John von Heyking

Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: Canadian Politics - Part 1
By John von Heyking on March 24, 2009

After considering the “big picture” questions about politics, my first-year students turn to the study of Canadian politics (in the U. S., this subfield would get covered by an Introduction to U. S. Government and Politics, though, for reasons I’ve discussed previously, American university students frequently receive Introduction to U. S. Government and Politics as their formal introduction to the overall discipline of Political Science).

After hearing about the tension between politics (treated generically, in the form of the laws of Athens) and philosophy—both as reflecting distinct ways of life—we lower our gaze to within the political horizon to consider the nature of the regime in which my students live. This lowering of our gaze comes as a bit of relief for many of my students, who can now get a chance to study politics in a form with which they are more familiar…


Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: Political Philosophy - Part 2
By John von Heyking on March 17, 2009

This post is a continuation of one published here.

The challenge of teaching Plato's Apology and Crito is to elevate students' instincts of viewing Socrates as a solitary hero standing up "against the man," toward getting a sense of the competing claims for justice that both Socrates and the city make for themselves. I push them to see how these dialogues are not simply about a single individual standing up "against the man." Rather, I try to show them that Socrates is opposing his life, the life of philosophy, against any claim about the good made by the city. If the unexamined life is not worth living, and if he finds no one in the polis—politician, poet, or craftsman—can tell him what the good life is, then this directly challenges the moral project politics claims itself to be.


Could Liberal Education Have Helped Avert the Economic Crisis?
By John von Heyking on March 09, 2009

Yes, according to this writer, referring to a recent speech by Paul Volcker to a Toronto audience. The author also cites several business leader on the importance of how liberal education supports the moral ecology that sustains a free economy.…


Introducing Political Science: What is Politics? - Part 2
By John von Heyking on March 02, 2009
This is the second part of "Introducing Political Science: What is Politics?" Part 1 is here.

In addition to the central Socratic paradox, students of my introductory political science class are invited to consider how and why the political ideals of this dystopia shape the social and personal mores of the characters. Most students expect political science to be about institutions, laws, and current events. They gain an appreciation of how the commands of the Controller filter down into the private lives of the characters… The students learn the devices the Controller uses to control society and also why control is necessary. They learn how, especially in an unfree society like this one, the line between public and private is porous. But they also recognize it is porous in a liberal democratic society and are invited to consider how this line might differ between the two types of regimes.


Introducing Political Science: What is Politics? - Part 1
By John von Heyking on February 24, 2009

In previous posts (here and here), I outlined some of the challenges in teaching an introductory class in political science. In this and the next few posts, I shall describe what I have learned to do in addressing these challenges. I have also posted the syllabus on LASC Online if you want more information.

One of the biggest challenges in this day and age is providing a unifying thread that enables students to consider some essential attributes of politics. Borrowing a point I think Harry Jaffa once made, I tell students that just as athletics is what athletes do, politics is what the polis (or nation-states or other entities) does. But this description does not go very far because first-year students need a way of assessing what that activity is.


Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: Political Philosophy - Part 1
By John von Heyking on February 19, 2009

Editor's note: This post, inadvertently published out of order, should follow the as yet unpublished: "Introducing Political Science: What is Politics? - Part 2". Mea culpa.

In my previous posts, I explained how I try to introduce the activity of politics to students. Following my "great books" approach to introducing political science, I then turn to each of the subfields: political philosophy, Canadian politics (in the U.S., this section would obviously cover U.S. politics), international relations, and comparative politics.

There are numerous texts with which one can introduce political philosophy to first-year students. Moreover, any number of them can serve as a general introduction to politics…


Spirit in an Age of Science Part IV
By John von HeyKing on February 11, 2009

The final part of my series on Spirit in an Age of Science (see also Part I, Part II, and Part III) is an examination of Kronman's claim that the proper role of the humanities is to understand what falls outside the domain of modern scientific (i.e., technological) research (the modern university's ideal). I discuss how he arrives as this conclusion and then offer a critique.


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.