Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2009


Political Science 251-3: Introduction to Political Philosophy


Instructor: Travis Smith

Meeting place: DU 459

Meeting Time: MWF 11:00-11:50



Office: DU 476

Office Hours: M 12-2pm, W 10-10:50am, or by appointment



Course Description:


††††††††††† The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction into the study of political philosophy.This semester we will carefully examine selected texts from Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke.As we do so, we will explore some of the most important and enduring questions related to political matters:What is the foundation of political society?Does government have a natural end or purpose, and if so, what is it?What is the relationship between individual and political ethics?How can political philosophy help us better understand what it means to live a good life?What is the relationship between political theory and political practice? These questions and texts require us to think carefully about the ideas such as freedom, equality, justice, laws, and authority.By the end of the semester, students should be able to identify and explain the positions of the philosophers covered in class and note similarities and differences between these thinkersí ideas.


Course Goals:


By the end of the semester, students should be able to

  1. Identify and explain the basic positions of the philosophers covered in class and note similarities and differences between these thinkersí ideas
  2. Think critically and discuss coherently the fundamental political questions


Required Texts:


  1. Plato, 4 Texts on Socrates, revised ed., translated by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).


  1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by Martin Ostwald, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962).

  2. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Second ed., translated by Harvey C. Mansfield, (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1998).

  3. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, edited by C.B. MacPherson, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1980).


Course Requirements:


Class Participation: Asking questions and discussing issues are important to gaining a better understanding of the material.This is not the type of course that one can merely memorize facts for an exam.The material requires that we not only read carefully, but consider and wrestle with the problems we come across.Class participation is thus very important.Please bring the relevant text to class each day as we will refer to it often.I encourage you to ask insightful questions and make well-reasoned arguments supporting your views.There is not a formal grade for participation, but I reserve the right to raise a studentís grade if I judge that student has participated especially well throughout the semester.


Attendance (100 points): Attendance is necessary for participation.Therefore, after four absences, each class missed will drop oneís attendance grade 10 points.It is your responsibility to sign the attendance roll that I send around.If you do not sign it on any particular day, you will be counted absent.Please remember to sign the roll.

Rather than spending my time and yours trying to determine if an absence is excused I give you four absences to use however you deem fit.I would recommend saving them for unexpected events such as illness or car problems.If you know now that you will miss more than four classes for legitimate reasons(University excused absences, religious observances, ect.), you should talk to me as soon as possible or consider taking another class.


Short Papers (500 points): There will be six short (600 words) papers throughout the semester.Each paper will be worth 100 points.The lowest grade will be dropped.Papers are designed (1) to demonstrate that students can clearly express themselves through written work, and (2) to show familiarity with the texts acquired through careful reading.Papers should be well organized, concise, demonstrate clear reasoning, and make arguments based on the relevant text using proper citations.Papers must also use proper grammar and spelling and follow the formatting instructions set forth by the instructor.


Exams (400 points): There will be two in-class exams worth 200 points each.Bring a Blue Book to each exam.The exams will cover material from the readings and class discussion.


Course Policies:


Attendance: Be on time and stay for the entire class.By coming in late or leaving early you miss out and you disrupt the learning process for others. Remain for the entire session unless excused by me beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency.For instance, it is not acceptable to students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Please notify me early in the semester if you will be missing classes for religious observances or University sponsored activities (athletics, Model UN, ect.).


10 Minute Rule: In the unlikely event that the instructor does not arrive in the first ten minutes, class in cancelled.


Cell phones and other electronic devices: Ipods, PDAs, and other electronic devices can be a distraction not only to you but to others.Please turn them off before class begins.Turn cell phones to vibrate so that they are not unnecessarily disruptive.If extenuating circumstances (sick family member, pregnant wife, special child care situation, ect.) might require you to answer your phone, please let me know, otherwise do not answer your phone during class.Text messaging during class is not allowed.


Make-up Work: Exams must be taken at the time scheduled.Make-up exams will only be allowed under extraordinary circumstances.If this is the case, contact me as soon as possible (before the exam in most cases.) Students may be asked to provide documentation to support any request for a make-up.

