Course Detail

Special Topics in Classical Political Theory

Instructor
Rathnam

This course explores such central themes of classical political thought as "education and politics," "idealism and realism," and "politics and literature." 

The content of this course changes from year to year. 

Fall 2016 Difference and Disagreement

It is often suggested that contemporary liberal democracies are becoming more and more diverse, and even that such diversity is an inevitable result of free institutions. This diversity takes various forms: ethnic, racial, and religious diversity, most prominently, but also all kinds of theoretical disagreements about how we should live and how our communities should to be organized.  All of this makes the practical question of how we ought to respond, politically speaking, to these forms of difference and disagreement an urgent one.  While this is often understood as a distinctively modern question, it in fact goes back to the roots of political theory in ancient Greece.  

This course examines the treatments of diversity and disagreement in the works of some of the greatest philosophers (Plato), historians (Herodotus), and playwrights (Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Sophocles) of ancient Greece.  Through our study of these writers, we will think through questions such as the following: what is the relationship between the world's cultures and the good life?  Is the latter as varied as the former? How should we think about our responsibilities?  Are they given universally by reason or human nature, or instead by our cultural and social roles?  We will also consider the ways in which selected early modern writers, such as Michel de Montaigne and Bartolomé de las Casas, and contemporary writers, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, Amartya Sen, and Iris Marion Young, have addressed these and related questions.

Satisfies the Social-Scientific Thought distribution requirement.


Prerequisites: