Introduction to Political Philosophy

Political Science 251 Section 02

Spring 2007

Course Meeting Place: DU 461

Course Meeting Time: TTH 2:00pm-3:15pm


Instructor: Megan Kerr

Office: DuSable 476

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays (2:00pm-3:30pm) and by appointment.

Office Phone Number: 753-1818 (call only during office hours)



Course Description: This course provides students an introduction to the study of political philosophy. Throughout the semester, we will examine some of the permanent and important questions relating to political life. By careful study of the course readings from the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Machiavelli, and Locke, we will examine the following 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? With these questions in mind, we will also discuss the 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.


By the end of the semester, students should be able to identify the positions of several political philosophers in regard to the above questions and be able to notice agreements and disagreements among them.


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. The books are available in the Holmes Student Center Bookstore and at the Village Commons Bookstore. They are also commonly available at many online booksellers and commercial bookstores in the area.


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 that the instructor will make available to

    students at a later date].


3. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. Translated by Leo Paul S. de Alvarez. Prospect Heights:

    Waveland University Press, 1989.



4. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. Edited by C.B. Machpherson. 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 difficulty in this course. Being in attendance is defined as Rbeing present when attendance is taken at the beginning of each class and remaining until class is dismissed.S 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 studentUs grade. The studentUs final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each unexcused absence over 4.


Classroom Etiquette: Please do not come late to class, as this is both disruptive and impolite. 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 soon 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 impolite and disruptive both to the instructor and to other students. All cell phones, pagers, and or any electronic devices that 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. Simple attendance without participating in discussion is insufficient, for this is a course concerning the discussion of ideas. 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 students behave with proper courtesy towards their fellow students. Simply, this means that no one should take 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. Class participation also constitutes 10% of your final grade for this course.


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 circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing the timely completion of the course. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructorUs discretion. All requests for incompletes must be submitted in writing to the instructor by

May 2007. The written request must include the reason for the request and when the incomplete will be completed. Grading will be distributed as follows:


1. Top 5 scores of journals and quizzes: 30%

2. Midterm Essay: 30%

3. Cumulative Final Exam: 30%

4. Class Participation: 10%


Final grades will be assigned according to a ten-point system. A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, and F=0-59%. Please remember that a studentUs final grade will be reduced half a letter grade for each unexcused absence over 4.


Quizzes: There will be 4 quizzes given throughout the semester. Please see the course schedule below. 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 previous week, as well as readings assigned for the day of the quiz. Make-up quizzes will be given only in the most extraordinary circumstances and only with adequate documentation that the absence was absolutely unavoidable. But the make-up quizzes will be significantly more difficult than the original. Please keep in mind that it is in the studentUs best interest to avoid make-up quizzes if at all possible.


Journals: There will be 3 journal entries assigned throughout the semester. Please see the course schedule below. Each journal entry will contain at least 500 words in which the student will point out questions, troubling issues, or areas of disagreement (topics left completely to the studentUs discretion) in the readings from the previous week. Complete journal entries must be turned in at the beginning of class on the assigned dates as designated in the syllabus below.


Essay Assignment: There will be one essay (1500-2000 words) assigned on the date specified in the class schedule below. This essay will comprise 30% of the studentUs final grade in this course. The essay is to be handed in at the beginning of class two weeks after the assignments are made, on the due dates given in class 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 will be docked points. Please also be aware that the University Writing Center, located in the lower level of the Stevenson South Tower, as well as the instructor, can be of assistance in any writing issues that might appear. Any evidence of plagiarism will be treated in accordance with university and departmental policies and procedures. See RAcademic MisconductS below.


Final Examination: The final examination will be given in class on the date assigned by the university. Please see the class schedule below. The final exam will count for 30% of the studentUs final grade. It will be comprised of essay and short answer questions from material found in the class readings and from material presented during class lectures. Rather than asking students to recall more specific material (the kinds of questions asked by the instructor on quizzes), the instructor ask you broader questions, which in many cases will ask students to compare and contrast two philosophersU views on a particular subject which they both address. Students will be expected to bring bluebooks to the final examination. Make-up examinations will be given only in the most extraordinary 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 studentUs best interest to avoid make-up exams if at all possible.


