Plsc 4351. 001-Introduction to Political Theory

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PLSC 4351.001--Introduction to Political Theory
Robert L. Perry, Ph.D.

Fall 2014

MWF 11:00 a.m.

Office: MB 3230 Office Hours:

Email: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00a.m. – 11:00a.m.

Phone: 552-2343 Tuesdays, Thursdays: 11:00a.m. - Noon

Fax : 552-3325 (or by appointment)


As its title suggests, this course is an introduction to political theory. Throughout the semester, we will study those philosophers who are thought to have the greatest impact on 21st Century Western political thought. In the table below, on the left, are the names of those philosophers.





Human Nature and Rational Motivation

  • Why do we do things we do?

The Motivational Basis of Social Solidarity

  • Why do we form governments?

  • Under what circumstances do new governments come about?

The Function and Organization of Authority

  • What is the proper role of government leaders?

  • What form of government is best?


St. Augustine




Locke / Jefferson





Course Learning Objectives

By the end of the semester, you should be able to understand and articulate what each of these thinkers had to say about the concepts listed above, on the right. In other words, you should be able to articulate what Socrates, Plato, Machiavelli, etc., had to say about human nature, how and why people form governments, and what form of government each philosopher thought best.

In addition, you should, by the end of the semester, be able to understand and explain:

  • the primary areas of philosophy

  • arguments concerning the major difficulties with philosophy (i.e., what philosophy has failed to accomplish)

  • what factors led to the development of the state

  • the major features of a civilized society

  • how Middle-Eastern culture contributed to western political philosophy

  • what factors brought about the Renaissance

  • how the concept of “natural rights” developed in western political philosophy

  • the major philosophical influences upon the Framers of the U.S. Constitution

Required Text:

  • Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. Douglas J. Soccio, 2014. 8th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth).

  • In addition to these texts, there will be some handouts given throughout the semester.

Recommended Texts: (Please note that you will not be required to purchase the books listed below. These books are intended to complement your reading. All of these books are fairly general in their approach, and are excellent sources of background material concerning the authors we will study this semester. The important thing is that each of these books can be found in UTPB’s Dunagan Library.)
(1) The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy From the Greeks to the Renaissance. Anthony Gottlieb. 2000. (New York: W.W. Norton).

(2) Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. Simon Blackburn. 1999. (New York: Oxford University Press).

(3) The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. Richard Tarnas. 1993. (New York: Ballantine)

(4) From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents. David Gress. 1998. (New York: Free Press).

(5) How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization. Mortimer Adler; Max Weismann, ed. 2000. (Chicago: Open Court).
Course Format/Requirements

There will be two exams this semester--a midterm and a final. The format for these exams will be multiple-choice, true/false, and short answer.

One very important thing to note about this class is that it will require your informed input; indeed, a major portion of your grade will be based on class participation. Participation will be of two sorts: in-class and/or on the web. Several times throughout the semester, I will introduce discussion topics on WebCT. These will very likely be continued from class discussions. One thing that is required of your participation in these discussions is that you may not discuss items anonymously; you must use your “real” name. If you are unsure how to use WebCT, please get with me as soon as possible.

You will be required to keep a reflective journal throughout the semester. Details and examples for this journal will be given during the first week of class.

Basic” Grading

  • Mid-Term Exam 20%

  • Reflective Journal 30%

  • Final Exam 35%

  • Participation 15%

Reading Assignments

As mentioned above, I will grade you, in part, on how often and how well you participate in and contribute to class discussions. Thus, active participation will require that you attend class as often as possible. (Test questions are based on class discussion and lecture.) Be prepared to participate; valuable participation requires that you read the relevant material before coming to class. I will call on you to contribute to class discussion throughout the semester.

Things to note:

1. Make-up exams will not be given during the semester. Exceptions will be granted in the case of a university-authorized absence. As to what constitutes such an absence, check in your student handbook. You must provide documentation.

2. You are welcome to come by during any office hours time. Come alone, or with friends. It doesn’t matter to me. We can discuss anything related to the course, or any scholastic topic you’d like. Do not wait until late in the semester, when you think you might be in danger of failing, to come for a visit.

3. You will not be permitted to do additional tasks to improve your grade for the course. Once a course grade has been given, it is final. Your grade will not be changed for any reason other than a mistake on my part. The need to keep in the good graces of your parents, to keep a scholarship, to improve your GPA, to get into law school or medical school, may all be important reasons for you to receive a higher grade, but they are not valid reasons for me to change your grade. A final grade is just that--final.

4. You are required to attend class. You will be allowed three unexcused absences during the semester. For each unexcused absence after the initial three, there will be a ten-point reduction to your participation.

5. Do not use cell phones during class; do not send text messages. Also, I will only respond to email sent through university accounts.

6. Keep in mind that there will be several times where we will discuss things that you will very likely disagree with. Some of these topics will be very controversial. I ask that you treat others as mature adults; i.e., with courtesy and respect.

7. The last day to drop this course is October 30. It is your responsibility to drop this course on time.


Any student who feels that he or she may require assistance for any type of physical or learning disability should consult with me as soon as possible. To request academic accommodations for a disability contact the Director of the PASS Office in the Mesa Building Room 1160. Students are required to provide documentation of disability to PASS Office prior to receiving accommodations.

Course Outline




Aug. 25

Introduction to Political Philosophy

Soccio, Chp. 1

Sep. 3


Soccio, Chp. 4

Sep. 8


Soccio, Chp. 5

The Republic, Books 1-10

Sep. 15


Soccio, Chp. 6

Nicomachean Ethics, Books 1, 5, 8

The Politics, Books 4, 5, 7

Sep. 22

The Stoics / Post-Aristotle

  • Epictetus

  • Marcus Aurelius

Soccio, Chp. 7

The Enchiridion

Meditations, Books 1-5

Sep. 29

Augustine / Aquinas

Soccio, Chp. 8

Augustine, Confessions

Aquinas, Summa Theologica

  • Part I, Q. 2

  • Part II, Q. 40, Art. I

  • Part II, Q. 42, Art. 2

Oct. 6


The Prince

  • Chps. 5-9, 11-18

Oct. 13


The Leviathan

  • Part I: Chps. 10-14

  • Part II: Chps. 17, 18, 21, 26

Oct. 17

Mid-Term Exam

Oct. 20


Soccio, Chp. 10

Locke, Second Treatise of Government

Oct. 27

American Democracy

  • The Declaration of Independence

  • The Constitution of the United States of America

  • Madison, Federalist Papers #10, 51 and 78

Nov. 3


The Social Contract

Nov. 10

John Stuart Mill

Soccio, Chp. 12

On Nature

Nov. 17


Soccio, Chp. 13

Communist Manifesto

Nov. 24


Soccio, Chp. 16

Will to Power

Dec. 1

Catch-up / Review

Dec 8

Comprehensive Final Exam – 10:15a.m. – 12:15p.m.

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