POLS 251: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2009



  • Dr. Andrea Radasanu


  • Zulauf 408

Phone Number

  • 753-7052

Email Address

  • aradasanu@niu.edu

Office Hours

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays 1pm – 2:30pm, or by appointment


  • DU 459

Class Time

  • T & Th 3:00pm-4:45pm



Course Description:


This course will introduce students to some of the most crucial classical texts in political philosophy, beginning with Plato and ending with Locke. We will concentrate on the varying accounts given by these philosophers on the role of political community in living a good and just life. We will look at the differences between ancient and modern ways of understanding the nature of human beings and of human excellence and happiness. The question of the best regime and the best of life as presented by these philosophers will our most crucial one. This course endeavors to bring these questions and problems to life; while we embark on an historical journey that takes us from ancient Athens to seventeenth century England, it ought to become clear that the ideas discussed by our authors are just as important to us now as ever.




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


v     Aristotle. Politics, translated by Carnes Lord (Univ. of Chicago Press)

v     Hobbes. Leviathan, ed. E.M. Curley (Hackett)

v     Locke. Second Treatise on Government, ed. R.H. Cox (AHM Croft's Classics)               

v     Locke. Letter on Toleration, ed. James H. Tully (Hackett)

v     Machiavelli. The Prince, translated by H.C. Mansfield, Jr. (Univ. of Chicago Press)

v     Plato & Aristophanes. Texts on Socrates, translated and with notes by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West (Cornell University Press)


Course Requirements:


1. Attendance and Participation:


Your attendance and class participation are important components of the course and will make up 10% of your course grade. Attendance will be recorded every class, and class participation will be monitored. Attendance will be recorded in the first TEN minutes of class. Please do not come in after that hoping to sign your name on the attendance sheet. Four or more classes missed, for whatever reason, will result in an automatic 30% penalty of your participation grade. You are expected to participate in a lively manner, by answering questions about the text, asking questions about the text, and, generally, by offering insightful comments that will enrich your experience as well as that of your fellow students.


2. Reading:


All reading assignments must be completed BEFORE the beginning of the relevant class. Please keep in mind that your ability to participate effectively will depend on your diligence in completing the readings as assigned. Where it is not clear what readings will be assigned for a particular class (where “con’d” is indicated on the syllabus), readings will be specified by the end of the prior class. All readings as well as all lecture material are fair game for tests and examinations. You must study your readings and take good notes in lectures in order to do well on the tests and examinations.


Since particular passages of the text will be referred to and read in class, please bring the appropriate texts to class.


3. Tests and Assignments:


i) Quizzes. Four quizzes will be administered throughout the term. Each counts for 10%, for a total of 40% of your grade. The quizzes will contain short-answer identification questions as well as more analytical and longer ones, on occasion comparative in nature. They are always administered at the beginning of the classes on the days they are scheduled.


ii) Mid-Term Essay. You are required to write one paper, of no less than 1000 words and no more than 1200 words. Further specifications will be given when the essay topics are handed out within the first couple of weeks of class. The essay will be graded according to command of the material demonstrated, logic of the arguments, grammar, style, and organization. It will rely on the primary material assigned and will not require you to do secondary research.


The essay will be handed in at the beginning of class in which it is due, or it will be deemed late. Late assignments will not be accepted. All papers must be submitted through the Safe Assign process on Blackboard and in hard copy in class.


iii) Final Exam. This exam, worth 30% of the final grade, will be given in the final scheduled class of the term and will be one hour and fifteen minutes long. It will cover all the material in the course.


Honors Students. Please note that your work will be graded in a more rigorous manner than students not in this program. Higher standards will apply to your work.


Grading Scheme:


Attendance and Participation: 10%

Four Quizzes: 40% (Each counts for 10%)

Mid-Term Essay: 20%

Final Exam: 30%


Grading Scale:


93%-100% =


90%-92.9% =


87.5%-89.9% =


83%-87.4% =


80%-82.9% =


77.5%-79.9% =


60%-69.9% =


Less than 60% =





Lateness Policy:


In principle, NO lateness is permitted in this course. The essay will not be accepted late, and there will be no make-up quizzes. Those essays that are not received in the first ten minutes of class will receive the grade of F. Those quizzes that are missed will receive the grade of F. The same goes for the final exam.


