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COURSE NAME: "Greek and Roman Political Philosophy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00 AM 11:15 AM
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

This introductory, writing focused course offers students a philosophical encounter with the central ideas and arguments of Greek and Roman political philosophy. Through a reading of ancient texts in English translation – such as Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, and Cicero’s Republic – students will scrutinize the major debates of Greek and Roman thought, including those about justice, the city, the regime, and the responsibilities of citizenship. The distinctive nature of classical thought – such as its insistence on the unity of ethics and politics, the importance of metaphysics for politics, the manner in which Socratic philosophy emerges from common opinion, and the idea of philosophy as a way of life – will be examined. While the aim of the course is to engage with the primary works of Classical thought, secondary literature will be assigned to illuminate historical context or wider themes, including the influence of the classical legacy on contemporary politics and political theory – for instance, on modern political forms, such as democracy, tyranny, republicanism, and the mixed constitution.

In this course we will study Greek and Roman political philosophy as both a source of our current conceptions about politics and an alternative to them. Among the topics we will consider are the following:

- The thesis that man (human being) is by nature a political animal

- The nature and purpose of the political community

- The rival claims to rule

- The best form of government 

- What justice is

- The meaning and virtues of citizenship

- The relation between politics, education, and music

-Which is better: the active, political life or the contemplative one?

Our guides will be the Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Roman philosopher-statesman Cicero.


A few options for purchasing books online: Amazon.it, Amazon UK, Abebooks, Feltrinelli.


1. Gain experience in the art of careful reading of carefully written texts. (In the words of Sherlock Holmes: "Never trust to general
impressions, but concentrate yourself upon details," for "the little things are infinitely the most important.") 

3. Improve your capacity for clear and logical thinking, speaking, and writing.

4. Gain a basic understanding of some major philosophical discussions in ancient political philosophy and how those discussions might be relevant to political life today.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
The Politics of AristotleAristotle / Peter Simpson, translatorUniversity of North Carolina Press9780807846377 This book is also available digitally via the JCU libraryHard Copy  
On DutiesCicero / Benjamin Newton, translatorCornell9781501704529 Also available digitally through the JCU library.Hard Copy  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Feminist Interpretations and Political TheoryMary Shanley and Carole PatemanPolity Press9780745607054HQ 1190.F46 1991bSaxonhouse essay, chap. 2
Aristotle's Nichomachean EthicsAristotle (trans. Bartlett)Chicago 9780226026749B430.A5 B37 2011 

class participation(1) Students are expected to attend all classes (barring a compelling reason for being absent, such as illness), to have done the assigned reading carefully, and to bring a hard copy of the reading. The use of electronic devices in class is not permitted. (2) A written reflection consisting of one well-crafted paragraph on the assigned reading is due every class, except when papers are due or there is an exam. (If you are absent you may turn in two reflections the following class.) The reflection should concretely explain a section of the reading or pose a good very specific question, and should demonstrate that you have studied the text carefully and thoughtfully. Reflections will be graded as G (good), M (middling) and I (inadequate) (3) Be punctual and do not leave the room during class except in cases of true emergencies. Eating in class is not permitted (drinking is OK).20
3 papersApproximately 1200 words each. Late papers will be assessed a penalty unless an extension has been granted in advance. You must cite in your paper the assigned editions and translations of the readings; papers which fail to do so will not be accepted. Please note that your papers may be submitted to Turnitin (a plagiarism detection program).60
final examEssay questions on the assigned readings. 20

A Work of this quality provides a coherent, orderly argument based on a very careful reading of the relevant texts and a solid understanding of the relevant issues. The student displays superior reasoning skills and has done a good deal of original thinking about the material. He or she knows how to raise important questions about the text and to evaluate possible answers to them. The student writes very clearly and has a near-perfect command of English usage and grammar. (Appropriate allowances are made for those for whom English is not a first language.)
BThis is a good level of performance. The student displays a capacity for careful reading and good reasoning. The work reflects some original thinking and is not simply a repetition of lecture material and readings. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions. The student writes clearly and has a good command of English usage and grammar.
CThis is an acceptable, or fair, level of performance. The student provides answers that are clear but limited, consisting mainly in a repetition of the text or lectures. The student has some ability to write clearly and correctly.
DThe student fails to demonstrate a coherent grasp of the material. Important information is omitted and/or irrelevant points included. The paper is poorly organized, and the student shows limited ability to write clearly and correctly.
FThis work fails to show any significant knowledge of the texts and the issues. Most of the material is irrelevant or inaccurate. There is no coherent argument and the student shows little ability to write clearly and correctly. This grade is also given for an act of plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


N.B. Numbers after the colon refer to the numbers on the Schedule of Readings (available on Moodle).

Sept. 4: Introduction

Sept. 6: 1

Sept. 11: 2

Sept. 13: 3

Sept. 18: 4

Sept. 20: 5

Sept. 25: No class

Sept. 27: 6

Oct. 2: 7. Receive assignment for paper 1.

Oct. 4: 8

Friday, Oct. 6 (make-up for Sept. 25): 9

Oct. 9: 10

Oct. 11: 11. Paper 1 due.

Oct. 16: 12

Oct. 18: 13

Friday, Oct. 20 (make-up for Nov. 1): 14

Oct. 23: 15. Receive assignment for paper 2.

Oct. 25: 16

Oct. 30: 17. Paper 2 due.

Nov. 1: no class (holiday)

Nov. 6: 18

Nov. 8: 19

Nov. 13: 20

Nov. 15: 21

Nov. 20: 22

Nov. 22: 23. Receive assignment for paper 3.

Nov. 27: 24

Nov. 29: 25. Paper 3 due.

Dec. 4: 26

Dec. 6: 27