Political Theory: Visions of the Just/Good Society
This course provides an introduction to political theory through a close reading of foundational texts in Western political thought. Moving from an account of the polis in Plato and Aristotle, to the rise and fall of the Roman Republic and the ascendance of Christianity, and finally to the contemporary liberal state inspired by Hobbes and Locke, the conception of the human being’s relationship to politics – and the way in which the state either shapes or restricts the efflorescence of the good human life– shifts over time. A number of driving questions nevertheless persist throughout: what is the best political order for human beings? What does it mean to live a just or good life? And is it the case that the good life is the political life? We will investigate how these accounts have served, and still serve, an integral purpose in facilitating a deep engagement with these fundamental questions.
Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates and Republic; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (selections) and Politics; The Bible (selections); Augustine, Political Writings; Thomas Aquinas, selections; Niccolo Machiavelli, Selected Political Writings (The Prince and Discourses on Livy); Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan; John Locke, Political Writings (A Letter Concerning Toleration and The Second Treatise of Government).
Format and Requirements
Tutorial attendance and participation (20%), first essay of 5-7 pages (20%), second essay of 8-10 pages (30%), and a final examination (30%).