Political Science 160

Fall 2001

  Introduction to Political Philosophy

Professor: Kimberly Smith

Willis 418

Phone: x-4123

Email: ksmith@carleton.edu

Office Hours

This course surveys Western political thought. We will focus in particular on the republican tradition, the oldest and most influential body of democratic theory in the Western canon, and the rise of liberalism. Topics will include revolution and the problem of political stability, the relationship between the citizen and the state, the virtues and vices of democracy, social contract and consent theory, gender as a category of political thought, and myriad others too numerous to mention.

This is a lecture and discussion course, with a strong emphasis on discussion. You are expected to complete the readings before class and come prepared to participate in a lively and thoughtful manner.


Four Texts on Socrates
Aristotle, The Politics
Machiavelli, The Prince & Discourses on Livy
Hobbes, Leviathan
Locke, Second Treatise
Ritter & Bondanella, Rousseau’s Political Writings
**Readings marked [R] are on reserve at the library

Your grade will be calculated as follows:

Summary of Aristotle: 15%
Summary of Pitkin: 15%
Comparison of Locke & Hobbes 20%
Final Paper 35%
Participation 15%


All papers may be rewritten as often as you like for a new grade.


  1. You must receive a "B" or better on all four papers.
  2. You must rewrite each paper at least once.
  3. You must meet with a writing tutor at least twice over the course of the term.
  4. You must inform me that you are attempting to fulfill the writing requirement.
  5. At the end of the term, please submit a request to receive credit for fulfilling the writing requirement, indicating (1) your grade on each paper, (2) when you met with the writing tutor, and (3) how many times you rewrote each paper.


For those of you working on a writing portfolio, the papers in this class will satisfy the following criteria:

  1. From a Social Science class;
  2. From a WR course;
  3. Provides interpretation of a text
  4. Shows ability to articulate and support a thesis-driven argument

Participation: Your participation grade will be based on the frequency and thoughtfulness of your contributions to class discussion. Attendance alone does not count as participation.

Summary of Aristotle Bk I: You will prepare a concise, accurate summary of the text. You should identify and explain the theorist’s thesis and most important points. Your summary may not exceed 3 pages (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). This exercise will develop your ability to understand a complex text, identify its central arguments and communicate them simply and accurately. Critical analysis of the text is not part of this assignment.

Summary of Pitkin: Pitkin is on reserve at the library. You should summarize the author’s central thesis and argument. The summary may not exceed 3 pages (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). Critical analysis of the text is not part of this assignment.

Comparison of Locke and Hobbes: Both Hobbes and Locke begin with state of nature, but Hobbes ends up endorsing absolutism while Locke supports representative, limited government. Identify the key differences in their arguments that lead to this result. Note: it is not sufficient to list the differences between the theorists. You must also explain how certain differences in their assumptions or reasoning lead them to different conclusions.

As always, your paper should have a clearly stated thesis (e.g. "Locke and Hobbes reach different conclusions because….") This paper may not exceed 4 pp. (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). This exercise will develop your ability to understand the logic of complex arguments, explain that logic concisely and accurately, and relate texts to one another. Critical evaluation is not part of this assignment.

Final Paper: You may choose from among the suggested topics. If none of these questions appeal to you, you should meet with me to discuss a different topic. Guidelines:

There is no page limit, but I expect this paper to be 7-9 pages.

*Note on documentation: no outside research is necessary for these assignments, so you do not need to include a bibliography. However, when refer to the text (with a quotation, for example) you must cite the page number.

Final paper suggested topics:

  1. Many of the texts we examine in this course focus on the problem of political stability. Compare and contrast three texts on this question. Does the author consider political stability a problem? How does he propose we deal with it?
  2. Compare Locke, Hobbes and one republican theorist (Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau) on the question of the citizen’s relationship to the state. What are the citizen’s duties, if any, toward the state? What is the state’s responsibilities, if any, toward the citizen?
  3. Does the ideal republican citizen have to be a man? Consider how at least three of the following theorists would answer that question: Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau.
  4. Liberalism has been criticized on the grounds that it puts too much emphasis on individual property rights, which makes it difficult for liberal regimes to justify redistribution of wealth and regulations designed to protect the environment. Drawing on Locke, MacPherson, and Rousseau, evaluate this argument.
  5. What, if anything, is wrong with simple democracy? Consider the critiques and defenses of democracy offered by at least three of the writers considered in this class.
  6. One could argue that equality is a central value in both the republican and liberal tradition. How do these traditions differ in their treatment of equality? What do liberal and republican theorists mean by equality, respectively, and how do they differ on why equality is important? In answering this question you should draw on both liberal and republican theorists.
  7. Compare and contrast three of the theorists we’ve discussed on the question of revolution. What produces revolutions? Under what circumstances is it justified?

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Class 1: Why Plato and not Confucius?

    Class 2: Introduction to political theory

    Plamenatz/Skinner [Handout]

  3. Athenian Democracy
  4. Class 3: Sinclair, Democracy and Participation in Athens, pp. 1-34 [R]

    Class 4: Plato, Apology

    Class 5: Plato, Crito

    Class 6: Trial of Socrates

    Class 7: Aristotle, The Politics, Bk I

    Class 8: Aristotle Bk III, ch. 1-13

    *Summary of Aristotle, Bk I due

    Class 9: Aristotle Bk IV ch. 2, 9, 11

    Class 10: Aristotle Bk V ch. 1-11

  5. The Florentine Republic
  6. Class 11: Machiavelli, The Prince, preface - Ch. 15

    Class 12: The Prince, Ch. 16 - end

    Class 13: Pitkin, Fortune is a Woman, Ch. 6 [R]

    *Summary of Pitkin, Fortune is a Woman, Ch. 6 due

    Class 14: Discourses on Livy, Bk I, Ch. 1 – 10, 17, 18

    Class 15: Bk II, Intro – Ch. 4; Bk III Ch. 1– 9

    *Trial of Machiavelli

  7. The English Republic
  8. Class 16: Hobbes, Ch. 1-12

    Class 17: Hobbes, Ch. 13-21

    Class 18: Hobbes, Ch. 29-30

    Herzog, Happy Slaves, Ch. 3, through p. 99 [R]

*Final rewrite of Aristotle paper due

    Class 19: Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 1 - 10

    Class 20: Locke, Ch. 11 -16

    *Final rewrite of Pitkin paper due

    Class 21: cont.

    Class 22: Locke, Ch. 17-19

    *Comparison of Locke and Hobbes due

    Class 23: MacPherson, Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, pp. 194-220 [R]

    Class 24: Declaration of Independence [Handout]

    Wesley, A Calm Address to Our American Colonies [Handout]

  1. The French Republic

Class 25: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, though Part One

Class 26: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Part Two

*Final paper due

Class 27: Rousseau, On Social Contract, Bk. I, Ch. 6, Bk. II, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6,7

Class 28: Yack, Longing for Total Revolution, pp. 3-27 [R]

*Final rewrites of Hobbes/Locke paper due

Final rewrites of final paper due Monday, Nov. 19