Western Political Thought II

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Course Level:
Course Length:
15 weeks
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The modern era is significantly different from the ancient and medieval periods in term of its understanding of politics. Massive changes have occurred leading to much good, such as the expansion of rights and freedoms. At the same time, modern politics has been uniquely brutal in terms of its raw power to coerce and to require conformity. Finally, some themes in modern politics have brought into question whether there really is any basis for values, political and otherwise, at all. We must comprehend all of these matters in order to participate meaningfully as citizens, administrators, office-holders, etc.

Required Texts:

Modern Political Thought, 2nd edition, edited by David Wootton.

Method of instruction:

This course will be conducted as a seminar. That means we will strive to have substantial classroom contributions by everyone in the course. I will come prepared to guide our discussion and to serve as a referee.

Components of the Course and Grading:

Your grade in this class is comprised of in-class participation and three papers.

Insights & Questions: 15% (see more below)
Exams: Midterm 25%,
Final 35%
Term Paper: 25% (see more below)

Insights & Questions:

15% of your grade is based on proof that you actually read the assigned texts. I am looking for knowledge of the reading assignment and willingness to share your knowledge/thoughtful reactions. You will earn this grade by bringing a combination of three questions and/or insights based on the readings to each class session. Questions or insights must be tied to some passage or passages in the text. You will turn your work product in to me at the beginning of each class. It will serve both to validate your attendance and participation. You will not need more than one page for each class session, though you may do more if you wish. Of course, you may choose not to turn your observations/questions in, but it will cause a reduction in this part of your grade.

BRING YOUR TEXT TO EACH CLASS SESSION. We will refer to it often.


I expect the midterm and final to be a combination of short answer and short to medium length essay questions. Please obtain bluebooks (which are typically very cheap) for writing exams. Handwriting MUST be legible. If your script is hard to read, you’ll surely improve your grade by printing. If you read, attend class, and participate, you should have no problem with the exams.

Term Paper:

We will have a single term paper due near the end of the semester. I will provide a list of suitable topics and you may choose from those. You will primarily use the texts provided in this course for your sources. The goal of the paper will be for you to demonstrate an understanding of the material and the ability to analyze the issues, thus coming to some kind of conclusion. Papers will be delivered in 12 point font and double-spaced.


I dislike absences. And, of course, if you do not turn in your insights and questions document at the beginning of each class, you will lose points. Now, I, too, was once young and so I am not an absolutist about it, but if you do it much it WILL affect your grade. Excused absences, of course (especially those for university sponsored activities, teams, etc.), may be made up.


I come from a generation with the memory of human interactions in which no one looked at any kind of electronic device. I am sentimental about that. I feel that it is very bad manners to play with your phone when I’m attempting to communicate with you. Don’t do it. Please also refrain from the use of your laptop in class. We’ll be a pen and paper operation. It’s good for you, like fiber.


As you might expect, plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the relevant assignment. Believe me, it isn’t nearly as hard to spot as you think it is. College is not just a credential. It represents the accumulated knowledge and skill you have gained from doing actual work. Don’t cheat yourself, me, or the person who might hire you someday.

The Syllabus:

I reserve the right to modify this syllabus as needed. You can trust me to do so in a way that is fair and principled if it proves necessary.


February 3: Thurs. Introduction to the class

February 8, 10: Tues. Machiavelli, The Prince Ch. 1-9 – Thurs. The Prince Ch. 10, Ch. 14-25

February 15, 17: Tues. Machiavelli, Discourses p. 53-69, – Thurs. Discourses 69-76, 78-88

February 22, 24: Tues. Hobbes, Leviathan Ch. 13-16 – Thurs. Leviathan Ch. 17-19, 21, 26

March 1, 3: Tues. Locke, Second Treatise 285-306 – Thurs. Professor out of town

March 8, 10: Tues. Second Treatise 306-325 – Thurs. Second Treatise 325-353

March 15, 17: Tues. Rousseau, Discourse 371-395 – Thurs. Rousseau, Discourse 395-410

March 22, 24: Spring Break Week March 29, 31: Tues. Midterm exam – Thurs. Rousseau, Social Contract 427-444

April 5, 7: Tues. Social Contract 444-464 – Thurs. Social Contract 464-487

April 12, 14: Tues. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution – Thurs. Kant, What Is Enlightenment and Constant, On Ancient and Modern Liberty

April 19, 21: Tues. Mill, On Liberty 593-620– Thurs. On Liberty 620-639

April 26, 28: Tues. On Liberty 639-651, Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments 488-501 – Thurs. Papers and Presentations

May 3, 5: Tues. Papers and Presentations – Thurs. Marx, The Communist Manifesto

May 10, 12: Tues. Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morality 865-884 -- Thurs. On the Genealogy of Morality 884-903