Ancient & Medieval Political Theory



Ancient architecture is all around us. Columns on a building bespeak power and authority, even though we have more efficient means of holding up the roof. Throughout America one encounters small towns named Rome, Athens, Sparta, Marathon—towns not founded by people from Rome, Athens, Sparta, or Marathon. This is because the Founders of the United States looked back to and admired ancient republics and thought they were reviving ancient modes and orders. They named their towns and erected their public buildings accordingly. Yet this desired return to ancient republican politics was based upon a rejection of ancient republican thought, or of ancient political philosophy, and especially of its heirs in the Middle Ages.

Classical and medieval political theory refers to the tradition of philosophy that originated in Athens two and a half millennia ago, spread throughout Greece and Rome, was preserved and applied to new problems by the falasifa of the Islamic world, influenced the debates of the rishonim in Jewish communities, and was synthesized with Christianity into scholastic natural law. This tradition dominated Western European political thought until the sixteenth century and continues to inform modern political thought insofar as modern political thought is defined by its opposition to its classical and medieval foundations. Yet this tradition holds our interest, not because it is old or historically important, but rather because it claims to be simply true.

The theme of this course is the place of the rational individual within an authoritative society. Modern political theory tends to focus on the terms individual and society in the preceding formula, seeking for theories of legitimacy, obligation, etc. We turn to classical and medieval political philosophy in order to supplement the perspective with which we are familiar, focusing instead on the conflict between the rational and the authoritative.

This conflict is of immediate political interest, insofar as it bears on the possibility of a rational political society. The United States, appealing as it does in the Declaration of Independence to the laws of nature and nature’s God, claims to be such a society. Moreover, part of the goodness of any society seems tied to its capacity to tolerate and even celebrate the highest levels of human flourishing, to make a place—an honored place—for the rational individual. This has always been at best a tenuous proposition, especially as the preservation of every society depends upon its being authoritative. The sort of rationality that expresses itself as philosophic daring rather than as bare instrumental prudence has long been politically suspect.

The thinkers we will examine in this course had to answer the question of whether philosophy was even permissible, whether it had anything to offer political life, whether it was corrosive of a healthy political order, and what accommodations might have to be made if political philosophy were not to be hounded out of every good and just society. This required that they do justice to the arguments in favor of a traditional, authoritative society and hence against the public permissibility of philosophy. They could not afford derisively to dismiss tradition but instead had to defend the political responsibility of intellectual liberation. Inasmuch as we share their interest in an intellectually robust engagement with the question of traditional authority, we can profit from the political philosophy which they articulated.

Political philosophy is not a series of facts which can be memorized, and so there will be no quizzes, tests, exams, and the like. The only way to understand an argument is to grapple with it, and this requires both an ability to restate it and a willingness to contest or be persuaded by it. Consequently, assessment will be entirely through essays and participation in class. A capacity to write, think, and speak clearly will be essential to doing well. Students may find the entries in History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, to be of value. It is also highly recommended that students have had some prior exposure to political philosophy, preferably through POLS 251 “Introduction to Political Philosophy.”

Attentive students can expect to leave this course with a greater understanding of the fundamental political problems as a result of a searching encounter with the great texts of the Western tradition. Students will have a deeper knowledge of what was said in the works which we will study, and will have the tools to be able to profitably read other books of philosophical interest.


Required Texts

(be sure to use these translations)

  • Alfarabi. The Political Writings. Trans. Charles Butterworth. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001. ISBN: 080148913X
  • Aquinas, Thomas. On Law, Morality, and Politics. 2nd ed. Ed. William P. Baumgarth and Richard J. Regan. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002. ISBN: 9780872206632
  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Robert Bartlett & Susan Collins. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. ISBN: 0226026744
  • Medieval Political Philosophy. Ed. Ralph Lerner and Muhsin Mahdi. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1963. ISBN: 0801491398
  • Plato. The Republic. Trans. Allan Bloom. 2d ed. New York: Basic Books, 1998. ISBN: 0465069347
  • Sophocles. Theban Plays. Trans. Paul Woodruff and Peter Meineck. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN: 0872205851
  • Online Course Reserves, containing Book III of Aristotle’s Politics and selections from Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.


