Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Fall 2009



Political Science 251, Section 2:

Introduction to Political Philosophy



Instructor: Lewis Slawsky

Meeting place: DU 252

Meeting Times: Tuesday, 9:30am – 10:45am

 Thursday, 9:30am – 10:45am

Office: DU 476

Office Hours: Tuesday 11:00pm – 1:00pm,

           Thursday 11:00am – 12:00am, or by appointment



Course Description:


The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the study of political philosophy.  Throughout the semester we will examine questions of permanent importance to political life.  By examining the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Machiavelli and Locke, we will address the following sorts of questions:  What is the nature and basis of a political community?  Does such a community have a natural end and purpose to fulfill?  How can the study of political philosophy help us to better understand what constitutes a good life?  What is the relationship between political theory and political practice?  We will discuss the broader more fundamental ideas underlying the study of politics such as regimes, laws, freedom, rights, the relationship between civil and religious authority, and the relationship between philosophy and the city.


Required Texts:


The following are REQUIRED texts. They can be purchased at either of the campus bookstores.


--Plato & Aristophanes.  Four Texts on Socrates, revised ed., translated and with notes by T. G.

West and G. S. West (Cornell University Press)

--Aristotle.  The Politics, translated by Carnes Lord (University of Chicago Press)

--St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics, translated and edited by Paul 

            E. Sigmund (Norton Critical Edition)

--Niccolo Machiavelli.  The Prince, translated by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.

(University of Chicago Press)

--Thomas Hobbes.  Leviathan, edited by E.M. Curley (Hackett)
--John Locke.  Second Treatise of Government,
edited by R.H. Cox (AHM Croft's Classics)

--John Locke.  A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. James H. Tully (Hackett)




Course Requirements:


Class Participation (15%): Proper participation in class is both required and rewarded.  As this is a course concerning the discussion of ideas, simple attendance without participating in discussion is insufficient.  A good student will not only be present and attentive in class, but will also actively participate in class discussion by answering questions about the assigned readings, raising questions, and volunteering thoughtful observations about the material.  Proper class participation also requires that the student behave with courtesy and regard for others’ comments.  Frequent class discussion will foster a classroom environment that will be far more interesting and rewarding than one in which the instructor simply lectures every day. The instructor also requests that all mobile phones, pagers, etc. be turned off during class. 


Attendance: Please be advised that there is an attendance policy for this course.  Attendance at each class meeting is both expected and required. Students who are habitually absent can expect extreme difficulty in this course.  Being in attendance is defined as “being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of each class and remaining until class is dismissed.”  Please do not come late to class, as this is both discourteous and disruptive.  Students who come to class after attendance has been taken will be considered absent.  If there are special circumstances regarding this matter, please discuss them with the instructor as early as possible.  Students with extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce appropriate documentation indicating the nature and duration of the illness.  This documentation should be provided to the instructor at the first class upon returning.  Extended absences are highly discouraged, as they will adversely affect the student’s grade.  The student’s final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each absence over 5.


Quizzes (25%): There will be 5 quizzes given throughout the semester.  Only 4 of these quizzes will count toward the student’s final grade.  Although the instructor will drop the student’s lowest quiz score, one should keep in mind that the remaining 4 quizzes comprise 25% of the student’s final grade in the course. The quizzes will consist of a few short answer questions to be completed at the beginning of class on the dates specified in the class schedule.  Each quiz will cover the class lectures and assigned readings from the preceding weeks, as well as readings assigned for the day of the quiz.  Make-up quizzes will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.  The make-up quizzes will be significantly more difficult than the original.  Please keep in mind that it is in the student’s best interest to avoid make-up quizzes if at all possible.


Essay (30%): There will be a short essay (1400-1500 words) assigned on the date specified in the class schedule below.  The essay is to be handed in at the beginning of class, two weeks after it is assigned, on the due date given in the schedule below.  Late papers will be accepted up to three days after the due date, however, these papers will be docked one letter grade for each day they are late.  The 1400-1500 word requirement will be taken seriously.  Make sure that you provide a word count on the first page of your essay.  Any paper that fails to fulfill the word requirement will be docked points. 


Any evidence of plagiarism will be treated in accordance with university and departmental policies and procedures.  Criteria for these offenses are described in the Student Judicial Code and the 2003-2004 Undergraduate Catalog.  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.


