History of Western Political Thought
Full course description
When considering modern political issues it is often instructive, and sometimes humbling, to realize that many such issues have deep historical roots. For as long as human beings have been living together in societies, questions concerning how these societies should be organized have been asked. The answers that historical writers have given to these questions are still relevant today and still inform current political thought. By investigating the questions philosophers were grappling with and how they sought to answer them, we may perceive more acutely the questions facing our societies and discover how we might answer those questions. We will study important texts by 8 seminal political thinkers from several periods in history: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke Rousseau, Smith and Hegel. Our aim will be to understand the particular problems they were seeking to solve and how or whether they did so. Although the main texts we will use are historic, the methods we will use are analytic. We will also read several modern texts which take up themes from these historical texts, but these modern texts are strictly supplementary. By applying the tools acquired in Political Philosophy (COR1004) to these texts, we will be able to come to terms with them and apply historical insight to current issues.
- To provide students with a basic grasp of the evolution of political thought in the Western tradition.
- To teach students how to study historical works of philosophy.
- To identify how issues and questions in contemporary politics and contemporary political thought have their roots in historical writings.
COR1004 Political Philosophy.
HUM1007 Introduction to Philosophy.
- Cahn, S. (2005/2011/2015). Political Philosophy. OUP, Oxford. (All editions are acceptable).
- Several pieces of modern secondary literature in an E-Reader available on Student Portal.