Encounter the great texts of political philosophy.
Courses include, but are not limited to the following:
The implications of the form in which the seminal book in Western political philosophy
is written are considered; the political and philosophic alternatives rejected by
Socratic-Platonic teaching are also discussed.
The ethical basis of political life is investigated through a study of the Nicomachean
The thought of this seminal thinker of modernity is investigated through a reading
of the Discourses on Livy. Other works, especially The Prince, are consulted to establish
the broader context of Machiavelli’s political teaching.
The founding of modern political science was accomplished by Hobbes. The Leviathan
and On the Citizen are read. Attention to the connection between modern science and
The political philosophy of John Locke, including the Two Treatises of Government
and the Essays on the Law of Nature are studied. Locke’s criticism and reinterpretation
of traditional natural law and the importance of his teaching for understanding modern
liberal regimes, are examined.
The first thoroughgoing critique of modernity was made by Rousseau, giving a new direction
to philosophical thought. Texts: the Emile, the First and Second Discourses and The
7351. Directed Readings and Research
Special programs of inquiry are set forth by mutual consent of student and professor
with the approval of the Program Director.
The Memorabilia Oeconomicus, the Hiero and Cyropaedia are studied. The work of Xenophon
is essential for the understanding of Socrates’ teaching.
To be selected by the instructor
7376. Aristotle’s Politics
Study of Aristotle’s Politics as an introduction to the classical understanding of
man and society. Emphasis is on the dialogical or tentative character of Aristotelian
7380. Medieval Political Philosophy
The confrontation of Greek Philosophy with the revealed religions (Christianity, Judaism
and Islam) posed the need for a new expression of the classical teaching. Authors:
Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna, Maimonides and Alfarabi.
Study the principles and structure of the American political order.
Nietzsche’s mature thought is studied through a reading of Beyond Good and Evil and
the third part of Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche’s relation to his historicist precursors
and existentialist successors is emphasized.
Study the political writings of Spinoza, including the Theologico-Political Treatise
and the Political Treatise. The relation of politics and religion is discussed, as
well as the grounds for the first philosophic recommendation of free speech and democracy.
8396. Shakespeare Seminar
Study Shakespeare’s understanding of politics and the question of the relationship
between poetry, philosophy and political thought. Does Shakespeare present a history
of Western civilization from Athens to England?
Courses in contemporary politics, too, are an integral part of the program.
Just as Aristotle's Politics contains careful political analyses of the ancient Greek
cities, so today the philosophic study of politics must provide an account of contemporary
political life. In any program focusing on great texts there is always a danger of
self-forgetful immersion in the past. The study of the present reminds us that political
philosophy is intended not merely to understand political life but also to guide it
-- in light of its ultimate goal, the good society.