Political Thought – Classical and Medieval
Professor Melissa Schwartzberg
Office hours: Thursdays 2-4, and by appointment
Though this course is intended as a survey of ancient political thought, each semester I choose a theme to anchor our discussions and enable some continuity across the various texts. This time, the theme will be the sources of political obligation and authority in ancient political thought. Among the questions we will ask as we read these works: to whom do we owe obedience, and under what conditions? How should we distinguish between just and unjust forms of rule? Which laws ought to take precedence in case of conflict? Are there conditions under which we may rightfully resist our rulers or break the law?
This course is structured as a graduate seminar in political theory. There will be a considerable amount of reading, which must be done with great care, since high-quality participation is expected. The bare-minimum course prerequisites are as follows:
Undergraduates in Columbia College: Contemporary Civilization, with a first semester grade of B+ or better. An additional course in political theory is strongly preferred.
GS students and master’s students outside of the Departments of Political Science and Classics: At least one prior course in political theory.
Midterm take-home exam (8-10 pages): 40%.
Final take-home exam (8-10 pages): 40%.
Class participation: 20%.
Ph.D. students who would prefer to write a research paper in lieu of the take-home exams may do so (approximately 25 pages, worth 80%).
Required texts (available at Book Culture):
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 1984.
Plato. Trial and Death of Socrates. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1975.
Plato. Republic. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992.
Plato. Statesman. Trans. J.B. Skemp. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992.
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. David Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Aristotle. Politics. Trans. Ernest Barker. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Cicero. On the Commonwealth and On the Laws. Trans. James Zetzel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Augustine. City of God Against the Pagans. Trans. Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin, 2003.
Aquinas. Political Writings. Trans. R.W. Dyson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list by any means – just some starting points. Undergraduates should feel free to ignore this list entirely; graduate students may wish to read selectively after they have read the primary texts.
Allen, Danielle S. The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Annas, Julia. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Connolly, Joy. The State of Speech: Rhetoric and Political Thought in Ancient Rome. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Deane, Herbert A. The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.
Finnis, John. Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Frank, Jill. A Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Garsten, Bryan. Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. Ch. 5.
Klosko, George. The Development of Plato’s Political Theory. New York: Methuen, 1986.
Kraut, Richard. Aristotle: Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Lane, Melissa S. Method and Politics in Plato’s Statesman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Monoson, S. Sara. Plato’s Democratic Entanglements. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Ober, Josiah. Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Schofield, Malcolm. Plato: Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Schofield, Malcolm. The Stoic Idea of the City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Villa, Dana. Socratic Citizenship. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Vogt, Katja Maria. Law, Reason, and the Cosmic City: Political Philosophy in the Early Stoa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Wood, Neal. Cicero’s Social and Political Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
Yack, Bernard. Problems of a Political Animal: Community, Justice, and Conflict in Aristotelian Political Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Introduction: Political obligation and authority: Why look to the ancients?
January 25: Sophocles, Antigone
Feb. 1: Plato, Apology and Crito
Knowledge and political authority
Feb. 8: Plato, Republic, Books I-V
Feb. 15: Plato, Republic, Books VI-X
Feb. 22: Plato, Statesman
Ruling, obeying, and the common good
March 1: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Books I, II, III.1-5, V, VI, VIII, IX, X.6-19.
March 8: Aristotle, Politics, Books I and II
March 22: Aristotle, Politics, Books III and IV [MIDTERM DISTRIBUTED]
Reason, duty, and the city
March 29: Stoicism [selections from Epictetus, Seneca, Cicero] [All on Courseworks] [MIDTERM DUE]
April 5: Cicero, On the Commonwealth: Books I, II: 64-70, III, V, VI; On the Laws: Books I-II
Obeying God, obeying men
April 12: Augustine, City of God, Books I, II, Book IV.4 and 15, Book V, VIII.3-12, XIV, XIX, XXII: 23-24, 29-30. On Courseworks: On Free Choice I.5.11-6.15; Letter 138, to Marcellinus; Letter 189, to Boniface; Against Faustus the Manichaean XXII.73-79
April 19: Aquinas, Political Writings: Sections 1 (Government and politics), 2 (Obedience), 3:1-b, g-h (Law), 6 (War, sedition and killing) and 7 (Religion and politics)
April 26: Towards modern theories of political obligation and legitimate authority [FINAL EXAM DISTRIBUTED, DUE MAY 10]
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