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Spring 2011 Course Descriptions

Spring 2011 Courses

Introduction to Political Theory

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

(There are two sections of this course available) 
Course & Class Num: POLS 3310H, 19182 
Time & Location: MW 2:30 – 4:00, L 212L 
Instructor: Susan Collins 

This course may be your one chance to learn how to rule the world—or, failing that, how to be satisfied with not ruling the world. That fulfilling such an ambition should require the quite study of seminal texts of political philosophy should come as no surprise to Honors students. Yet why should the question of such ambition be of concern to those of us who may be struggling simply to make it through the semester and occasionally balance our checkbook? As pointer to the fundamental issues of politics, this question alerts us to the possibility that our world—the world into which we have been born and by which we are shaped—was itself created or shaped by thinkers and rulers whose ambition it was to rule the world. It thus matters to us what they sought to establish as the foundations and ruling principles of our world and also what they concluded about the following kinds of questions: Is the fundamental human condition war or peace? Is there such a thing as justice? Do human beings have a nature or are we products of history? Can chance or fortune be controlled and political order established in perpetuity? Is wisdom an end in itself or simply a tool for gaining power over others? In addition to other shorter readings, the major works of the course will be Machiavelli's Prince, Xenophon's Education of Cyrus, Plato's Apology and Gorgias, Hobbes's Leviathan, Rousseau's Second Discourse, and (possibly) Kant's To Perpetual Peace. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

Political Thought From Machiavelli and the Renaissance

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

Course & Class Num: POLS 3341H, 21268
Time & Location: MW 5:30 -7:00, 343 PGH 
Instructor: Terrell L. Hallmark 

This course, POLS 3341, is devoted to an examination of modern political philosophy. A quick look at course descriptions in political science departments around the country reveals courses entitled "Modern Political Philosophy," "Modern Political Thought" or "Modernity and Post-Modernity." Here, at the University of Houston, the course has a different title: "Political Thought from Machiavelli and the Renaissance." This is a more precise and instructive course title than the others, for not only does it pay proper homage to the founder of modern political philosophy, Niccolo Machiavelli, it subtly points to the political-philosophical divide between the ancients and moderns and identifies when, exactly, that decisive break occurred.

Ancient political philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle believed that the nature of man is revealed in a life lived according to reason. They considered man's passions to be base and tyrannical, and thus taught that man cannot be truly free and virtuous unless reason is able to rule the passions. Modern political philosophers saw man's passions as the primary force in human nature, and argued that reason can do little more than serve man's basic instincts. They rejected the ancients because they believed that they had discovered the true principles of human nature and, accordingly, new sources of political power.

The course will attempt to come to terms with this modern understanding of man and politics by reading the following: Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince, selections from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, John Locke's The Second Treatise of Government, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, and selections from Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

American Political Thought 

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

Course & Class Num: POLS 3349H, 15604 
Time & Location: TTH 11:30 –1:00, L 212D 
Instructor: Jeremy Bailey 

Lincoln's famous claim that America was "the last best hope on earth" is now open to debate. But in order to understand this debate, we must first understand America. This course will attempt to accomplish this by encountering the most important political questions posed throughout American political his-tory, particularly during the various "foundings" of America. In addition to traditional political writings, we will read works of American literature.  This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

History of 18th Century Philosophy

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3305H, 19457 
Time & Location:MWF 10:00 – 11:00, 212D L 
Instructor: Iain Morrison

The century of Enlightenment saw the two schools of modern philosophy - empiricism and rationalism - get their highest expression in David Hume and Immanuel Kant respectively. In this course I will explore the ethical, social and political thought of these important figures. The focus will be on the extent to which their social and political theories are informed by their more fully worked out ethical positions. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

Contemporary Moral Issues

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3351H, 23399
Time & Location: TTH 1:00 – 2:30, 345 PGH
Instructor: David Phillips 

Philosophical analysis of contemporary issues such as abortion, affirmative action, the treatment of animals, capital punishment, euthanasia, and famine relief. Prerequisite: three semester hours in philosophy or consent of instructor. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

Political Philosophy

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3355H, 21636
Time & Location: MWF 11:00 – 12:00, 322 AH
Instructor: William Nelson

This course will cover basic works in the liberal political tradition. We start with Hobbes and Locke in the 17th century and some of the Federalist and Anti-federalist writings from the American revolutionary period. We will also discuss such 20th century writers as Rawls and Nozick. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

Moral Diversity

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook

Course & Class Num: PHIL 3395H, 21633 
Time & Location: TTH 10:00 – 11:30, TBA 
Instructor: Tamler Sommers 

People everywhere are passionate about their moral attitudes and beliefs. And as Herodotus observed almost 2500 years ago, we all think the values of our own culture are the right ones. Yet there is widespread disagreement about justice, human rights, and the best way to live. Is there one universally correct set of moral standards and beliefs? Or is right and wrong something that can only be judged within a particular cultural context? This course will explore the issue of moral diversity and how it bears on familiar debates in ethical theory. First, we'll survey research in anthropology and cultural psychology that document the nature of differences in moral values. Next, we'll examine the religious, biological, and cultural sources of this diversity. Finally, we will consider the philosophical implications of moral diversity for ethical debate. Should the existence of diversity lead to greater tolerance of the standards and norms of other cultures? Can members of one culture justifiably criticize the values of another? What happens when the conflict arises within a particular society? Throughout the course we will examine a series of case studies, such as the burka ban in France and Belgium, the issue of female circumcision, and honor killings in some Muslim and Indian societies. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor. 

Classics and Modernity

Undergraduate Catalog  Honors Coursebook 

Course & Class Num: CLAS 4353H, 21332 
Time & Location: M 2:30 – 5:00, 34 H  
Instructor: Richard Armstrong
(petition for Honors credit)

This upper level course explores modernity and Modernism's engagement with ancient culture. In Spring 2011 the focus will be on the ways in which myth, dreaming, and tragedy became focal points not only for modern constructions of ancient culture, but more generally for defining in modern terms the nature of human culture and existence. Readings include the following authors: Plato, Aristotle, Schiller, Nietzsche, Bachofen, Freud, Hofmannsthal, Frazer and others. This course will count toward the Phronesis minor.