North Idaho College • Coeur d'Alene • Social & Behavioral Sciences • Philosophy
Political and Social Philosophy PHIL-205
Political and Social Philosophy (Phil 205) Course Outcomes:
1. Read, interpret, and explain classic and modern texts in the tradition of western political philosophy
2. Identify and explain the major philosophical themes in the tradition of western political philosophy including conceptions of justice, freedom, legitimate authority, power, political change and stability, tyranny, and human nature.
3. Understand how conceptions of justice in the western philosophical tradition have affected the course of western history and the shape of western political institutions
4. Become comfortable debating and challenging an array of competing ideas about what constitutes a just political system
There will be four take-home essay exams - 3 midterms (15% each) and a final (20%). Each exam will consist of six short-essay type questions – answers must be typed, single-spaced, and about ½ page in length for each question. In addition, an 8 page paper (typed, double-spaced, 1.0” margins) also worth 20% of the grade will be due at the end of the semester on a topic of the student’s choice relevant to the material covered during the course. Also, at the end of each week a take home quiz will be given consisting of several questions that address the week’s readings (15% of grade).
1) Please arrive to class on time. 2) Please do not carry on conversations with your neighbor during lecture (questions, comments and discussion are normal for a course like this but make sure to listen carefully during lecture). 3) Please turn off cell phones, ipods, blackberries, iphones, laptops, etc. before you enter the classroom - this means no texting! 4) Please do not leave class during lecture. 5) Please use the restroom before class and before exams. Students who violate these policies (esp. texting) will be asked to leave for the duration of the class.
1) Please arrive to class on time. 2) Please do not carry on conversations with your neighbor during lecture (questions, comments and discussion are normal for a course like this but make sure to listen carefully during lecture). 3) Please turn off cell phones, ipods, blackberries, laptops, etc. This means no texting! 4) Please do not leave class during lecture. 5) Please use the restroom before class and before exams. Students who violate these policies will be asked to leave for the duration of the class. Thanks!
8/27 General Introduction: (Philosophical, Literary, Historical Background to Plato: Hinduism, Thucydides, Sophocles, Xenophon, Aristophanes)
(We will be discussing the various influences on Plato’s political philosophy. For example, we’ll examine the values of education, merit, and caste in Hindu philosophy, descriptions of human nature by the Greek historian Thucydides, conceptions of objective truth by the Greek writer Sophocles, perspectives on Greek democracy by Xenophon and the comic playwright Aristophanes. This will help introduce the course to the timeless questions with which Plato struggled in his political philosophy: equality, inequality, education, merit, human nature, democracy, self-mastery, and eternal conceptions of justice).
8/29-9/12 Plato (Republic); Reading Assignment: Republic
(The class will begin a fairly thorough investigation into the Socratic case for justice and the ideal political regime as Plato presented it in his timeless masterpiece, The Republic. Although a thorough reading of the entire Republic would take a good semester, we’ll examine how Socrates addresses issues such as education, human nature, gender relations, merit, self-discipline, regime change, political corruption, economics, and how each of these issues relates to the ideal regime. The Republic will unveil the broad array of issues with which subsequent political philosophers struggled)
9/17-9/24 Aristotle (Politics); Reading Assignment: Politics (EXAM)
(We will examine Plato’s famous student Aristotle and Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s Republic. In his Politics, Aristotle favors more of a “middle class” type rule as being the most practical as opposed to Plato’s argument in favor of “Philosopher Kings.” Aristotle’s arguments concerning human nature, scientific observation, and historical evidence leads him to believe that a stable regime must involve more participation and debate. He agrees however with Plato on the dangers of mob rule, the value of education and individual self-control, and the objective basis for philosophical knowledge about justice)
9/26-10/1 Machiavelli (Prince, Discourses); Reading Assignment: The Prince; Discourses (handout)
(After a brief description of the evolution of philosophical thought from Ancient Greece to Medieval Europe, we’ll take a look at one of the most famous treatises on statecraft ever written: Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” We’ll examine why Machiavelli believed that idealistic regimes of the type favored by Plato and Aristotle (to some extent) actually were counterproductive in the end and that security, order, and peace could only come at the hand of a ruler who at times had to “learn how not to be good.” For Machiavelli, if the end result is beneficial, the ruler should feel no qualms about being deceptive. We’ll also take a look at portions of Machiavelli’s “Discourses” which presents a more refined case for leadership, political participation, and constitutional guidelines.)
