Syllabus Intro Political

Introduction to Political Philosophy-Phil 142

Instructor: Rochelle DuFord


Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 10am-11am, and by appt. in room LNG 331

Class Time: T, TH 8:30-9:55 am

Class Location: FA 245

Course Description:

Political thought, since Plato, has continuously grappled with the relationships shared between the individual, her government, and her society. This course will deal with those same issues, and will include an exploration of various questions such as: what is the nature of the authority of the state, to whom does one owe political duties (including taxation), how do we balance individual interests and freedoms with the interests of the social group, and what are the limits of political entities? In doing so, we will survey the landscape of historical movements in political thought including, republicanism, liberalism, libertarianism, authoritarianism, socialism, and anarchism. Such a survey is designed to provide a critical tool for assessing and understanding contemporary political thought and movements.

The course will focus explicitly on three themes in political philosophy: liberty, equality, and political participation. Rather than being oriented toward the historical trajectory of thought, the course is designed to show how diverse thinkers from different places and time periods are ‘in conversation’ with each other. This will provide you will a wide array of both positions in political philosophy and critiques of those positions.

Course Objectives:

  • Enabling students to read, write, and think critically about political problems. Specifically, to familiarize you with the process of justifying beliefs and actions related to politics.
  • To familiarize students with historical and contemporary philosophical approaches to understanding, acting in, and challenging political life.


General Education Requirement

  • Learning Outcome: This course satisfies the Humanities General Education Requirement; thus in this course, “students… will demonstrate an understanding of human experience though the study of literature or philosophy.”

Required Texts:

Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts, 2nd edition, by Steven M. Cahn.

Other required texts will be available via Blackboard.

Course Policies:

Technology: Unless you have a documented need for accommodations, laptops are not to be used in class. Please print out and bring to class all readings that are posted on blackboard if they are assigned for that day. Use of a cell phone during class will result in a loss of participation points for that week.

Accommodations: I am committed to maintaining a classroom that is accessible for all students. If you require academic accommodations, please provide me with the appropriate documentation and we will work together to implement the structures you need.

Submission of Late Work: All work is required to be submitted by the due date. Any submission of discussion questions past the time/date due will be counted as a 0. Other work submitted late will incur a 10% per day penalty. Make-up exams and writing assignments will be given only in the case of documented emergency or illness.

Academic Dishonesty: Please consult the Harpur website for rules governing academic honesty. Plagiarism and cheating, even minor violations, will be dealt with according to Harpur College and Philosophy department policy governing academic honesty. If you have questions about academic honesty, please contact me and we can discuss them. You can find Harpur College’s policy on academic honesty here:

Final Grades:

Final grades will be calculated according to the following scale:

Percentage Grade to Letter Grade:

A: 100-93

A-: 90-92.99

B+: 87-89.99

B: 83-86.99

B-: 80-82.99

C+: 77-79.99

C: 73-76.99

C-: 70-72.99

D: 60-69.99

F: Below 60


Discussion Questions: worth 15%

You are required to submit at least 15 discussion questions for the course. The structure of in class time will be roughly one hour of lecture followed by, or interspersed with, discussion of the text.

There are 15 weeks, however, only 13 of them will be weeks for you to submit discussion questions. Therefore, you will receive 1 point per discussion question you post, discussion questions must be a minimum of 100 words. You will also receive 1 point for posting a question for review for both the midterm and final exam (you are welcome to post more than one question for review, however, only one will earn you a point).

Discussion questions must be submitted to Blackboard by 5pm the day before the class for which you are submitting. This means that if you have a question for Tuesday’s class, it must be posted on Monday by 5pm.

There will be one discussion thread per class, it is clearly labeled with the author’s name and due date. For ex: “Rousseau 9/16” if you are posting a discussion question on Rousseau for class on 9/17, it should be posted in THIS thread.

Writing Assignments:

You will have TWO distinct kinds of writing assignments. In class ‘quick writing’ and out of class ‘journaling.’

Journaling: (worth 15%, each section’s journal is worth 5%)

Each Unit of the course will require you to keep a weekly reflective journal. Journaling is an informal method of thinking about the material, what you have learned, and how you can make connections between the material and your own political life. On Blackboard, you may click “tools,” then “Journals” to create your own journal. Only you and I will have access to your journal entries—however this is not a place for private reflection on your life, rather a place for private reflection on the course (perhaps with its relevance to your life).

While journals are informal writing, you must write in complete sentences with correct spelling and grammar. Merely making lists or jotting down a series of disconnected ideas is insufficient for full credit. We will cover, in class, some beneficial ways for you to journal, and I will provide you with a rubric and guideline for journal entries.

You are responsible for one journal entry each week of the unit. Journal entries should be between 250-500 words and reflect on that week’s assignments, discussions, and your own learning in the course. At the end of each unit, I will ‘collect’ and grade your journal for that unit, and will be providing some feedback weekly.

In class writing: (worth 15%, each assignment is worth 5%)

There will be three short in class writing assignments. These assignments will be completed in class. Writing assignments will consist of a prompt that you will be asked to answer in essay form. You will have 45 minutes to write your answers, and will be permitted to use either notes or your texts. More than anything, these prompts are designed to encourage critical thinking about the materials—they will not be heavily focused on remembering exact details, but rather, understanding theories and thinking critically about them in conversation with each other.

