Political Science | Political Philosophy: Approaches & Issues
Y675 | 20667 | Isaac


This course will introduce students to the range of approaches and
issues that comprise political philosophy as a distinct sub-field in
political science.  It is a general survey that seeks to touch on a
variety of concerns, to open up further inquiry rather than to reach
closure on any particular matter.
We will cover the following issues: what is the identity of political
philosophy, and how has this identity been shaped?  how have writers
like Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Sheldon Wolin shaped the sub-
field?  how have understandings of "classical" (vs. "modern")
political thought helped to constitute the sub-field?  how have more
subtle approaches to the study of history, like that associated with
Quentin Skinner and the so-called Cambridge School, altered the
practice of political philosophy?  We will discuss a number of
approaches or paradigms, including interpretivism, pragmatism, and
postmodernism.  We will also explore how liberalism has been affected
by the development of these various approaches.  Finally, we will
address the way such approaches as feminism, post-colonialism,
and "multiculturalism" more generally have altered the way scholars
think about the so-called "canon" of political philosophy.
While this course is not a course in the history of political
thought, some very basic familiarity with major texts and figures in
the history of political thought will be presumed.  Our reading of
books like Wolin's classic survey POLITICS AND VISION early in the
semester will support this presumption.  There will be at least three
writing assignments.  At least one of them will require students to
relate some set of approaches to the study of a single "classic"
thinker (e.g., Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Weber) of their choice.
Students interested in getting a head start on this material over the
summer may wish to consult Sabine and Thorson's A HISTORY OF
POLITICAL THEORY, a standard text book that offers good summaries of
the entire history of Western political philosophy.
A more complete description and tentative syllabus should be
available before the end of the spring semester.  Students interested
in learning more about the course should feel free to contact
Professor Isaac.