Lee McNish's Student Testimonial
Lee McNish: Phronesis links policy and ethics
All political systems are founded on some ethical theory. Redistribution of wealth, maximized liberty, the maintenance of custom, and so forth. Aristotle exemplified this by writing his Nicomachean Ethics and his Politics so that the latter followed on from the former. However, policy and ethics questions are normally split, and it can often feel that they are being treated as mutually exclusive topics. The Phronesis program is an attempt to re-forge this link, and to encourage students to contemplate what policy implications an ethical theory would entail, or how to trace a political theory back to its ethical underpinnings.
Being given the opportunity to tackle both political and ethical problems at the same time allowed me to contemplate the relationship between the two subjects. In political theory classes, I would sometimes feel that the purpose of the theory was simply to serve as a stepping stone for considering policy questions, without necessarily asking how the theory operates and how the question actually relates to the theory. In philosophy courses, I would often feel that the questions posed concerning the readings done for the classes were isolated from everything else. The Phronesis classes gave me the feeling that there was an important link between the theories of these philosophers and the actual effects of their thoughts, and that the professors cared about investigating that link. And ultimately this gave me a new perspective on these subjects, and taught me to think about any given question from the different facets that are required for discovering a solution.
When I first began reading Plato’s Republic in Human Situation, I developed my love for philosophy in general. The question “What is justice?” and how that leads into man’s political and social life would become the problems that would haunt my mind for the next couple of years. I started reading more and more, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Rousseau’s discourses, Locke’s Second Treatise, and much more. I loved trying to tackle the problems that these great thinkers had attempted. After this, upon reading the announcement of the new minor in the Areté, I could immediately feel a sort of affinity for the program. You could almost say I felt as though it had been created for me.
From there, the class that I feel truly changed my outlook on politics was a class on ideology and political movements taught by Dr. Gregory Weiher. The process of studying ideology, its definition, how it works, and why people have such different beliefs (and how they react to the beliefs of others) was an experience that changed my understanding of political debate. Many of my interactions with the professors in the program have helped to shape my plans for going to graduate school, and their aid both in the classroom as teachers and outside of the classroom as mentors has certainly been instrumental in helping me to ultimately decide to go into graduate school. In addition, several of my professors from Phronesis have helped me to determine which program is best for me, and I owe them a great deal for helping to set me on this path.