25%        Class Participation and Attendance.
15%        First Essay, 1000 words in length, due February 10 by 5:00pm.
30%        Second Essay, 1500 words in length, due March 7 by 5:00pm.
30%        Third Essay, 1500 words in length, due April 27 by 5:00pm.

Attendance and Participation

It is impossible to understand an idea without rolling it over in your mind, and this is most easily accomplished by talking about it to someone else. I will interrupt my lectures to ask the class questions, and you are encouraged to interrupt me to ask questions of your own.

This course centers around ideas that are found in classic texts of political philosophy. We will treat not only these ideas but also how to find them in the text itself. It is vital, therefore, that you have read the assigned texts at least once before I discuss them in the lectures. It is best to focus on what is confusing or counterintuitive, as this will help you participate in the class discussions.

Do not worry if you did not see everything in the book that I go over in lecture when you were reading it—that is what the lecture is for. Also do not worry if you do not understand everything after the lecture: this material is difficult, and careers are still made by answering questions about it. An indication of progress is that you are better able to articulate what is perplexing about the text than you were before.

Success in this class requires that you attend every scheduled class and participate knowledgably. Attendance will be taken before the start of each class. Students not in their seats when attendance is taken will be considered absent. Students who leave class early without prior permission will also be considered absent for that class.

Fruitful participation includes answering questions intelligently, probing and challenging what is said in a manner that shows knowledge and understanding of the text, and otherwise advancing the level of discourse in the class.

Students may earn a “C” by attending almost every class session and complying with basic expectations of decorum. Those who participate intelligently almost every week can expect to earn a “B” for this portion of their grade. Students who contribute to almost every class in a fruitful manner can expect to achieve an “A” for their attendance and participation.


You will write three essays over the course of the class on topics assigned approximately two weeks before they are due. The first essay should be roughly 1000 words (3 double-spaced pages) in length, while the last two should be roughly 1500 words (5 double-spaced pages).

The authors we will read had to conceal their teaching; one way they did this was to contradict themselves. One line of argument would be clear; another, more reputable line of argument would be convoluted, but could be pointed to if someone were to accuse them of saying disreputable things. They could also say things that appeared to mimic the accepted opinions of their society but that differed in radical and unsettling ways. Class sessions will involve sifting the texts to discern their true meaning. It is this process of close and careful reading that students will be asked to replicate in writing papers and essays.

Bare summaries of the text will reproduce without resolving the difficulties in the text. This means that they will be as contradictory as the text they summarize. Even questions that appear to require a summary will hinge upon detecting, grappling with, and resolving the apparent contradictions within the argument.

Scholarship on ancient and medieval political theory tends to be hit or miss, some of it blindingly excellent, some of it numbingly superficial, and some of it downright crazy. As a result, much of what you read in a library or on the internet may obscure rather than enlighten. All arguments in your essays should be drawn from your own encounter with the text, regardless of whether it conforms to some encyclopedia entry or notebook. Erudite misunderstandings will profit you more than dutiful repetitions of the correct answer.

Essays will be graded on the ideas they contain, but good organization and grammar are essential to getting those ideas across. All written work should conform to the rules of standard English, and students should also expect that better-written work will get a higher grade. Poorly-written work will suffer. A good (and brief) guide for avoiding the most common grammatical and stylistic pitfalls is The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White; Fowler’s Modern English Usage is also a valuable reference concerning English composition, albeit more detailed. Essays should be submitted through Blackboard and will be run through SafeAssign.

Essays will warrant a “C” if they bare the marks of having genuinely grappled with the question and are relatively clear. A “C” should not be beyond anyone’s abilities. Short or impenetrable essays will receive a “D” or an “F,” as will those that demonstrate a failure to have read the text. Historically speaking, the only people to have failed this class are those who plagiarize or do not submit all the assignments. Students desiring a “B” will accurately describe the problems with the text, support their thesis with a variety of arguments, and ground those arguments firmly in the texts discussed in class. In order to earn an “A,” you must demonstrate real understanding of the issue and of the reasons why people might disagree with your thesis.

Essays will be penalized 2% per day if submitted late, including weekends and holidays, up to a maximum penalty of 14%. All essays must be submitted by the last day of class to be counted.


