Fall 2008 Course Descriptions

Fall 2008 Courses

Classics in the History of Ethics

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3358H, 27174
Time & Location: MWF 9:00 – 10:00, 212J L
Instructor: Iain P. D. Morrison

In this course I will take on one major ethical work from each of the following three thinkers: Spinoza, Hume and Nietzsche. These figures attempt (in consecutive centuries) to come to terms with ethics in the post-Christian intellectual arena. As we move through the semester we will get caught up in the following kinds of questions. Is God the foundation for our ethical commitments? If so, then how can we reconcile this with our rational/scientific insights into the nature of the world? If not, then what is it that makes us moral creatures? Or, are we moral creatures at all? How might our morality be naturalistically understood? This course will count toward the new Phronesis minor in politics and ethics.

Liberalism and Its Critics

Course & Class Num: POLS 3342H, 32467
Time & Location: TTH 2:30 – 4:00, 212J L
Instructor: Dennis Rasmussen

We in the contemporary West tend to take liberal democratic principles and values almost for granted, but these principles and values have been subjected to a variety of radical critiques since their emergence in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this course we will examine the theoretical foundations of liberalism (Locke) and radical critiques of both the left (Rousseau, Marx and Engels) and right (Rousseau again, Burke, Nietzsche). In addition to exploring the political implications of the various conceptions of nature, human nature, justice, freedom, and history found in the works of these thinkers, we will also use their arguments to reflect on the health or illness of contemporary liberal democratic theory and practice. This course will count toward the new Phronesis minor in politics and ethics.

American Political Thought

Course & Class Num: POLS 3349H, 29022
Time & Location: TTH 8:30 – 10:00, 212P L
Instructor: Jeremy D. Bailey

According to Alexis de Tocqueville, Americans were born equal without becoming so. In this course, we will examine American political thought with an eye to Tocqueville's famous argument that equality is the most important characteristic of American political and social arrangements. At the same time, we will attempt to test his prediction that Americans, and maybe all democrats, would come to love equality more than liberty and thus create the possibility for a new kind of despotism. Particular attention will be paid to the American Founding, as well as to important attempts at re-founding. Texts will include works of literature, political thought, and political protest. This course will count toward the new Phronesis minor in politics and ethics.

Recent Islamic Political Thought

Course & Class Num: POLS 4396H, 32479
Time & Location: TTH 1 :00 – 2:30, TBA
Instructor: Gregory Weiher

In the late eighteenth century, the French invaded Egypt and occupied it for three years. This began a period during which Middle Easterners were unavoidably confronted with Western power and culture. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Islamic political thought was dominated by what are variously called the Islamic reformers or the Islamic modernists - Jalal al Din al Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, and Rashid Rida. While remaining committed to Islam, the Islamic reformers favored incorporating Western elements - science, reason, constitutional government - into Islamic societies. This movement, however, took place at the elite level of these societies. The reformers were never able to win over the Islamic masses, nor were they able to propose a specific synthesis between reason and revelation. Their influence began to wane in the 1 1930s, and by the time of the creation of Israel (1948), their day was over. There followed a twenty year interval during which secular regimes dominated the political landscape. Arab socialism, as manifested most famously in Nasr's Egypt, rejected Islam except to pay lip service to it in order to pacify traditional elements of society. With the defeat in the 1 1967 war against Israel, secularism was discredited. Those who had been calling for the revival of Islam - Maududi in India/Pakistan beginning in the thirties, Sayyid Qutb in Egypt during the 50s and 60s, and Khomeini in Iran in the 60s and 70s - received a more receptive hearing from peoples who rejected Western political models, whether liberal and democratic or socialist. For Maududi, Qutb, and Khomeini, Islam was above all a political ideology that called for the foundation of an Islamic state. This course examines the work of Afghani, Abduh, Rida, Maududi, Qutb, Khomeini, and Ali Shariati in order to relate Islamic reformism and Islamic radicalism to Western modes of political thought and to each other. This course will count toward the new Phronesis minor in politics and ethics.