Political Science | History of Pol Theory 2
Y382 | 0509 | Hoffman
This course surveys some of the classic texts in the tradition of Western
political thought since the time of the Italian Renaissance. It will
familiarize students both with the diversity of concerns specific to
individual thinkers in the modern era and some of the themes that unify them
(and make plausible the idea of a single "tradition" of thought within which
these individuals might be located).
The question of recognizing and obeying government -- called the problem of
"political obligation" by philosophers -- will be one major unifying theme
through which the various thinkers examined will be compared and contrasted.
The issue of obligation is arguably the most basic question in political
philosophy. Through direct readings and lectures the succession of
arguments for political obligation offered by thinkers such as Niccolo
Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume,
J.S. Mill and Karl Marx will be articulated. Both problems and valid
insights attributable to each thinker will be identified.
More specific concerns raised by participants in this tradition include the
idea of a political morality (Is there a type of morality appropriate for
political leaders as opposed to citizens?); the issue of political
rationality; the concept of natural rights, the ideal of democracy, and the
historical determinants of social and political institutions.
It is expected that students will take from this course:
* an enriched understanding of key problems that continue to occupy
political thinkers today and that provide the background for much
contemporary political action and debate;
* a stronger sense of the social contexts in which key political
arguments were developed;
* strengthened critical thinking and communication skills.
Previous exposure to political theory or philosophy is helpful, but is not a
prerequisite. The reading schedule will be rigorous and challenging (up to
200 pages per week), but rewarding. The texts we will read have a rich
history and have long been seen as basic to an educated person's background
in Western culture.