Course Expectations & Policies

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY: All work must be the product of the student’s own original effort. The undergraduate catalog states,

Good academic work must be based on honesty. The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are responsible for plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students responsible for, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.

It is the student’s responsibility to familiarize him- or herself with university policy regarding plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Students should take the university’s Academic Integrity tutorial ( Those uncertain how to avoid plagiarism should consult the resources that the Political Science Department has made available on its website ( All work will be run through SafeAssign.

APPOINTMENTS: I can arrange to meet students by appointment if the above office hours are inconvenient. Students are encouraged to come to office hours to discuss course material or any problems they might be having in the course. It is best to discuss incipient problems before they become large ones.

CANCELLATIONS: If I am more than fifteen minutes late to class, you may assume that I have been delayed and that class is cancelled. Leaving earlier than this risks being marked absent.

DECORUM: Use your common sense. Turn off your cell phones. Do not insult or threaten anybody, or use abusive language. Do not eat—it only makes the rest of us hungry. There is no nap-time. Refrain from private discussions, interrupting people, texting, surfing the internet, and in general anything that would disrupt the class.

INCOMPLETES: Incompletes will only be given in rare circumstances, such as illness, death in the immediate family, or other unusual and unforeseeable circumstances not encountered by the other students in the class. Incompletes are given at the discretion of the instructor and only when it is possible that the completion of the remaining work could result in a passing grade. An incomplete must be resolved within the appropriate time limit or it will automatically be changed to an F. The student is responsible for seeing that incompletes are made up before the expiration date.

DISABILITIES: A student who believes that reasonable accommodations with respect to course work or other academic requirements may be appropriate in consideration of a disability must (1) provide the required verification of the disability to the Center for Access-Ability Resources, (2) meet with the Center for Access-Ability Resources to determine appropriate accommodations, and (3) inform the faculty in charge of the academic activity of the need for accommodation. Students are encouraged to inform the faculty of their requests for accommodations as early as possible in the semester, but must make the requests in a timely enough manner for accommodations to be appropriately considered and reviewed by the university. If contacted by the faculty member, the staff of the Center for Access-Ability Resources will provide advice about accommodations that may be indicated in the particular case. Students who make requests for reasonable accommodations are expected to follow the policies and procedures of the Center for Access-Ability Resources in this process, including but not limited to the Student Handbook.

A wide range of services can be obtained by students with disabilities, including housing, transportation, adaptation of printed materials, and advocacy with faculty and staff. Students with disabilities who need such services or want more information should contact the Center for Access-Ability Resources at 815-753-1303.

AWARDS: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $100. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to the department secretary by the end of February. All copies should have two cover pages—one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.

POLITICAL SCIENCE WEBSITE: Students are encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website on a regular basis. This central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, and researching career options. Undergraduates may find this website especially useful in tracking down department events and for accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach this site, go to


Class Schedule

PW = Alfarabi, The Political Writings
LMP = Aquinas, On Law, Morality, and Politics
MPP = Medieval Political Philosophy

Unit I: The Tragic View

01/18     Introduction

01/23     The Futility of Prudence

Sophocles, Antigone
Study Questions:

  • In what way might the conflict between Creon and Antigone represent the conflict between politics and the family? How is this view inadequate?
  • Why does Antigone ham it up regarding her being abandoned by gods and men?
  • Whom do the gods support: Creon or Antigone? How are Creon and Antigone to determine whom the gods support?

01/25     The Gods and Inexorable Fate

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus
Study Questions:

  • What did Oedipus do wrong?
  • Given what he had suffered, how does is make sense for Oedipus to blind himself?
  • What reason does Oedipus have to trust Tiresias or Creon?

Unit II: Platonic Justice and Rationality

01/30     Justice, Law, and the Common Good

Plato, Republic, Book I: 327a–340c
Study Questions:

  • How does Socrates’ initial question to Cephalus about what it’s like to be about to die transform into a discussion of justice? What does this teach us about Cephalus’ view of justice?
  • How does Polemarchus’ definition of justice differ from his father’s? How does this permit him to avoid some of the problems his father ran into? To what new difficulties does this change expose Polemarchus to?
  • Given Cephalus’ view of justice, in what sense might the just man be praiseworthy? How about Polemarchus’ view?

