order he was establishing.

 

Steven B. Smith, Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish

Identity (1997). Smith argues that Spinoza sought to remake Judaism by emancipating it from its’ theological tradition and substituting freedom, autonomy, religious toleration and a progressive philosophy of history. To these ends, he used the language of modern natural right and social contract to recommend liberal and democratic institutions. Judaism so reformed appears to become a means to usher in liberal modernity.

 

Modernity and Christianity

Ralph Hancock, Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics (1989). Argues that Calvin is a major founder of, and   hence that Christian religion has a place in, or is part of

“modernity.” Hancock opposes the view of the relation of Christianity and modernity in the Sullivan, Cooke and Smith books. These latter share Strauss’ view that modernity is not secularized Christianity. Rather modernity is fundamentally a Hobbesian/Spinozistic project which proposes solving the theological/political (and reason/revelation) problems by at least implicit atheism.  

David Walsh, The Growth of the Liberal Soul (1997). “Liberal” is sometimes, as in this book, equated with “modernity.” Walsh’s is a recent, intelligent attempt to give an overall account of the development of liberal (i.e. modern) political philosophy from the point of view of its effect on the soul. Walsh appreciates liberalism’s success in deepening our appreciation of the value of the individual. He is influenced by Weber’s thesis that modernity is secularized Christianity. Walsh questions whether liberalism can preserve itself if it cuts itself off from that faith. This is a kind of Catholic or Christian account of modernity in contrast to Strauss, Sullivan, Cooke and Smith.  

 

Readings/Topics on Secularization

 

D. L. Munby, The Idea of a Secular Society , Ch. 1 of  The Idea  

of a Secular Society and its Significance for Christians (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 9-35.

 

     This is a kind of 20th century intellectual history of the development of Asecular society.@ It is striking for its’understanding of Asecular society@ which, for someone who thinks of secularism in contrast to religion, is frankly odd (p. 14). One manifestation of that oddness is that Nazi Germany is not understood to be a secular society. It is apparently the case that, for Munby, secular is “liberal”. Hence,by definition, illiberal states cannot be secular. From the point of view that “secular” means a society or government not based on Biblical religion or on faith in the Biblical God, Naziism or Stalinism would be “secular.” That is, from that point of view, one would need to distinguish “liberal secularism” from “illiberal secularism”. In contrast, Munby’s point of view that “secular” is by definition “liberal” denies that distinction. Hence, Naziism or Stalinism is like belief in the Biblical God. What that means, and why it is important, you will need to read his article to see. While doing that, try to figure out what Munby=s key idea is that there can be such a thing as Athe neutral society.@ And what are the 6 characteristics he sees of a secular society?

 

Gilles Kepel, “Religions in a Confused World , Introduction to

The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World (Penn State University Press, 1994), pp. 1-12, and 191-203.

 

     This is an intellectual and political history of “the last quarter of the 20th century” respecting “the relationship between religion and politics.” He argues that at the end of WWII “it seemed that the realm of politics had finally broken away from religion, the culmination of a process which the philosophers of the Enlightenment are generally held to have been the main initiators.” Subsequently however, he claims, that “a worldwide discrediting of modernism” has led to a resurgence of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. His perspective sees these religions as essentially the same as communism “the great atheist messianic ideology of the twentieth century.” Is this a secular perspective or a liberal perspective, or something else?

 

Mehtzad Boroujerdi, “Can Islam be Secularized”?  From M.R.

Ghanoonparvar and Faridoun Farrokh eds., In Transition: Essays on Culture and Identity in the Middle Eastern Society (Texas A & M University Press, 1994), pp. 55-61.

 

     Confronts the dominant scholarly view that secularization/secularism has not happened and will not happen in Islam. Makes an important distinction between secularism as an idea and secularization as a social process.

 

Ronald Thiemann, “Public Religion in a Pluralistic

Democracy: A Proposal”. This chapter 6 of Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma for Democracy (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1996), pp 121-143.

 

     This article rarely if even speaks of secularism. Instead the language is “pluralistic Democracy”. The question he addresses is whether religiously based arguments are legitimate and hence to be permitted within a “pluralistic democracy”? This is the question which Rawls put on the table and which Rawlsians continue to address. Thiemann, like Rawls, presupposes liberalism of a certain kind, though he is open to tolerating explicitly religious arguments of a certain kind. The question is “of what kind”? To see the extent to which his argument presupposes liberalism of a kind, ask yourself what would a Nazi or a Communist say about whether religiously based arguments have a place in public policy.

