Professor Talbott                                                                       Autumn 2011

Office: Savery 387                                                                    Philosophy 332A:   

Phone:  543-5095                                                                      History of Modern Political Philosophy

Email:  wtalbott@                                                                    MW:  1:30 - 3:20 pm

Office Hours:  Wed. 3:30 – 4:20 pm (except Wed. Nov. 23)        Johnson 022

and by appointment       




PHILOSOPHY 332A:  History of Modern Political Philosophy


Disability Resources For Students.  If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS), 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY).  If you have a letter from DRS indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class. 


            I. Course Goals:  What is called "modern" philosophy is not very modern.  It begins in the 16th century and extends to the 19th century.  Before the modern period, government legitimacy was typically thought to depend on divine endorsement or historical precedent, but not on the consent of the governed.  The idea that government legitimacy depends on some sort of actual or hypothetical consent is a "modern" idea.  This new idea was part of a new conception of individuals as bearers of rights--rights even their rulers were morally bound to respect.  In this course, we study those philosophers in the modern period who were most important in the gradual development of a rights-based political theory and those who were most persuasive in opposing it.  We will read from the works of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Smith, Kant, Burke, Tocqueville, Hegel, and Marx.  This course will teach the interpretation and understanding of difficult philosophical texts.  Students will be taught to explain and critically evaluate difficult philosophical texts orally and in writing.


            II. Course Readings.  There is one required text, