790-101-01-13

790-101-01-13 - The Nature of Politics 790:101 (Spring...

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The Nature of Politics 790:101 (Spring 2009) Instructor: Brian Graf Email: [email protected] Lecture Meetings: MW 1:10-2:30, Scott 135 (CAC) Office Hours: M 3-4, Au Bon Pain (CAC) or by appointment Teaching Assistants: Alina Vamanu: Sections 03, 04, 06 Amy Buzby: Sections 07, 09, 13 Atul Kumar: Sections 05, 10, 11 Benjamin Pauli: Sections 01, 02, 12 Introduction Political Science has been called the “master” science. This is truly not an exaggeration, for all things human can be encompassed under its purview. Even the “natural” sciences such as physics and chemistry take their meaning and importance as a result of thinking and decisions about them that can properly be called “political.” This, however, still leaves us with the question: “What is politics?” This is the subject matter of this course. We might start answering this question by noting that people who live together in some form of society or association want more than the mere necessities of life. They also want to be protected from their enemies and know that their possessions and their lives are secure. Beyond this, they also want access to higher things such as justice, truth and beauty. They want to live lives that are meaningful and purposeful in ways that tie them to things that pass beyond the temporality of life on Earth. Politics is about all of these things. As a result, these hopes and aspirations are related to concepts such as “power,” “obligation,” “right,” “freedom,” “responsibility” and the tensions that exist between that which is “public” and that which is “private” and between the individual and the claims that society or governments make on us. These concepts and the search for the “good life” to which they are closely tied will occupy our attention this semester. As we explore these issues a persistent theme of the course will be: “What are the ultimate goals or ends around which societies and political orders are constituted?” “What governmental or economic system is best suited to reaching these goals?” “Who is included in the quest for the good life and who is alienated from it?” “What is human nature and what does it have to do with politics?” “What role should history and tradition play in our lives and in what impact do they have on politics?” We will seek answers to these questions by reading and thinking about a selection of works that explore these issues: sometimes in a formal, direct way and sometimes in ways that may not be so direct or apparent. By the end of the semester, we will, hopefully, have arrived at some answers to the questions posed above. But it may also be that the “nature of politics” is such that we never arrive at a set of definitive answers that can be applied to all people in all circumstances but which, nevertheless, can serve to inform and guide us as we struggle to reconcile the paradoxes and tensions of our time and help us find direction in our search for meaning and the good life. Course Structure
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This note was uploaded on 07/25/2009 for the course 790 101 taught by Professor Graf during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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790-101-01-13 - The Nature of Politics 790:101 (Spring...

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