Political Science | Political Philosophy: Approaches and Issues (3 cr)
Y675 | 3455 | 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.