Academic Misconduct: The NIU Undergraduate Catalog states that Rstudents 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.S Regarding the essay assignment, 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 students. If students cannot come during her scheduled office hours, please e-mail her to schedule a mutually convenient appointment. Her office number, phone number, and e-mail address are found on the first page of the class syllabus.


Some Suggestions for Success in this Course:


1. Class Participation-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. Also be sure to

    read the assigned passages slowly and carefully. Students will be better prepared to participate

    in class discussions if they follow this advice. After each class, it can also be helpful to reread

    the assigned passages just covered during class discussion.


2. Good Note Taking-This skill is critical to studentsU success in this course. Learn to listen

    carefully to the arguments made by the instructor and the questions posed by other students.

    Then write these comments down. Review these notes to see if they make sense. By reviewing

    class notes soon after they are taken, sometimes a student can recall things that will make

    sense out of what is confusing.


3. Establish Study Groups-Get together (either in person or through e-mail) with other students

    periodically (such as once a week) to go over one anotherUs notes and the class readings.


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 DepartmentUs 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 studentUs name and one without the studentUs name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.


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 she 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.


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:


    Tuesday January 16: Introduction to the course (reviewing the syllabus). What is political

    philosophy and why is it worth studying?


II. PlatoUs Apology of Socrates:


    Thursday January 18: 17a-24a (pp.63-73).


    Tuesday January 23: 24b-30d (pp.73-82).


    Thursday January 25: 30e-35d (pp.82-89). Quiz #1


    Tuesday January 30: 30e-42a (pp.89-97). 


III.  PlatoUs Crito:


      Thursday February 01: 43a-46a (pp.99-104).


      Tuesday February 06: 46b-51b: (pp.104-110).


      Thursday February 08: 51d-54c (pp.110-114). Journal #1


IV. XenophonUs Hiero or Tyrannicus:


      Tuesday February 13: Sections 1-4 (pp.1-10).


      Thursday February 15: Sections 5-7 (pp.10-14). Quiz #2


      Tuesday February 20: Sections 8-11 (pp.14-20).  


V. MachiavelliUs The Prince:


     Thursday February 22: Epistle Dedicatory and Chapters 1-2 (pp.1-10).


     Tuesday February 27: Chapter 3 (pp.11-24).


     Thursday March 01: Chapters 4-7 (pp.25-50). Midterm Paper Topic Assigned.


     Tuesday March 06: Chapters 8-11 (pp.51-70).


     Thursday March 08: Chapters 9-12 (pp.57-80). Journal #2


     Tuesday March 13-Thursday March 15: No class-Spring Break


     Tuesday March 20: Chapters 13-16 (pp.81-99).


     Thursday March 22: Chapters 17-19 (pp.100-125). Quiz #3


     Tuesday March 27: Chapters 21-25 (pp.132-150).


VI. LockeUs Second Treatise of Government:


       Thursday March 29: Preface, Chapters 1-4 (pp.5-18). Turn in Midterm Papers.


       Tuesday April 3: Chapter 5 (pp.18-30).


       Thursday April 5: Chapter 6 (pp.30-42). Journal #3


       Tuesday April 10: Chapter 7-8 (pp.42-65).


       Thursday April 12: Chapter 9-13 (pp.65-83). Quiz #4


       Tuesday April 17: Chapters 14-15 (pp.83-91). Hand out Final Exam Review Guide.


       Thursday April 24: Chapter 16 (pp.91-100).       


       Tuesday May 01: Chapter 17-18 (pp.100-107).


       Thursday May 03: Chapter 19 (pp.107-124).


VII. Conclusion


        Tuesday May 08 2pm-3:50pm. Each student needs to bring a

        bluebook for the final exam. A bluebook can be picked up for free at the Village

        Commons Bookstore.