 

John Kean, “The limits of secularism” The Times Literary

     Supplement, 9 January 1998

 

     An historically informed argument that states “the belief that the modern world is irreversibly destroying its religious foundations is a child of mid nineteenth-century Europe” while the problem of the relation of the spiritual and temporal (“secular) power is far older. His use of “secular” to mean temporal or worldly is faithful to the Latin meaning of secular as “the world.” Yet he sees crucial difficulties in, and incoherencies with, secularism. He thinks it is “implied agnosticism and potential atheism.” Worse is secularisms’ “theoretical and practical affinity with political despotism.” ‘[t]he principle of secularism . . . is arguably founded upon a sublimated version of the Christian belief in the necessity of deciding for non-Christian others what they can think or say—or even whether they are capable of thinking and saying anything at all.” He presents an extended reflection of the tension between secularists and Islam and raises thoughtfully questions such as whether “a new desecularized compromise between non-believers and believers is now required”?

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

FOR READING PACKET “RELIGION AND MODERNITY”

FALL 2008

                                                READING PACKET

SYLLABUS

1. MACHIAVELLI, THE PRINCE (SELECTIONS)                   1-18

2. MACHIAVELLI, THE DISCOURSES (SELECTIONS)          19-27

3. HOBBES, LEVIATHAN (SELECTIONS)                   28-46

4. SPINOZA, THEOLOGICO-POLITICAL TREATISE (SELECTIONS)    47-72

5. ROUSSEAU, THE SOCIAL CONTRACT (SELECTIONS)        73-78

6. LOCKE, FOURTH LETTER ON TOLERATION                79-92

7. JOHN TUCKER, AN ELECTION SERMON (1771)            93-102

8. JAMES MADISON, “A MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE

      AGAINST RELIGIOUS ASSESSMENTS” (1785)          103-08

9. THOMAS JEFFERSON, NOTES ON VIRGINIA & LETTERS          109-21

10. TOCQUEVILLE, DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA (SELECTIONS)   122-44

11. HILAIL GILDIN, “DEJA JEW ALL OVER AGAIN: DANNHAUSER

ON LEO STRAUSS AND JUDAISM” (1997)                   145-49

12. LEO STRAUSS, “PREFACE TO SPINOZA’S CRITIQUE

     OF RELIGION” (1962)                             156-86

13. LEO STRAUSS, “PROGRESS OR RETURN: THE CONTEMPORARY

     CRISIS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION” (1952,1982)     186-200

14. LEO STRAUSS, “THE MUTUAL INFLUENCE OF THEOLOGY AND

     PHILOSOPHY” (1954, 1979)                             201-08

15. LEO STRAUSS, “JERUSALEM AND ATHENS.” TWO LECTURES

ONE ENTITLED “THE BEGINNING OF THE BIBLE AND ITS

GREEK COUNTERPARTS” AND THE OTHER ENTITLED

“ON SOCRATES AND THE PROPHETS” (1967)           209-36

16. LEO STRAUSS, “ON THE INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS”

     (DELIVERED 1957, PUBLISHED 1981)                237-53

17. HARRY JAFFA, “THE LEGACY OF LEO STRAUSS” (1984)  254-66

18. THOMAS PANGLE, “THE PLATONISM OF LEO STRAUSS:

     A REPLY TO HARRY JAFFA (1985)                        254-66

19. HARRY JAFFA. “THE LEGACY OF LEO STRAUSS DEFENDED”     270-74

20. FR. JAMES LEHRBERGER, “A TRUE AND ADEQUATE ACCOUNT

OF THE WHOLE: LEO STRAUSS AND THOMAS AQUINAS ON

     REASON AND REVELATION” (1990)                        275-97

21. LOCKE, AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING

     (SELECTIONS)                                    298-332

22. OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (SECULAR”, SECULARISM”,

“CHARITY”, “TOLERATION” AND “RELIGION”)         333-336

23. NIETZSCHE, TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS & THE GAY SCIENCE    337-338

24. PAUL COOKE, HOBBES AND CHRISTIANITY, Preface,

Chs. 1 and 2                                    339-363