Pols 251: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Spring 2010 Semester

Section 2, T-Th 3:30-4:45

Dusable 246


Instructor: Paul Vasholz Jr.

Office: Dusable 476 (Pols TA office)

Office hours: T 1:30-3:30; Th 4:45-5:45; or by appointment

Contact info: pvasholz@yahoo.com

Department website: polisci.niu.edu


Required Books


The Landmark Thucydides, ed. Robert B. Strassler, Free Press

The Republic of Plato, ed. Allan Bloom, 2nd edition, Basic Books

The Politics of Aristotle, ed. Peter Simpson, University of North Carolina Press

Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. Leo Paul de Alvarez, 2nd edition, Waveland Press

Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle, trans. D. Fitts & R. Fitzgerald, Harvest Books

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Peter Hulme, W. W. Norton & Company

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Basic Political Writings, trans. D. Cress, Hackett Publishing Company


If at all possible, please purchase these editions of the required books. Doing so will make it much easier to follow along in class. In addition to the campus bookstores, these books can all be found on Amazon and other online retailers, with both new and used copies available.


Course Goals


The books we are reading this semester are among the most influential in the western world. It is hoped that as a result of taking this class, you will have a better understanding of these works and how they have affected the study of politics. Additionally, it is hoped that you will improve

your ability to write in a clear and succinct manner.


Classroom Procedures and Expectations


It is expected that you come to class on time, and that you have completed the assignment for that day. As will be explained below, you are asked to write a one page paper responding to the reading for each class, and you should bring a copy of that paper and the book containing the assigned reading to class.


Class will be spent discussing the reading for that day. Please be respectful to your classmates and the instructor and listen to what they have to say. If you are in disagreement with one of them, please voice that disagreement politely.


Academic Dishonesty


The University considers you to have committed plagiarism if you: "copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without 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" (Undergraduate Catalog).


Do not do this. I have found the University of Wisconsin's writing center website to be very helpful when I've needed to know how to cite a source in a particular format. A link to their website is included here (http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/Documentation.html) and on Blackboard.


Please use the MLA format when citing sources in this class.


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 coursework 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.


Assignments and Grading


Your grade in the course is 70% based on your paper grades and 30% based on your participation in class.


As noted above, for each class you are asked to write a one page response paper to the reading assigned for that day. Each paper should contain 3 paragraphs:


In the first paragraph, you should ask a question about something contained in the assigned reading, and explain why it is an important, relevant question.


In the second paragraph, you should attempt to answer your question, while citing evidence from the text to support that answer.


In the third paragraph, you should ask a follow-up question, on the basis of what you concluded in your second paragraph.


An example or two of these papers will be posted on Blackboard under course documents.


You will be required to hand in seven of these papers during the semester, one every two weeks. You may chose which of the papers written over the course of each two week period that you wish to hand in. For example, the first paper handed in will be from one of the three you wrote about Antigone; the second paper should be chosen from one of the three you wrote about Thucydides or the first reading from Plato; etc.


Each of these papers will count for 10% of your grade. You will also have the opportunity to hand in an additional paper at the last class to replace your lowest graded paper if you so desire. No late papers will be accepted without my approval, which must be given prior to the paper's due date. If you will be absent, papers submitted by email must be sent before the start of the class they are due.


During class you will, on occasion, be asked to read the paper you wrote to the class. This is the primary means by which participation will be determined. However, to get an A in your participation score, it will also be necessary for you to respond to the writing of your classmates by asking questions about what they wrote.


It will be impossible for you to get a high score in participation, if you are not in class to participate.


Papers and class participation will be graded according to the scale below:


A: 100-90

B: 89-80

C: 79-70

D: 69-60

F: 59 or below


Once an assignment has been graded, the score will be posted on Blackboard.




Schedule may be revised during the course of the semester.


01/12 Introduction to Course

01/14 Sophocles, Antigone, pgs. 189-204

01/19 Sophocles, Antigone, pgs. 205-224

01/21 Sophocles, Antigone, pgs. 225-245, First paper due

01/26 Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Book I, par. 1-55, 66-88, 139-145

01/28 Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Book III, par. 36-50

02/02 Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Book V, par. 84-116

02/04 Plato, The Republic, 327a-331d, Second paper due

02/09 Plato, The Republic, 331d-341a

02/11 Plato, The Republic, 341a-347e

02/16 Plato, The Republic, 347e-354c

02/18 Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapters 1-5, pgs. 1-31, Third paper due

02/23 Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapters 6-9, pgs. 32-61

02/25 Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapters 10-15, pgs. 62-95

03/02 Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapters 16-19, pgs. 96-125

03/04 Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapters 20-26, pgs. 126-158, Fourth paper due

03/09 Spring Break

03/11 Spring Break

03/16 Aristotle, The Politics, Book One, pgs. 8-33

03/18 Aristotle, The Politics, Book Three, pgs. 75-95

03/23 Aristotle, The Politics, Book Three, pgs. 95-114

03/25 Aristotle, The Politics, Book Four, pgs. 115-124, 137-146, Fifth paper due

03/30 Aristotle, The Politics, Book Six, pgs. 170-194

04/01 Aristotle, The Politics, Book Seven, pgs. 207-230, 238-245

04/06 Rousseau, First Discourse, pgs. 1-24

04/08 Rousseau, Second Discourse, pgs. 25-51, Sixth paper due

04/13 Rousseau, Second Discourse, pgs. 51-69

04/15 Rousseau, Second Discourse, pgs. 69-81

04/20 Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act One

04/22 Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act Two, Seventh paper due

04/27 Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act Three

04/29 Shakespeare, The Tempest, Acts Four and Five

05/04 - Finish any uncovered material, Optional paper due