††††††††††† Papers are due at the beginning of class on the day specified.Any paper turned in after that will be considered late and docked accordingly.


Classroom Etiquette: Discussion is an important part of this course; please be respectful of others and listen.Do not interrupt others, and respond to your classmates and me with courtesy.Discussions can often become lively; please help me to maintain a civil environment.Do not let challenging anotherís argument become an attack on his or her person.


Contacting me:The best way to contact me is to come to my office hour; that time is specifically set aside for meetings with students.If you cannot come to during office hours, please send me an email with several times that you are available.Please write professional emails with proper spelling and grammar.That shows respect for me as an instructor and reflects well on you as a student.I will do my best to respond as promptly as I can.If you receive no response after 24 hours send me another email or speak to me in class.


Academic Dishonesty: 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.

Ignorance of how to properly use and cite othersí work is not acceptable.Plagiarism is taken extremely seriously in this class and can result in failure for the assignment, failure for the course, and/or expulsion from the university.

Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have an impact on their course work must register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


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, research career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.To reach the site, go to


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 Departmentís 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 the end of March.All copies should have two cover pages Ė one with the studentís name and one without the studentís 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 yearís competition even if the student has graduated.


Course Schedule:


The reading schedule is subject to change according to the discretion of the instructor.Any changes will be announced in class.Dates for quizzes, the paper, and the final exam are firm.


1/12††† Introduction to the course

Plato Apology of Socrates

1/14††† 17a-20e (pg. 63-68)

1/16††† 20e-24a (pg. 68-73)

1/19††† MLK Dayóno class

1/21††† 24b-28a (pg. 73-78)

1/23††† 28a-35d (pg. 78-89)

1/26††† 35e-38c (pg. 89-92)

1/28††† 38c-42a (pg. 92-97)


1/30††† 43a-54e (pg. 99-114)

2/2††††† Continue discussion of Crito

2/4††††† Finish discussion of Crito Paper 1 Due

Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics

2/6††††† 1094a-1096a10 (pg. 3-9)

2/9††††† 1097a15-1100a10 (14-23)

2/11††† No Class

2/13††† 1100a10-1103a10 (pg. 23-32)

2/16††† 1103a15-1105b18 (pg. 33-40)

2/18††† 1105b18-1109b25 (pg. 40-51)

2/20††† 1109b30-1112a15 (pg. 52-60) Paper 2 Due

2/23††† 1112a16-1115a5 (pg. 60-68)

Machiavelli The Prince

2/25††† First Exam

2/27††† Dedicatory Letter, Ch. 1-2 (pg. 3-7)

3/2††††† Ch. 3-5 (pg. 7-21)

3/4††††† Ch. 6 (pg. 21-25)

3/6††††† Ch. 7-8 (25-38)

3/9††††† Spring Breakóno class

3/11††† Spring Breakóno class

3/13††† Spring Breakóno class

3/16††† Ch. 9-11 (pg. 38-47)

3/18††† Ch. 12-14 (pg. 48-60) Paper 3 Due

3/20††† Ch. 15-18 (pg. 61-71)

3/23††† Ch. 19 (pg. 71ó82)

3/25††† Ch. 20-21 (pg. 83-91)

3/27††† Ch. 22-24 (92-97)

3/30††† Ch. 25-26 (98-105)

Locke Second Treatise of Government

4/1††††† Preface, Ch. 1-2 (pg. 5-14) Paper 4 Due

4/3††††† No Class

4/6††††† Ch.3-4 (pg. 14-18)

4/8††††† Ch. 5 (pg. 18-30)

4/10††† Ch 6-7 (pg. 30-51)

4/13††† Ch. 8 (pg. 52-65)

4/15††† Ch. 9-13 (pg. 65-83) Paper 5 Due

4/17††† Ch. 14 (pg. 83-88)

4/20††† Ch. 14-15 (pg. 83-91)

4/22††† Ch. 16 (pg. 91-100)

4/24††† Ch. 17-18 (pg. 100-107)

4/27††† Ch. 19 (pg. 107-124)

4/29††† Second Exam in class

5/6††††† Paper 6 due at 10:00 a.m.