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Understanding the nature of politics, from its antecedents to its many, and varied, schools of thought.
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Great Political Thinkers, Part I:
Plato through Machiavelli
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May 5-Jun. 1, 2003

Other available dates:
Jul. 14-Aug. 10enroll
Short Course: 4 Weeks
Tuition: $139.00
Materials: $35.95
Course Author: Alan Ryan, Warden of New College, The University of Oxford Profile >

Online Instructor: Harald Braun Profile >
Course Description
Take a Tour Is politics really necessary?

Politics can be defined in innumerable ways, but one plausible explanation is that political decision making is what happens when a group large enough to organise its own affairs and in need of institutions to make law and enforce it, and to organise and deploy force against outsiders, makes decisions in these matters by deliberation in which divergent interests are taken into account.if only by being repressed for the sake of the greater good.

This series of lectures by Professor Alan Ryan introduces students to the thinking and arguments of such classical political writers as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Machiavelli.

Students will enrich their understanding of current political ideas by studying their origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, and in Renaissance Italy. Through the analysis of primary texts, they will explore the early development of concepts which later became the foundation of modern political theory.

This course can be taken as a stand-alone course or, in conjunction with Great Political Thinkers, Part II: Hobbes through Marx and Beyond as the first half of an eight-week-long survey of political theory.
Course Activities
Readings and lectures.
During this four-week-long course, students will read from the assigned texts and listen to audio lectures by Professor Ryan. Each week, students will be asked to consider a series of questions or exercises designed to stimulate online discussion.
Online discussion.
Students are encouraged to participate in an ongoing online discussion using the course discussion board. In this discussion forum, participants can offer thoughtful responses to readings, debate with one another over the meaning of the texts, and receive guidance and feedback from the online instructor. Students participate by posting and reading comments at any time during the week.
Live chat.
Live chat is the natural complement to course discussions. Hosted by the online instructor, these regularly held, hour-long online sessions bring the class together in a lively and informal setting, in real time. Chats take place at varying times to accommodate different time zones and schedules. As a result, students may not be able to attend all the chats; however, transcripts of each session will be posted for later review.
Time commitment.
Students may expect to spend 3 to 5 hours per week on course-related work: 2 to 3 hours completing the reading assignments (60 pages) and listening to the lectures, and 1 to 2 hours participating in online discussion and live chat.
Course Outline

Week 1: Preamble: Is Politics Really Necessary?
(Plato: Philosophy vs. Democracy)
Week 2: Aristotle: Politics Defended
Week 3: Cicero: The Roman Citizen and His Virtues
Week 4: Machiavelli: Doing Evil that Good May Follow
Course Materials
The following materials will be sent to all enrolled students:
Cohen, Mitchell, and Nicole Fermon. Princeton Readings in Political Thought. Princeton University Press, 1996.
Audio CDs or cassettes with four lectures by Professor Ryan.
The following materials will be available online:
Four streaming-audio lectures by Professor Ryan.
Course Author Profile
Alan Ryan was born in London in 1940. He read philosophy, politics, and economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and then became a lecturer in politics, first at Keele University and then at the University of Essex. He returned to Oxford as fellow and tutor in politics at New College in 1969 and in 1989 he moved to the USA to become professor of politics at Princeton University. He returned to Oxford again in 1996 as warden of New College.

A fellow of the British Academy since 1986, Alan Ryan has been a member of the Council for Academic Awards, a delegate of the Oxford University Press, and a senior consulting editor of the Bertrand Russell Project. He has sat as a member of a number of committees on political thought and political science, in the UK and overseas, and is an associate editor of Ethics. His publications include The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill, The Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Property and Political Theory, Property, Russell: A Political Life, and John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism. He is also a frequent contributor to academic journals, political magazines, and the broadsheet press.

Online Instructor Profile
Day-to-day and week-by-week course activities will be facilitated by Harald Braun. He will maintain discussion boards and coordinate the overall course experience.

Harald Braun has a DPhil in modern history from Oxford University and is a postdoctoral research fellow at King’s College London. His thesis and forthcoming book deal with the problematical synthesis of humanist and scholastic traditions, in early modern European and Spanish political thought in particular. His research takes him to British, German, and Spanish archives, and he writes articles, reviews, and papers on a variety of aspects of late medieval and early modern intellectual history. Currently, he is preparing a volume of papers for publication from a collaboratively organised conference on “Conscience and the Early Modern World, 1500–1800”, held at Sheffield University in July 2002. In teaching the history of political thought, he is both keen to introduce students to the diverse and changing contexts of political thought as well as identify and discuss the timeless problems, themes, and concepts that make thinkers from past ages inspiring and obligatory reading for the present.


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