02/01     Thrasymachus and the Ruler in Precise Speech

Plato, Republic, Book I: 340c–354c
Study Questions:

  • In what way does Cleitophon misunderstand what Thrasymachus means regarding justice? What light does this shed on what Thrasymachus really means?
  • What does Thrasymachus mean by the “artisan in the precise sense”?
  • In what ways is Socrates’ refutation of Thrasymachus deeply unsatisfying? In what ways does Socrates adopt Thrasymachus’ thesis in the course of the discussion? Why does Thrasymachus permit Socrates to get away with such shoddy arguments?

02/06     Glaucon and Adeimantus

Plato, Republic, Book II: 357a–368c
Study Questions:

  • Why does Glaucon say where justice comes from, rather than simply define it as the previous interlocutors had done?
  • How does Glaucon radicalize Thrasymachus’ thesis? Is Glaucon more or less clear-sighted than Thrasymachus? Is his brother Adeimantus more or less clear-sighted that he is?
  • How does Adeimantus’ complaint differ from Glaucon’s? Is it possible to answer both Glaucon and Adeimantus?

02/08     The Healthy City, the Feverish City, and Education about the Gods

Plato, Republic, Book II: 368c–383c
First Essay due Friday
Study Questions:

  • Why does Socrates begin to outline a city in speech? What does this tell us about the political implications of the Republic?
  • What is wrong with the healthy city with which Socrates begins? Why does Glaucon express his objection by referring to their austere dining table? What limit does Glaucon’s objection put upon politics?
  • How does the discussion of theology arise? What is the stated reason for objecting to the Homeric gods? Is this reason plausible? Is this discussion pious?

02/13     Music, Lies, and Communism

Plato, Republic, Book III–IV: 386a–427c
Study Questions:

  • Why does Socrates discuss harmonic modes, rhythm, and the benefits of narration versus acting at such length?
  • Why is the “noble lie” or the myth of the metals needed if the allotment of citizens into classes really is the result of a meritocracy?
  • If the guardians and auxiliaries are drawn from the same class, all of whom have received the same education, why do some succeed in resisting temptations (and can thus become guardians) while others fail (and thus must remain auxiliaries)?
  • How does the communism Socrates suggests differ from Marx’s? Given that the guardians have received an education to justice, supported by divine sanction, what need is there for communism in the city in speech?

02/15     Justice and the Family

Plato, Republic, Book IV–V: 427c–461e
Study Questions:

  • What procedure does Socrates suggest they employ to discover justice in the city in speech? How does Socrates justify this strange procedure? What is questionable about his justification?
  • How does moderation differ from justice? Given the definition of justice arrived at, is anyone in the just city just? How does the psychology that underlies the definition of justice square with the Socratic dictums that virtue is knowledge, vice is ignorance, and no one is willingly just?
  • In what way does Book V interrupt the flow of the dialogue? Why is this interruption necessary?
  • Why must Socrates destroy the traditional family? How do Socrates’ concerns differ from more familiar feminist arguments for revising the family structure?

02/20     Philosopher Kings

Plato, Republic, Book V: 462a–474c
Study Questions:

  • Given the eugenics, demolition of the family, and prison-like communism of the city in speech, in what way can the regime that is described be considered choice-worthy? Why would Plato present such a regime as though it were a good one?
  • Why does Socrates say that rule by philosopher-kings would be even more comical than the destruction of the family?
  • Given the definitions of justice arrived at, is the philosopher-king a just man?

02/22     Philosophers and Philosophy

Plato, Republic, Book V: 474c–487a
Study Questions:

  • Why does Socrates compare the philosopher to a man who loves wine, a man who loves youths, and a man who loves honor? Is Socrates’ presentation of these men as indiscriminant lovers accurate?
  • Given Socrates’ presentation of wisdom, in what way is it loveable? Can the philosophic life be choice-worthy if wisdom is not loveable?
  • What does Socrates mean by the “form” or “idea” of each thing? Why would the theory of the forms provoke anger?
  • Given what the philosopher knows, how could the arts of kingship be improved by being augmented with philosophy?

