John von Heyking

Top 5 Books on Liberal Education Published in the Last 35 Years
By John von Heyking on February 18, 2010

Plato’s Meno and Newman’s The Idea of a University are classic texts of liberal education.  But what are the best books written recently?  Is the recent history of liberal education one of decline?  Is the mission of the university doomed in a culture of crass utility and political correctness.  There are bright spots, and cause for hope, in my top 5 list of the best books on liberal education of the past 35 years.  These best books are written by individuals who are great thinkers and great teachers, and in conversation about the highest human things with the greatest minds of the past.  But they also demonstrate why being a good teacher involves seeing the highest things in our everyday experience of reality, and in community.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part VII
By John von Heyking on December 17, 2009

For our discussion of Islamic politics, I assign readings on radical political Islam. Many of these consider the difference between radical political Islam and the way politics has traditionally been understood by Muslims over the centuries. Even so, the focus is on the radical side in order to gain a deeper understanding of it.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part VI
By John von Heyking on November 23, 2009

When my class turns to the subject of international law, we examine the documents of international law that were inspired to a large degree by the vision of Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace. The students read Woodrow Wilson’s "Fourteen Points" speech to consider how, in Kantian fashion, he saw the link between a democratic constitution (Kant prefers the language of republican constitution) and international treaties.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part V
By John von Heyking on November 12, 2009

Connecting classical political thought and contemporary problems.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part IV
By John von Heyking on October 30, 2009

Debating the character of national political structures—in this case Canadian.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part III
By John von Heyking on October 21, 2009

Reflections on Political History and National Identity.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part II
By John von Heyking on October 12, 2009

For the latest iteration of my Introduction to Political Studies, I assigned a few articles dealing with the contemporary state of liberal education as a way to get my students thinking about the political problems set forth in their assigned introductory reading for this class (Huxley’s Brave New World) and in their assigned political philosophy readings (Plato’s Apology of Socrates and Crito). While these readings focus on liberal education, the primary readings of Huxley and Plato also suggest contemporary readings on individual freedom or resistance. I chose liberal education as a focus because those other topics tend to flatter too much the sense undergraduates have of their own assertiveness. They might already be identifying too much, and for the wrong reasons, with Bernard Marx and Socrates.

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Introducing The Subfields of Political Science: Big Questions for Contemporary Politics, Part I
By John von Heyking on September 30, 2009

From the perspective of the student, a major weakness of the “great texts” approach is that it fails to provide them with much information on current events. While I do my best to explain to them that political science is not the same as current events, there is an element of truth in their criticism because political science strives to understand what is going on now.

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Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: Comparative Politics - Part 2
By John von Heyking on August 25, 2009
Part 1 is here.


Premodern Islamic attitudes and practices were by and large based on low expectations on what politics can achieve. Humanity is depraved, and tolerating a bad ruler or even tyrant is a matter of getting what one deserves or obtaining the best one can hope for. Because of this low expectation, Muslims historically have been able to keep distance between their political authorities and their religious practices. If one affirms the depravity of one's ruler, then one will take guard to ensure he lacks authority to dictate religious doctrine or practice. Brown observes the Ottoman empire, where the emperor had authority to appoint clerics, marks the greatest extent political authorities were able to influence religious practices.

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Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: Comparative Politics - Part 1
By John von Heyking on August 18, 2009

The fourth and final subfield I cover in my Introduction to Political Studies class is Comparative Politics. This subfield is the most problematic and difficult for two basic reasons.

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about the author

John von Heyking
John von Heyking

I teach political philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, as well as religion and politics. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1999.

My publications include Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World (Missouri, 2001), Civil Religion in Political Thought:  Its Perennial Questions and Enduring Relevance in North America (coeditor; published by CUA Press, 2010), Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought (coeditor, published with U. of Notre Dame Press, 2008), two edited volumes of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin (Missouri, 2003), as well as articles on Aristotle and friendship, political representation, citizenship, republicanism, just war, Islamic politics, politics and prophecy, leadership, the place of America in contemporary political thought, religious liberty under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the political philosophy of rodeo. I am also at work on a book-length study on the relationship between friendship and political order. My editorials have appeared in the Globe and Mail (Toronto), Calgary Herald, C2C: Canada’s Journal of Ideas, and the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs. I am currently Associate Editor for History, Theory, and Law of the journal, Politics and Religion, published by Cambridge University Press. His work has been translated into Italian, German, and Chinese. I have delivered invited lectures to audiences throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Russia.