Comprehensive Final Examination (30%):  The final examination will be given in class on the date assigned by the university.  Please see the class schedule below.  This final exam will count for 30% of the student’s final grade in the course.  It will be a comprehensive exam comprised of essay questions regarding any of the lectures and assigned texts covered in this course.  In other words, all material covered throughout the course will be considered “fair game.”  Students will be expected to bring bluebooks to the final examination. Make-up examinations will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.  The make-up exams will be significantly more difficult than the original.  It is in the student’s best interest to avoid make-up exams if at all possible.

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 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


Course Schedule:


Please note:

- The assignment and test dates are fixed.

- The lecture schedule indicates the order in which we will be reading the works, and what excerpts we will be reading from the various authors. It is very likely that there will be some deviation from the schedule below, day to day. To know how to prepare for each class, it is crucial that you are always present.


Tuesday, Aug. 25th  Introduction to the course/What is Political Philosophy?

Thursday, Aug. 27th             Plato’s Apology of Socrates, 17a-24a (pgs. 63-73)

Tuesday, Sept. 1st    Plato’s Apology of Socrates, 24b-35d (pgs. 73-89)

Thursday, Sept. 3rd  Plato’s Apology of Socrates, 35e-42a (pgs. 89-97)                              [First Quiz]

Tuesday, Sept. 8th    Aristotle’s Politics, Book One, chapters 1-7 (pgs. 35-44)

Thursday, Sept. 10th            Aristotle’s Politics, Book One, chapters 8-13 (pgs. 44-54)

Tuesday, Sept. 15th  Aristotle’s Politics, Book Three, chapters 1-4 (pgs. 86-92)                            [Essay Topics to be distributed in class]

Thursday, Sept. 17th            Aristotle’s Politics, Book Three, chapters 5-9 (pgs. 92-99)       

Tuesday, Sept. 22nd Aristotle’s Politics, Book Three, chapters 10-13 (pgs. 100-108) [Second Quiz]                  




Thursday, Sept. 24th            Excerpts from the Bible (Isaiah 6:1-7, 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:13 – these excerpts will be made available in class)

Aquinas on Politics and Ethics, The Summa of Theology, questions 2, 12, & 13 (pgs. 30-33)

Tuesday, Sept. 29th  Aquinas on Politics and Ethics, The Treatise on Law,        questions 90-7 (pgs. 44-60)                                                                          

Thursday, Oct. 1st   Machiavelli’s Prince, Dedicatory Letter; chapters 1-5 (pgs. 3-21)       

Tuesday, Oct. 6th     Machiavelli’s Prince, chapters 6-10 (pgs. 21-44)

Thursday, Oct. 8th   Machiavelli’s Prince, chapters 11-14 (pgs. 45-60)                                         [Third Quiz]                             

Tuesday, Oct. 13th   Machiavelli’s Prince, chapters 15-20 (pgs. 61-87)

Thursday, Oct. 15th Machiavelli’s Prince, chapters 21-26 (pgs. 87-105)

Friday, Oct. 16th      [Deadline for Withdrawal from the Course]                                                            

Tuesday, Oct. 20th   Hobbes’s Leviathan, Letter Dedicatory to Francis Godolphin;

The Introduction; chapters 1-12 (pgs. 1-74)

Thursday, Oct. 22nd Hobbes’s Leviathan, chapters 13-16 (pgs. 74-105)                                                                                  [Essay Due]

Tuesday, Oct. 27th   Hobbes’s Leviathan, chapters 17-20 (pgs. 106-135)

Thursday, Oct. 29th Hobbes’s Leviathan, chapters 21, 29-30 (pgs. 136-145 & 210-233) [Fourth Quiz]

Tuesday, Nov. 3rd    Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, chapters 1-5 (pgs. 1-31)

Thursday, Nov. 5th  Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, chapters 6-7 (pgs. 32-57)

Tuesday, Nov. 10th  Locke’s Second Treatise of Government,                                                chapters 8-10 (pgs. 58-80)


Thursday, Nov. 12th            Locke’s Second Treatise of Government,                                                             chapters 11-15 (pgs. 81-108)

Tuesday, Nov. 17th  Locke’s Second Treatise of Government,                                                        chapters 16-19 (pgs. 109-148)                                                                     [Fifth Quiz]

Thursday, Nov. 19th Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (pgs. 21-58)

Tuesday, Nov. 24th   Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (continued)

Wednesday, Nov. 25th – Monday, Nov. 30th, Thanksgiving Break

Tuesday, Dec. 1st – Final Lecture

Thursday, Dec. 3rd – Review

Thursday, Dec. 10th, 10:00 a.m.-11:50 a.m. – [Final Exam]