Fall 2011 Course Descriptions
Fall 2011 Courses
- Introduction to Political Theory
- Ancient/Medieval Political Thought
- History of 17th Century Philosophy
- Classics in the History of Ethics
- History of 19th Century Philosophy
- Politics and Religion
Course & Class Num: POLS 3310H, 20657
Time & Location: MW 2:30 – 4:00, TBA
Instructor: Jeffrey Church
In recent years, political debates in the U.S. have become considerably less civil-the shouts of "you lie!" or the labeling of opponents as Nazis or socialists have poisoned partisan relationships. With the proliferation of voices on cable television and the internet in the 21st century, the polarizing, extreme, and superficial voices have largely come to drown out the more sober, thorough, and thoughtful. In such an environment, it is difficult to discern what is true and false in a political argument. All political discourse appears suspect as "biased" and all positions seem to be taken out of some "agenda" or "ideology." This course seeks to deepen students' knowledge of political disagreements first by giving students a "road map" of contemporary political ideologies. Then, we will turn to the historical development of conservatism and progressivism to understand the rational core of these disagreements. The goal of the course is to prepare students to navigate political debate in a civil and thoughtful way. Readings will be from a wide variety of sources, from George Will, David Brooks, and Matt Yglesias to Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, and Immanuel Kant. This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirements.
Course & Class Num: POLS 3340H, 23637
Time & Location: MW 1:00 – 2:30, 212L L
Instructor: Susan D. Collins
In this course, we will strive to recover an understanding of Ancient-Medieval political philosophy. At first blush, this tradition may seem far from us, yet it continues to speak to the deepest of human concerns, and especially to our profound concern for justice in a world in which, as Machiavelli chillingly insisted, the good human being invariably falls among those who are "not so good." The central concern of the course will be the conversation between Aristotle and Plato regarding the possibility of a just political community, and our reading will focus on Aristotle's Politics and Plato's Republic. We will draw insight also from Xenophon and from Christian, Jewish, and Islamic thinkers of the Medieval period. Our reading will allow us to explore the following kinds of questions: Is there justice, and if so, what is it? What is law and what is the purpose of law? What is the nature of power? What is freedom? What is the relation between ethics and politics? Is there a highest good for human beings, and if so, what is its connection to politics? What is education? What is the relation between religion and politics, faith and reason? This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirements, and is an Honors Colloquium.
Course & Class Num: PHIL 3304H, 20759
Time & Location: TTH 11:30 – 1:00, TBA
Instructor: Gregory Alan Brown
A detailed examination of the metaphysical and epistemological theories of the major figures in 17th-century philosophy, including Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirements.
Course & Class Num: PHIL 3358H, 14817
Time & Location: TTH 1:00 – 2:30, TBA
Instructor: David K. Phillips
In this course we will read much of the most important ethical work of three central figures in the modern history of ethics: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900). Kant and Mill would very often be taken to be the two most important moral philosophers of the modern era: the most important representatives of, respectively, the deontological and the utilitarian traditions. It is less standard (though far from unprecedented) to give such prominence to Sidgwick; one of the aims of the course is to explore the idea that Sidgwick merits a place as prominent as the other two. We will focus on our three philosophers' approaches to two central issues in moral theory: (i) the nature of morality: just what are moral rules, where do they come from, and why should we follow them?; (ii) the content of morality: just what does morality tell us to do? We will also attend to their views on the status of egoism.
There will be a take home midterm and a take home final, both consisting of two questions each requiring about 4-5 pages of writing, and a 7-8 page paper. The midterm and final will each be worth 35%, the paper 30%. This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirements.
Course & Class Num: PHIL 3395H, 23651
Time & Location: MWF 10:00 – 11:00, TBA
Instructor: Iain P. D. Morrison
In this course we will examine nineteenth century philosophy as it developed under the influence of Hegel's philosophy of history. We will read Hegel, Kierkegaard and Marx. Kierkegaard and Marx represent conservative and communist reactions to Hegel, respectively. We will explore the issues of the individual's place in society, the progress of man through history, and the relation between passion and reason. The texts will be closely read and discussed in class. This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirement, and is an Honors Colloquium.
Course & Class Num: POLS 4396, 23607
Time & Location: TTH 11:30 – 1:00, TBA
Instructor: Gregory Weiher
(petition for Honors credit)
This course explores the relationship between religion and politics in the western, liberal tradition, and compares it with the understanding of that relationship in other religious and cultural traditions, particularly in Muslim societies. It begins with a brief summary of the history of religious wars and strife in Europe. It then explores the beginnings of secularism (the conviction that public affairs should be conducted apart from formal religious involvement) in the West by looking at excerpts from, for instance, Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise, and at Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration. We will explore the tradition of the separation of church and state in the American context by examining appropriate Supreme Court cases. Along the way we will explore statements of principle such as Bertrand Russell's "A Free Man's Worship", and explorations of the effect of enlightenment and Liberal ideas on religious consciousness and practice. Finally, we will examine documents from the Muslim tradition that provide a contrasting view of the appropriate relationship between religion and politics. This course counts toward the Phronesis minor requirements, and is an Honors Colloquium.