IF there are extraordinary circumstances that make it impossible for the student to complete work or come to class, the professor must be notified as soon as possible. Let it be clear that only EXTRAORDINARY and unexpected circumstances will be considered. For example, a heavy workload within or without the university does not count as extraordinary –and neither does a common cold. If there is a serious medical problem that has impeded the student’s ability to do his or her work, then please let the professor know and bring supporting documentation. NO consideration will be given to those students who do not alert the professor of a problem prior to the due date of an assignment or the date of a quiz or exam.


Class Decorum:


You are expected to be courteous and collegial in this class. Here are some of the decorum guidelines:

v     Be on time for class.

v     Do not leave during class. Use the restroom, get a drink of water, etc. before class begins or after it ends. If you must leave early or come in late, please provide a reasonable explanation and be as undisruptive as possible when you are coming or going.

v     Respect your classmates. Do not interrupt your colleagues, and make sure that your comments are civil. Discussion is wonderful and encouraged, but it is only possible when we listen to one another and make comments that are courteous.

v     Do not disrupt lectures. No cell phones, no private conversations, no snoring. If you wish to interrupt to ask a question, please put your hand up. Questions are encouraged!


Unannounced Quizzes:


The professor reserves the right to give unannounced quizzes if it becomes clear that students are not doing the assigned reading, and the quality of class participation and discussion is unsatisfactory.


Religious Observance:


If classes or assignments coincide with your religious observance, please let the professor know as soon as possible so that you can be accommodated in the best possible way.


Extra Credit:


Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final grades.


Students with Disabilities:


NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Moreover, your academic success is of importance to me. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you 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. CAAR is located on the fourth floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to talking with you to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.


Plagiarism Policy:


According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalogue “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.” In short, all ideas that are not your own or well known must be footnoted. A general rule is that if the information cannot be found in three or more commonly available sources it should be footnoted. All direct quotations must be placed in quotation marks. These guidelines will be enforced. If you are unsure as to what should be footnoted either play it safe and footnote, or ask for assistance. Failure to adhere to the University’s plagiarism policy will result in punishments ranging from a failed course grade to suspension and even expulsion, depending on the egregiousness of the infraction.


Political Science Web Site:


Students 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 this site, go to http://polsci.niu.edu


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 spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Course Outline and Due Dates:      

v     The assignment and test dates are set in stone.

v     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.


January 13


January 15

Plato, Apology

January 20 & 22

Plato, Apology, con’d

January 27

Plato’s Apology, con’d

January 29

Quiz 1; begin Aristotle, Politics, Book One, chapters 1-7

February 3 & 5

Aristotle, Politics, Book One, chapters 8-13; Book Three, chapters 1-4.

February 10 & 12

Aristotle, Politics Book Three, chapters 5-13.

February 17

Machiavelli, Prince, Epistle Dedicatory, chapters 1-5.

February 19

Quiz 2 (in St. Louis with Model UN Club)

February 24 & 26

Machiavelli, Prince, chapters 6-14

March 3 & 5

Machiavelli, Prince, chapters 15-26

March 10 & 12

March Break

March 17

Quiz 3; Hobbes, Leviathan, dedicatory letter to Francis Godolphin, Hobbes’s introduction, and chapters 1-12.

March 19

Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 13-16

Mid-term Paper Due

March 24 & 26

Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 17-19, 20-21, 29-30

March 31

Locke, Second Treatise, chapters 1-5

April 2

Quiz 4 (away at MPSA conference)

April 7 & 9

Locke, Second Treatise, chapters 6-10

April 14 & 16

Locke, Second Treatise, 11-19

April 21 & 23

Locke, Letter on Toleration

April 28


April 30