PLSC 300B: Moral Dilemmas in Political Theory
MWF 9:20 / LSC
This is a course that applies political thought to the problems of our time. Perhaps the most important moral dilemma in political science today is whether politics, as we have come to understand it, is even relevant today. There is a good case to be made that constructs such as states, governments, dominance hierarchies and power politics do more harm than good. This is, in many ways, intentional and predictable. Given the material success of modern states, with their market economies, liberal values, multicultural tolerance and technological sophistication, we have seemed to have created a system that can solve our problems without state power. Yet the subpolitical forces which arrive in the absence of state power, forces such as globalized markets, social networks and technological problem solving, may come with their own difficulties. We will explore the situation of our times with less of an emphasis on where politics is at, but where it is going as the twenty first century moves forward.
PLSC 301: Political Justice (WI)
TTh 1:00 / LSC
When is it permissible for one state to attack another? What limits should combatants observe once hostilities have commenced? Is it ever permissible to slaughter civilians? Should the rules of war be different for the weaker opponent? These are some of the central questions addressed by just war theory, an ethical doctrine that evaluates the use of armed force. In this course we will examine the evolution of just war principles from ancient times to the present day. In the final weeks of the semester students will apply a modern version of just war theory to a relevant case of inter-state warfare. This is a writing-intensive section.
PLSC 306: Modern Political Thought
MWF 10:25 / LSC
The Renaissance is often regarded as a time of the rediscovery of classical principles in a world that had lost sight of man's humanity, a world dominated by the convoluted theology of scholasticism and the dark ages. The earliest modern thinkers, however, understood themselves to be not so much recovering the understanding of the ancients as challenging that understanding in its most fundamental aspects. They attempted to establish a new kind of humanism, what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has called "autonomous humanism," which proclaimed man above and apart from the rest of the natural order. The understanding introduced by these thinkers, and above all by Machiavelli and Francis Bacon, continues to dominate our lives and our minds in many ways. As this course will attempt to show, the new understanding was advanced as a self-conscious challenge to—and rejection of—the classical understanding of man, of the city, of God, of nature and the cosmos.
The aim of the course is to help students to come to terms with this radical modern understanding, along with the powerful justification advanced in support of it. We will proceed by studying the writings of the great thinkers responsible for the modern revolution, and consider some of the responses of critical successors.
PLSC 308: Contemporary Political Thought
MWF 12:35 / LSC
Discourses revolving around classical elements of ‘the political’ remain as vigorous and--due to our always unprecedented existence in the present space-time moment that we experience as here and now, due to our having awoken at birth already arranged into particular social, political, environmental circumstances that tragically exceed our ability to perceive their influences in our lives--as relevant as ever. With theory we learn to see, we practice perceptivity, because understanding is, of course, a crucial precursor to action. Overall, this course intends not only to furnish students with the means to contextualize events on the contemporary political scene within archetypal theoretical discourses, but also to empower them to creatively and courageously involve themselves in these dialogues.