Introduction to Political Philosophy

Political Science 251, Section 2

Spring 2005

Course Meeting Place:  Du 459

Course Meeting Time:  T/Th 8:00-9:15


Instructor:  Jason Jividen                                              

Office:  Zu 424

Office hours: T/Th 9:30-11:00 & by appointment     

Phone:  753-7051



Course Description:  The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the study of political philosophy.  Throughout the semester we will examine some of the permanent questions of importance to political life.  By examining the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Machiavelli, Hobbes, 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, just to name a few.


Required Texts:  As we will be reading and referring to particular passages in these texts, it is essential that each student brings a copy of these editions to class.  Both the Village Commons and the Holmes Student Center Bookstore should have copies of these editions.


1. Plato and Aristophanes, Four Texts on Socrates.  Revised Edition.  Translated by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West.  Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 1998.

2. Xenophon. Hiero or Tyrannicus. [A short dialogue on reserve at Founders Memorial Library].

3. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince. Translated by Leo Paul S. de Alvarez.  Prospect Heights:  Waveland University Press, 1989.

4. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Edited by C.B. Macpherson.  New York:  Penguin Classics, 1985.

5. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government.  Edited by C. B. Macpherson.  Indianapolis:  Hackett Publishing Company, 1980.


Attendance Policy:  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.”  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 unexcused absence over 3. 


Classroom Etiquette:  Please do not come late to class, as this is both discourteous and disruptive.  Students who come to class after attendance has been taken, or leave during class without permission from the instructor, will be considered absent.  If there are special circumstances regarding this matter, please discuss them with the instructor as early as possible.  Students who simply cannot make it to class on time, for whatever reason, are encouraged not to take this course.  In addition to coming to class on time, the instructor requests that students refrain from sleeping, text messaging, talking on cell phones, reading the newspaper, etc.  These things are discourteous and disruptive both to the instructor and to other classmates.  All cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices which make noise are to be turned off before entering the classroom.  Any student whose phone rings during class will first be given a reminder of this policy. After this warning, if a phone rings again the student will be asked to leave the class.


Class Participation:  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.  The 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 proper courtesy and regard for others’ comments.  In general, no one should talk while someone else is talking.  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. Although the instructor will not give a formal grade for class participation, he reserves the right to raise a student’s grade if he judges that student’s participation to have been exceptionally good.  Grades will not be lowered merely for lack of active class participation. 


Grading:  Final course grades are based upon the quizzes, required written assignments, and final exam, as well as the regularity and quality of class participation, less any penalties due to extended unexcused absences. Please note that incompletes will be given only in the most extraordinary of circumstances.  The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructor’s discretion. All requests for incomplete must be submitted in writing to the instructor by May 5, 2005. The written request must include the reason for the request and when the incomplete will be completed.  Grading will be distributed as follows:


1. 10 of 11 Quizzes:  30% of the final grade

2. Essay Assignment #1:  20%

3. Essay Assignment #2:  20%

4. Cumulative Final Exam:  30%


Final grades will be assigned according to a ten-point system.  A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, F=0-59%.  The instructor will not give a formal grade for class participation, although he reserves the right to raise a student’s grade if he judges that student’s participation to have been exceptionally good.  Grades will not be lowered merely for lack of active class participation.  Please remember that the student’s final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each unexcused absence over 3. 


Quizzes:  There will be 11 quizzes given throughout the semester.  Please see the course schedule below.  Only 10 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 10 quizzes comprise 30% 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 below.  Each quiz will cover the class lectures and assigned readings from the preceding week, as well as readings assigned for the day of the quiz.  Make-up quizzes will be given only in the most extraordinary of circumstances and only with adequate documentation that the absence was absolutely unavoidable.  Thus, make-up quizzes are rarely given.  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 Assignments:  There will be two essay assignments (900-1000 words each) assigned on the dates specified in the class schedule below.  Each of these essays will comprise 20% of the student’s grade.  Essays are to be handed in at the beginning of class two weeks after the assignments are made, on the due dates 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 word requirement will be taken seriously.  Please provide a word count on the first page of your essay.  Any paper that fails to fulfill the word requirement (i.e. too many words or too few) will be docked points.  Any evidence of plagiarism will be treated in accordance with university and departmental policies and procedures.  See “Academic Misconduct” below. 


Final Examination:  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 cumulative exam comprised of short answer and essay questions regarding any of the lectures and assigned readings 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 in the most extraordinary of circumstances and only with adequate documentation that the absence was absolutely 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.


