Laurence Cooper
Spring 2002
Willis 416
Office Hours: Mon. & Fri. 2-4
and by appt.

I. Purpose and Scope

In this course we will examine the development of Western political thought through a careful reading of several classic texts spanning more than two millennia. We will begin at the beginning (of political philosophy) -- that is, with Socrates -- and then consider ancient political philosophy as presented by Aristotle, its most systematic practitioner. Notwithstanding the tremendous political and cultural changes of the intervening centuries, it was not until the appearance of Machiavelli that the philosophic reign of the ancient Greeks was decisively ended, and so we will proceed next to Machiavelli and Hobbes, founders of the modern age whose revolutionary works not only broke with the old but also sought -- with success -- to remake the world in the most concrete, practical terms. One concrete result of modern political philosophy was the appearance of such liberal regimes as our own, and in order to understand the nature of that regime and all of its (i.e. our) presuppositions we will turn next to Locke, whose influence on the American Declaration of Independence will quickly become apparent. The success of these early modern thinkers succeeded in provoking a (still ongoing) series of critical reactions: perhaps the chief theme of subsequent political philosophy has been discontent with what the early moderns wrought, especially liberalism. Foremost among modernityís and liberalismís critics, in terms of the span of his legacy as well as the penetration of his analysis, was our next author, Rousseau, whose critique would influence revolutionary thought on both the Left and the Right to the present day. But Rousseauís influence was not limited to liberalismís enemies. It is also seen in some of liberalismís sober friends, such as Tocqueville. In Tocqueville we find a defender of liberalism who learned from liberalismís critics, and a modern who was animated by insights of the ancients. He is therefore a fitting thinker with which to conclude our survey.

Since the works to be read are often difficult and subtle, you should be sure to give them the time and attention they require. It is very important that you come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material. For additional help with the reading, you may consult the appropriate chapters of History of Political Philosophy, edited by Strauss and Cropsey, which has been placed on closed reserve in the library. I encourage you, however, to read the texts carefully on your own before consulting any secondary works.

II. Course Requirements

You should read the assigned texts carefully and before class. Grades will be based on two papers (each counting for 25% of your grade), a take-home final exam (40%), and class participation (10%). I may also give a pop quiz from time to time.

III. Academic Honesty

Strict standards of academic integrity will be upheld in this class. Your signature on an assignment means that you have neither given nor received unauthorized aid. Students who are found to have violated this standard can expect severe sanctions.

IV. Assigned Texts

The following books are available for purchase at the bookstore:

Plato and Aristophanes, Four Texts on Socrates (trans. West and West)

Aristotle, The Politics (trans. Lord)

Machiavelli, The Prince (trans. Mansfield)

Hobbes, Leviathan

Locke, Second Treatise of Government

Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses (trans. Masters)

Tocqueville, Democracy in America (ed. Kessler, trans. Grant)

V. Class Schedule

(Note that this is an approximate schedule. We may depart from it if class discussions, etc. so require.)

April 1: Introduction

I. Ancient Political Philosophy

April 3: Plato, Apology of Socrates (in Four Texts on Socrates)

April 5: Aristophanes, Clouds (in Four Texts on Socrates)

April 8: Plato, Crito (in Four Texts on Socrates)

April 10: Aristotle, Book I, Chapters 1-2

April 12: Aristotle, Book I, remainder

April 15: Aristotle, Book II, Chapters 1-5 and 7-8

April 17: Aristotle, Book III

April 19: Aristotle, Book IV, Chapters 1-12; Book V, Chapters 1-4, 8-9, and 11-12; and Book VI, Chapter 2

April 22: Aristotle, Book VII

II. The Modern Departure

April 24: Machiavelli, Dedicatory Letter and Chapters 1-11


April 26: Machiavelli, Chapters 12-19

April 29: Machiavelli, Chapters 20-26

May 1: Hobbes, Introduction (his intro., not the editorís) and Chapters 11 and 13-15

May 3: Hobbes, Chapters 17-18, 19 (first 7 paragraphs only), 21 and 29

May 6: Mid-term break

May 8: Review Hobbes reading Ė closely!

May 10: Locke, Chapters 1-5

May 13: Locke, Chapters 6-8

May 15: Locke, Chapters 9-11, 18-19 and the American Declaration of Independence


May 17: Review Hobbes and Locke

III. Second Thoughts About Modernity

May 20: Rousseau, Second Discourse, Dedication to Geneva, Preface, and Part One

May 22: Rousseau, Second Discourse, Part Two

May 24: Review Second Discourse

May 27: Tocqueville, pp. 1-15 and 34-44

May 29: Tocqueville, pp. 102-46

May 31: Tocqueville, pp. 169-78, 201-214, 219-39, (recommended: 239-48), 268-70 and 281-86 (recommended: 270-81)

June 3: Tocqueville, pp. 297-319

June 5: Conclusion