Topics in Classical Political Thought
Virtue and Politics
This course will be guided by two questions: What is virtue or human excellence? What is the relationship between virtue and politics? We will read a range of classical texts, including philosophy, comedy, and tragedy. After opening with Sophocles’ Antigone, our study of virtue will turn to and remain anchored in Thucydides’ great narrative, The Peloponnesian War—a text that offers two rival visions of virtue, those associated with the war’s principal antagonists, Sparta and Athens. Readings for the second term are Aristophanes’ Clouds, three of Plato's dialogues (Laches, Charmides, and Apology), and selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Through our study of these works of classical thought, we will explore such perennial questions as: What are the virtues of political leaders and citizens? What are the virtues of wisdom, moderation, courage, and justice? Are these virtues in harmony or in tension with one another? Is virtue grounded in nature or merely in conventions? What is the relationship between virtue and happiness?
Format and Requirements
POL200Y1 or POL200Y5 or (POLC70H3, POLC711H3)