02/27     Philosophy, Moral Virtue, and the Cave

Plato, Republic, Book VI–VII: 484a–541a
Study Questions:

  • What is curious about the philosopher’s moderation? His courage? What is the relationship between a love of wisdom and moral virtue?
  • What does Socrates mean by saying that a city risks being destroyed if it takes up philosophy? Why does Socrates concede most of Adeimantus’ point that those who continue with philosophy past their youth turn out to be bizarre or downright vicious?
  • What do the various images in the allegory of the cave represent?

02/29     The Regimes, the Good Life, and Myths

Plato, Republic, Book VIII–X
Study Questions:

  • What would it mean to have a soul that is akin to a city ruled by a tyrant? How could a person with such a soul ever seize power? How is a tyrant’s soul ordered?
  • Is the father of the timocratic-souled man just, according to the definition of justice arrived at in the Republic? How would we describe the organization of his soul?
  • Is the oligarchic-souled man more or less clear-sighted than his timocratic-souled father? What about the democratic-souled man and his father? The tyrannical-souled man and his father?

Unit III: Aristotelian Virtue and Politics

03/05     Statecraft as Soulcraft

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I
Study Questions:

  • What is odd about saying that virtuous action is that which leads to happiness? How does this not lead to the relativism of “to each his own”?
  • Why is the “vulgar” argument that happiness is pleasure rejected as insufficient? How is it not simply incorrect?
  • Can a man be happy in the midst of misfortune? Why is there disagreement on this point? What does this disagreement suggest about our hopes regarding the power of virtue?

03/07     Virtue as a Mean

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II
Second Essay due Friday
Study Questions:

  • What does it mean for a virtue to be a mean between two vices? What are other ways of understanding what a virtue is?
  • What is the difference among feelings, capacities, and states?
  • What does it mean that virtue is not a feeling? What does this do to the equation of compassion with morality?
  • Why does Aristotle reject the notion that virtue is a capacity? Is this argument sensible?

03/12     [Spring Break]

03/14     [Spring Break]

03/19     The Virtue Called Justice

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book V
Study Questions:

  • How is justice a mean between two vices? Why does Aristotle not have a single answer to this?
  • If everyone can agree upon the principles of distributive justice, how can there be disagreements regarding what is just?
  • To what sort of justice (distributive, corrective, or reciprocity) does retributive justice belong? What does this disclose about Aristotle’s view of retributive justice?
  • Why is politics necessary?

03/21     Justice and Politics

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, ch. 9
Aristotle, Politics, Book III [online course reserve]
Study Questions:

  • Why is politics necessary?
  • Why is the excellent citizen different from the good man? What does this difference mean for the value of politics and the virtues?
  • Why do arguments in favor of oligarchy and democracy, properly understood, actually support aristocracy?
  • How does the discussion of absolute kingship arise? Why is absolute kingship superior to the rule of law?

Unit IV: Greek Philosophy and Revealed Religion

03/26     The Soul and the City

Alfarabi, Selected Aphorisms, aphs. 1–29 [PW 3–26]
Study Questions:

  • What does Alfarabi mean by calling the king a physician of the soul? How does this view differ from the liberal-democratic view of statesmanship?
  • How does self-restraint differ from virtue? How does Alfarabi’s statement on this question relate to Aristotle’s?
  • What is the difference between the necessary city and the virtuous city? Which is to be preferred? Why?

03/28     The King in Truth, the Intellectual Virtues, and the Virtuous City

Alfarabi, Selected Aphorisms, aphs. 30–67 [PW 27–44]
Study Questions:

  • In what way does the king in truth differ from those who are called kings?
  • Is the king in truth defined more by his intellectual virtues or by his moral virtues?
  • What is the relationship between the intellectual virtues and poetry? What are the implications of Alfarabi’s low estimation of the imaginative faculty, compared with the intellectual faculty?
  • What is the relative status of the king in truth and the ruler who governs by divine and traditional laws? What is the relative status of a city in which many people together possess the virtues of the king in truth and rule by that king himself? How does Alfarabi justify this order of rank? What sort of society did Alfarabi live in?