10/3-10/10 Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan); Reading Assignment: Leviathan
(Hobbes is famous for attempting to bring the latest scientific knowledge of the Renaissance into political philosophy. Hobbes wants to argue that a deeper knowledge of human nature can help us build better political societies. Hobbes favors an extremely strong “Sovereign” ruler who creates order and peace in a world that tends toward division and suspicion. Hobbes will argue that his political theory is actually backed up by science and physics. Hobbes says that all regimes built upon debate, democracy, constitutions, and a division of power will ultimately crumble due to the lack of strong leadership. Much of Hobbes’ thought is apparent in present day, more authoritarian regimes, but Hobbes will attempt to persuade us that we should accept that authoritarian power as beneficial)
10/15-10/22 John Locke (Second Treatise of Government); Reading Assignment: The Second Treatise of Government; (Exam)
(Here we will examine John Locke’s famous and influential argument regarding limited government, popular rule, divided government, and constitutionalism. Locke strongly opposed Hobbes and was highly suspicious of concentrated authority. We will also examine Locke’s early promotion of the free-market and his profound influence onAmerica’s founding fathers.)
10/24-10/31 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Discourse on Inequality; Of the Social Contract); Reading Assignment: Blaisdell, 1-35 + Part I - handout; Of the Social Contract
(Rousseau, like Locke, was enormously influential but his theory worked more to promote socialism rather than limited government and capitalism. Rousseau argued that humans were innately cooperative but the consumer society corrupted human nature and made harmonious societies impossible. Rousseau wanted to promote social harmony by restricting any inequality and private property and favoring a more modern version of Plato’s philosopher kings, but with a heavy emphasis on popular participation. Rousseau heavily influenced both the French Revolution and Karl Marx.)
11/5-11/7 Adam Smith (The Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations); Reading Assignment: (handouts)
(This portion of the course will examine the political and economic thought of Adam Smith, considered to be the “father of capitalism.” We’ll take a look at two of Smith’s most influential writings in which he discusses human nature and prosperity and why the free-market and limited government is essential to a flourishing society. We’ll also examine why Smith was highly distrustful of political schemes that attempted to invade the proper sphere of individual decision-making)
11/12-11/14 Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson (The Federalist Papers, Declaration); Reading Assignment: Fed. Papers (# 10, 51 - handouts); Blaisdell, 63-66; (Exam)
(Here we will read the political philosophy that formed the basis for the U.S. Constitution. The Federalist Papers represent the conclusions ofAmerica’s most influential political thinkers, all of whom had done a thorough investigation of previous political philosophy in order to construct what they thought would be a stable, free, prosperous regime. We’ll take a look then at the influences on thinkers such as Jefferson and Madison, especially John Locke.)
11/19 Alexis de Tocqueville (Old Regime and French Rev./Democracy in America); Reading Assignment: Handouts Maréchal/Marat and the French Revolution: Reading Assignment: Blaisdell, 82-84; 92-95
(We will examine the French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville and his influential perspective on American government and society in the nineteenth century. Tocqueville was very interested in the relationship and tension between freedom and equality and also the kinds of despotisms to which democratic regimes are subject. We’ll also take a look at revolutionary French writers Marechal and Marat, both of whom favored a kind of radical egalitarianism in politics.)
11/26-11/28 Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (Communist Manifesto); Reading Assignment: Communist Manifesto (Blaisdell 123-150)
(We’ll examine the enormously influential thought of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. By means of a thorough reading of the Communist Manifesto we’ll investigate Marx’s view of progress, human nature, money, industry, economics, inequality, and human flourishing. Marx’s view of “social justice” continues to inform many modern political movements).
12/3 John Rawls (A Theory of Justice); Reading Assignment: Handout
(Here we will examine contemporary political philosopher John Rawls, who attempted through a modern “social contract” theory to combine the best elements of a free and equal society with as little negative fallout as possible. Rawls wanted the benefits of wealth redistribution with as little limitation as possible on human freedom)
12/5-12/12 F.A. Hayek (The Road to Serfdom); Reading Assignment: The Road to Serfdom; Chantal Delsol (The Unlearned Lessons of the 20th Century); Reading Assignment: Handout
(The last portion of the class will examine the thought of F.A. Hayek and Chantal Delsol. Hayek, a Nobel Prize winning economist, argued that all modern societies were drifting toward socialism, and, in the end, state control of most of society. Hayek believed his writings could stimulate debate on this issue and help protect political and economic freedom. Chantal Delsol, a French political philosopher, argued that the failed collectivist political experiments of the 20th century would be repeated in the 21st century).
12/12 Take Home Final Exam Passed Out
12/20 Take Home Final Exam Due; Final Paper Due
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