Introduction to Political Philosophy

Course Number
PLSC 114
About the Course

This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.

Course Structure
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was videotaped for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2006. The Open Yale Courses Series. For more information about Professor Smith’s book Political Philosophy, http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300181807 click here.

Syllabus

Professor
Description

This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.

Texts

Plato, Trial and Death of Socrates
Plato, Republic
Aristotle, Politics
Machiavelli, The Prince
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Political Writings
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Requirements

There will be three short papers (5-7 pages each) and a final exam. Attendance and participation in weekly discussion sections is a further requirement.

Grading

Short papers: 20% each (total: 60%)
Final examination: 20%
Discussion section attendance and participation: 20%

Sessions

Lecture 1 Introduction: What Is Political Philosophy?
Lecture 2 Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Apology
Lecture 3 Socratic Citizenship: Plato, Crito
Lecture 4 Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, I-II
Lecture 5 Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, III-IV
Lecture 6 Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, V
Lecture 7 The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, I, III
Lecture 8 The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, IV
Lecture 9 The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle, Politics, VII
Lecture 10 New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 1-12)
Lecture 11 New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli, The Prince (chaps. 13-26)
Lecture 12 The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan
Lecture 13 The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan
Lecture 14 The Sovereign State: Hobbes, Leviathan
Lecture 15 Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (1-5)
Lecture 16 Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (7-12)
Lecture 17 Constitutional Government: Locke, Second Treatise (13-19)
Lecture 18 Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (Author's Preface, Part I)
Lecture 19 Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (Part II)
Lecture 20 Democracy and Participation: Rousseau, Social Contract, I-II
Lecture 21 Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Lecture 22 Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Lecture 23 Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Lecture 24 In Defense of Politics

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Course Books and Other Related Titles

Yale University Press offers a 10% discount on the books used in PLSC 114 that it publishes, as well as on other related titles. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases will be donated for the ongoing support and development of the Open Yale Courses program.