Midterm: (15%)

The midterm will require short (1-3 sentence) answers, requiring you to compare and contrast theories, or identify a particular author’s thoughts on a specific question. The texts covered will be all those up to the day of the midterm.

Final: (20%)

The final exam will require short (1-3 sentence) answers, and one essay, that require comparisons of the texts read, answers to questions about specific readings, as well as original critical work in relation to the readings. The final exam is cumulative.

Attendance/Participation: (20%)

Both attendance in class, and participation in class are required. Much philosophical work is done best in conversation, not simply by reading and memorizing the assigned texts. You are required to bring the text to class for the day; we will often consult the text, and work on understanding the text itself. Failure to bring the text to class will be considered an absence.

Because attendance is required, lectures will not be made available to students outside of the classroom. If you want to hear the lecture, attend class. Attendance will be taken each class. You may miss 3 classes without penalty. Missing more than 3 classes will result in a -1/3 letter grade, of your final grade, for each additional class missed.

Additionally, if you have a documented emergency or illness you must provide me with documentation. This will result in an ‘excused’ absence. Any work missed may only be made up if there is documentation of a serious emergency or illness. If you must miss class or an assignment due date due to observation of a religious holiday you must tell me at least 48 hours prior to the observation of the holiday. This excuses ONLY that work missed for the duration of the holiday. Scheduling travel (even travel for holidays), vacation, etc. is not a valid reason for missing class and will not be excused.

You are expected to participate in the following ways in order to receive full credit. Ways you can participate

  • Asking questions during lecture or during discussion. Questions must be pertinent to the material. If you’re confused about some point in the lecture, chances are you are not alone, so please feel free to ask questions.
  • Answering questions posed by the instructor during lecture, or answering questions posed by others discussion questions during class.

Grading for Participation: Each week you will have the opportunity to earn 5 points for participation. Offering an answer to the instructor’s questions, or asking an on topic question about course content, will earn 2 points (this will only earn one point if the contribution is a distraction from course material). Offering an original contribution to the discussion that is well thought out and contributes to the furthering of discussion will earn 3 points. (Some contributions may cause you to lose points, for example, interrupting a fellow student, dominating a discussion by continuously speaking without allowing others a chance, or talking about something that is off topic. Polite on-topic questions or contributions will NEVER cause you to lose points.)

Your weekly average of points earned will determine your grade for participation.

Average of 5: 100%

Average of 4.5-4.9: A

Average of 4-4.49: B

Average of 2.5-3.99: C

Average of 1-2.49: D

Average of 0-1: F


Reading Schedule:

*All page numbers are in parentheses and refer to the pages of Cahn, Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts.

T 8/27- Introduction to the course, in class readings.

Declaration of Independence

‘What to the American Slave is your 4th of July?’ Frederick Douglass, Excerpts

Liberty, Freedom, and Obligation

TH 8/29- Aristotle, Politics, Book I (175-181)

**No Class 9/2-9/8**

You must begin writing Discussion Questions Weekly Beginning 9/9

T 9/10- Hobbes, Leviathan Chapter 13-15, 17 (292-302)

TH 9/12- Locke, Second Treatise of Government, (315-325 and 336-342)

 T 9/17- Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book 1, Chapters 1-8 (370-374) and Book 2, Chapters 1-5 (376-380)

TH 9/19- Held, “Non-contractual Society: A Feminist View” (782-794)

T 9/24- Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2, (637-657)

TH 9/26- Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty” [Selections available on BB] Writing Assignment 1

Journal One Due on Saturday 9/28 at 12:00 Midnight

What should equality look like?

T 10/1-Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (355-369)

TH 10/3-Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women [Selections available on BB]

T 10/8-Anderson, “What is the Point of Equality” [Selection available on BB]

TH 10/10- Rawls, A Theory of Justice (694-708)

T 10/15- (Finish, Rawls, A Theory of Justice) Exam Review

TH 10/17-Midterm Exam

T 10/22-Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (713-725)

TH 10/24- Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia continued

T 10/29- Mills-The Racial Contract [Selections Available on BB] Writing Assignment 2

TH 10/31- Moller Okin, Justice, Gender and the Family [Selections Available on BB]

Journal Two Due on Saturday 11/2 at 12:00 midnight.

Political Participation and Political Critique

T 11/5- Plato, The Republic, Book 5 (85-102)

TH 11/7- Mill, On The Subjection of Women (675-689)

T 11/12 Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (569-576)

TH 11/14- Arendt, Selections from On Revolution, Chapter 2, “The Social Question” [Available on BB]

T 11/19- J. Cohen, “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy” [Available on BB]

TH 11/21- Habermas, Three Normative Models for Democracy (764-771) Writing Assignment 3

T 11/26- Walzer, “The Obligation to Disobey” [Available on BB]

*No Class on Thursday, November 28*

T 12/3- Seneca, On the Private Life [Selections available on BB]

TH 12/5- Kant, “Perpetual Peace” (528-536)

Journal Three Due on Saturday 12/7 at 12:00 Midnight

T 12/10- Nussbaum, “Kant and Cosmopolitanism” [Available on BB]

TH 12/12-Final Exam Review


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