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POLS 201 Introduction to Political Philosophy • 5 Cr.


Examines the values and assumptions underlying governments and political systems. Students discuss philosophical issues behind international conflicts and cooperation in the present world. Same as PHIL 201. Either POLS 201 or PHIL 201 may be taken for credit, not both.


After completing this class, students should be able to:

  • Differentiate between fact and value, "is" and "ought" statements.
  • Recognize and understand the methods by which "fact" and "value" statements are arrived at.
  • Recognize the significance of falsifiable and non-falsifiable knowledge claims.
    • Similarities and differences between epistemological approaches in political philosophy.
    • The significant role of speculations about human nature in the formation of political philosophies.
    • The significance of actually existing cultural, socio-political, and economic conditions as shapers of political philosophies.
    • The pre-Socratic debate concerning reality; (being versus becoming) Socrates and the Sophists; empirical versus ethical knowledge; virtue as an ethical standard; virtue as happiness; the ethical and the political; the problem of pleasure and pain; the unit of ethics and politics; philosophy and civil disobedience; the Socratic epistemology and the Socratic method; the concept of a priori knowledge; opinion versus knowledge.
    • Plato: The unit of philosophy and politics; the question of justice; the ideal and the best possible regime; justice and the division of labor; communism and education; the theory of form; Plato's dualism; politics and the cave; individual versus political ethics; the tyranny of reason.
    • Aristotle: The influence and departure from Plato; political science as a practical science; the theory of immanent form; actuality and potentiality; virtue as reasoned action; virtue as a mean; the state and subordinate communities; the state and the good life; pub1ic and private domains; form and constitution; the classification of constitutions; constitutional types and social class; polity and the mixed constitution; justice as the rule of law; justice as proportionate equality; the critique of Plato; the radical versus the conservative temperament.
    • The rise of the roman Empire and the end of the Polis; the emergency of Stoicism; national law as universal reason; similarities between Stoicism and Christianity.
    • St. Augustine and the emergence of Christian political thought; His Manichean dualism; the emergency of the concept of sin and the Christian concept of evil; the psychology of evil; the two cities; the value of peace; separation of ethics from politics and sin as a political solution; Augustinian political analysis and the theory of real politic.
    • The theory of "two swords"; the struggle of church and state.
    • Church and the Nation State; the re-discovery of Aristotle; the synthesis of classical and Christian thought; St. Thomas' Aristotelianism; the monarchical ideal; teleological naturalism and Christian spiritualism; the hierarchy of law; human reason and natural law; natural law as participation in eternal law; human nature and the predominance of reason guided by faith; the supremacy of the sacred and the legitimacy of the secular; theology, philosophy, faith, and reason; the disintegration of St. Thomas' synthesis; the dysfunction of ethics and politics.
    • Machiavelli and the Renaissance; realism and empiricism; the decline of feudalism and the emergency of the modern nation state; Machiavelli and nationalism; the modern conception of human nature; the logic of violence and manipulation as the art of governance; the difference between the Prince and the Discourses; ethical naturalism; the illusion of authority and nationalism; virtue and Fortuna.
    • Hobbes: The reformation and the nation state; the Puritan revolution and the scientific and economic revolution; revolt against Aristotle; materialism and the new empiricism; body and motion; mathematical truth and nominalism, the physics of psychology; knowing and willing; appetite and aversion; pleasure and pain; theory of social contract; consent versus divine right; the state as a rationally constructed machine; human behavior and the state of nature; compositive and resolvative methods and the foundation of modern scientific methodology; the theory of the negative state; modern science and the theory of authority.
    • Locke and liberal democracy; radical individualism and the negative state; Locke and Hobbes: The Tabula Rasa and the theory of toleration; Locke versus Filmer; paternal versus political power; two stage social contract; the state of nature and natural law; the right to property; Protestantism and individualism; equality and popular sovereignty; Locke's liberal constitutionalism; separation of powers; liberalism and capitalism.
    • Rousseau and the loss of natural liberty; the enlightenment and the perversion of human natural goodness; the psychopathology of Rousseau; nature and natural man; the unity of force and freedom; the General Will; the problem of government; the unity of ethics and politics; the contract versus justice and instinct; the critique of the nation state; rejection of natural law and natural right; the ambiguity of General Will; Rousseau, romanticism, and the theoretical foundation of totalitarian democracy; the separation of continental and English philosophy and political theory.
    • Conservatism versus the French Revolution and the Rights of Man; Edmund Burke as a reformer; his critique of liberalism, natural versus prescriptive rights, philosophy versus politics; presumption, prejudice, and the reason of history; organic view of society; prudence and statesmanship; reform versus change; mass society, tyranny, and the paradox of liberal individualism; romanticism and reaction; conservatism as an ideology.
    • Hume and utilitarianism. Bentham: The rejection of natural law and natural right; individualism, utility, and majoritarianism as unresolvable problems of the 20th century welfare state; the felicific calculus; the legislator as a social scientist; Adam Smith and Laissez Faire capitalism; classical liberalism and the condition of the working class; the political failure of the middle class.
    • DeTocqueville: The sociology of democracy; the tyranny of the majority; equality as the destroyer of liberty; public opinion and bureaucratic despotism. John Stuart Mill: utilitarianism revised; the quality of pleasure and the superior individual; proportional representation and mass education and social engineering.
    • T. H. Green and the Oxford idealists. Hegel's metaphysics, dialectics and the impact of Germanic philosophical idealism on the concept of state.
    • Marx; Scientific versus Utopian socialism; the materialist conception of history and the critique of idealism; the means and the relations of production; division of labor and the concept of alienation; history as class conflict; substructure and superstructure; class consciousness and the objective conditions of revolution; the inevitability of communism; Marx versus Hegel; the historic significance of the working class; the unity of theory and practice; communism and the end of alienation and the goal of history. Eduard Bernstein and the revision of Marxism. Lenin's theory imperialism, the party, the state and the rejection of spontaneity. Marxism and nationalism; Marxism as ideology. Third World Marxism-Leninism as the vehicle of nationalism and modernization. Maoism, Titoism, Castroism, Liberation Theology.
    • Overall view of such key political concepts as freedom, equality, justice, individualism, property rights, community and the role and nature of government in the 20th century. Fascism, Communism, or what kind of liberalism.



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Bellevue College
3000 Landerholm Circle SE Bellevue, WA 98007-6484 U.S.A.
Work: (425) 564-1000