Undergraduate Course Code: POL430Y1Y L0101
Comparative Studies in Jewish and Non-Jewish Political Thought
Our theme this year will be the significance for political thought of the quest for the origins of human beings and human society. We will explore it through a careful reading of three cardinal works: B’reshit or Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the foundation of the “Abrahamic” faiths; De Rerum Natura or On the Nature of Things, the great exposition of Epicurean philosophy by the Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus (ca. 94-42 BCE); and Rousseau’s Discours sur les origines de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1752). Rousseau’s work draws heavily on that of Lucretius and is a response to the Biblical account that offers an alternative to it. It may even be said to synthesize the two earlier works, although its borrowings from the Bible are primarily negative in character. We will spend the first semester on Genesis, the second one on the other two works. You are encouraged to read each work in the original language if you are capable of so doing.
Genesis, translated and with a commentary by Robert Alter. New York: W.W. Norton
Lucretius. On the Nature of Things, trans. M.F. Smith. Hackett
Rousseau. Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, tr. Victor Gourevich. Cambridge UP
Format and Requirements
POL 430Y (the undergraduate course). Three essays, one of 1375 words due Friday, October 23, two of 2750 words each, due November 27 and March 12, a take-home exam (to be distributed the afternoon of Friday, March 19, due at 11 AM on Monday, March 22). The first essay will be worth 10% of the final mark, each of the following two will be worth 30%, the take-home exam will be worth 25%, and there will be 5% for participation.
POL 2021Y (the graduate course). Three essays, on topics of the student's own devising, due October 30, January 15, and April 1; a take-home exam (to be distributed the afternoon of Friday, March 19; due at 11 AM on Monday, March 22; each assignment worth a fourth of the final mark. Essays must not exceed 5500 words and will not be read beyond the 5500th word. (There will be a much lower word limit for the take-home exam.)