This course is an introduction to the central themes of political philosophy: What is justice, and what would a just political society look like? What is the purpose of political society? How does freedom fit in to this purpose? In what ways are both freedom and authority limited by principles of justice, and in what ways by unavoidable facts? How do we determine which political facts are permanent and which can be changed?
These questions are timeless in the sense that each society, and every generation within each society, must confront them anew in the attempt to bring order and justice to people's common affairs. Political philosophy is the attempt to arrive at timeless answers--or at least, to achieve clarity about the fundamental alternatives amongst which people must choose. The aim of the course is to confront these questions by examining some of the most profound and influential writings in the history of Western political thought.
From the Professor: Borden Flanagan
Why would a first-year student want to take this course? Discuss its uniqueness as part of the University College, your teaching style, and any special opportunities the students may have.
"The course is on political philosophy, whose chief subjects are justice and human nature. Assumptions about these two things form the basis of all our policy debates and positions, so it's not difficult to find relevant material, especially in DC. We go to landmarks with deep philosophical significance (the Lincoln memorial, the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives, the Library of Congress); we attend presentations and debates at thinktanks; we tour the DC courts; we'll even see a movie or two with relevant subject matter."