04/02     Happiness and the Virtuous Regime

Alfarabi, Selected Aphorisms, aphs. 68–100 [PW 44–67]
Study Questions:

  • Alfarabi discusses several mistaken views of happiness. Who held/holds these mistaken views?
  • Why must Alfarabi discuss death and the divine before treating the virtuous regime?
  • What is the purpose of Alfarabi’s discussion of the various modes of existence and non-existence?

04/04     Philosophy and Religion

Alfarabi, The Book of Religion [PW 87–113]
Study Questions:

  • How can Alfarabi say that the virtuous religion is subordinate to practical and theoretical philosophy? What are the implications of his saying this?
  • What is the relationship between the virtuous religion and political science?

04/09     Prophecy as Source of Law

Maimonides, Logic, ch. 14 [MPP 188–90]
Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, Part I, ch. 71; Part II, ch. 32, 36–40, 45; Part III, ch. 27–28, 34 [MPP 191–226]
Study Questions:

  • According to Maimonides, how has the coming of revealed religion altered the political landscape from the ancient modes?
  • How has the coming of revealed religion altered the philosophic landscape from the ancient modes?
  • What is the significance of Maimonides’ distinction between the philosophers’ view of prophecy and the Jewish view?
  • What is the relationship between Maimonides’ view of prophecy and that of his Muslim teachers?

04/11     Science and the Creating God

Maimonides, “Letter on Astrology” [MPP 227–36]
Study Questions:

  • How do the philosophers and Jews differ concerning the origin of the universe? Is this disagreement of a sort that it can be settled, according to Maimonides? What are the consequences of this?
  • What is the disagreement among the philosophers, astrologers, and Jews regarding providence? Is this disagreement of a sort that it can be settled, according to Maimonides? What are the consequences of this?
  • How do these questions impact political science?

04/16     The Political and Religious Permissibility of Philosophy

Averroes, The Decisive Treatise [MPP 163–85]
Study Questions:

  • Why was Alfarabi considered suspect, such that Averroes had to defend the permissibility of philosophy?
  • What is the difference between dialectical theology and philosophy?
  • According to Averroes, why is it impossible to interpret a revelation without recourse to philosophic tools? Does he know this primarily by philosophic speculation or from the Qur’an?

Unit V: The Holy City

04/18     Reinterpreting the Virtues

Aquinas, Summa Theologica I q. 79 aa. 12–13; I-II q. 19 aa. 5–6, q. 87 aa. 1, 3, 5; II-II q. 47 aa. 10–11, q. 50 aa. 1–2, q. 104 aa. 1­–6 [LMP 1–9, 173–85, 197–203; online course reserve for I-II q. 87]
Study Questions:

  • How is man culpable for wrong actions that seemed good to him, according to Aquinas? Why does this question arise for him?
  • How is the punishment of sin compatible with wise rulership? Does Aquinas justify retributive justice?
  • Are the virtues to be pursued because they are good, or because they are commanded? What difference would this make?

04/23     Reinterpreting Justice and the Legislator

Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II qq. 90–95 [LMP 10–59]
Study Questions:

  • What is the natural law? How do the natural and divine laws differ? What need is there for a divine law?
  • What is the relationship between the Christian God and the philosopher’s conception of a wise ruler, according to Aquinas?

04/25     Human Politics and Orthodoxy

Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II qq. 96, 105; II-II q. 10 aa. 8, 11; q. 11 a. 3 [LMP 59–69, 93–96, 190–96]
Third Essay due Friday
Study Questions:

  • What ought to be the relationship between human laws and the natural law, according to Aquinas? Between human laws and the divine law?
  • What is the obligation of Christians when there is not the proper relationship between human laws and the natural and divine laws?
  • Is there a freedom to philosophize in a good community, as Aquinas describes it?

04/30     The Purpose of Politics

Marsilius, The Defender of the Peace I.1–7 [MPP 439–60]
Study Questions:

  • What is the purpose of the state? What is the relationship between the state’s purpose and individual salvation?
  • What role should the priesthood have in the state?
  • What is the significance of Marsilius’ having called his book The Defender of the Peace rather than The Defender of the Faith?

05/02     Law and Society

Marsilius, The Defender of the Peace I.8–13, II.12 [MPP 460–91]
Study Questions:

  • In what way should a just king rule?
  • What is the purpose of law? What is the utility of law?
  • Is there a natural law?

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