Academic Misconduct:  The NIU Undergraduate Catalog states that “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.”  Regarding your essay assignments, note that this includes the cutting and pasting of internet sources, including study guides, notes, etc.


Appointments:  The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to you.  If you cannot come during his scheduled office hours, please e-mail him to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.  His office number, phone number, and e-mail address are at the beginning of the syllabus.  If you call during his office hours and are unable to reach him, try to call again after a few minutes.  If he is still unavailable, please e-mail him and he will get back to you promptly. 


Some Suggestions:   1. Class Preparation--The best way to prepare for each class is to do the readings at least once (some require more than one reading) prior to the first day we begin each unit.  You will be much better able to participate in discussion and to grasp the class discussions if you have done so.         2. Good Note Taking--Good note taking is important to your success in this class.  Learn to listen carefully to the arguments made and write them down as best you can. Review your notes after class to see if they make sense.  By reviewing them soon after they are taken, sometimes you can remember things that will make sense out of what is confusing. 3. Establish Study Groups--Get together with other students periodically to go over one another’s notes.  If you got 50% of the lecture and your study partners got 50%, perhaps among you, you will have 75%.  What remains unclear can be discussed with the instructor.  Be sure to write down the questions asked by the instructor and those asked by other students.  If you write down their questions, as well as their answers, you will benefit.


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 28. 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. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


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 the instructor early in the semester (preferably within the fist two weeks) so that he 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).


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 following schedule is meant to serve as a broad outline of the course.  The instructor reserves the right to make reasonable adjustments to the schedule if necessary.



I. Introduction:


January 18:  What is political philosophy and why is it worth studying?



II. Plato’s Apology of Socrates:


January 20:  17a-24b (pp. 63-73).


January 25:  24b-35d (pp. 73-89).


January 27:  Quiz 1, 35e-42e (pp. 89-97).



III. Plato’s Crito:


February 1:  43a-50a (pp. 99-108).


February 3:  Quiz 2, 50a-54e (pp. 108-114).



IV. Xenophon’s Hiero or Tyrannicus:


February 8:  Sections 1-3 (pp. 1-9).


February 10:  Quiz 3, Sections 4-7 (pp. 9-14).


February 15:  Sections 8-11 (pp. 14-20).  Hand out first essay assignment—due March 1 at the beginning of class.



V. Machiavelli’s The Prince:


February 17:  Quiz 4, Epistle Dedicatory and Chapters 1-5 (pp. 1-31). 


February 22:  Chapters 6-8 (pp. 32-56).


February 24:  Quiz 5, Chapters 9-11 (pp. 57-70).


March 1:  Chapters 12-14 (pp. 71-92).  First essay assignment due today at the beginning of class.


March 3:  Quiz 6, Chapters 15-18 (pp.93-110).


March 8:  Chapter 19-23 (pp. 111-142).


March 10:  Quiz 7, Chapters 24-26 (pp. 143-158).


March 15-17:  No Class—Spring Break.



VI. Hobbes’ Leviathan:


March 22:  Author’s Introduction (pp.81-83), Chapter 8 (p. 139 only), Chapter 10 (p.150, 1st paragraph only), Chapter 11 (pp.160-161, 1st and 2nd paragraphs only) and Chapter 13 (pp.183-188).


March 24:  Quiz 8, Chapter 14 (pp.189-201).


March 29:  Chapter 15 and Chapter 17 (pp.201-217; pp.223-228).


March 31:  Quiz 9, Chapters 18-19 (pp.228-251).


April 5:  Chapter 21 (pp.261-273).


April 7:  Quiz 10, Chapter 29 (pp.363-376), Chapter 30 (pp. 377-378 and pp. 383-385 only).  Hand out second essay assignment—due April 21 at the beginning of class.



VII. Locke’s Second Treatise of Government:


April 12:  Preface and Chapters 1-4 (pp.5-18).


April 14:  Quiz 11, Chapter 5 (pp.18-30).


April 19:  Chapters 6-7 (pp.30-51).


April 21:  Chapters 8-11 (pp.52-75).  Second essay assignment due today at the beginning of class.


April 26:  Chapter 12 (pp.75-77), Chapter 13 (§150 only, p.78), Chapter 14 (pp.83-88), and Chapter 18 (pp.101-107).         


April 28:  Chapter 19 (§211-230) (pp.107-116); (§240-243) (pp.123-124).


VIII. The Declaration of Independence:


May 3:  The Declaration of Independence (on reserve at FML; also easily found on-line).


May 5:  Catch-Up and Review.



May 10:  Cumulative Final Examination, 8:00-9:50 a.m.  Essay and short answer questions.  BRING BLUEBOOKS!!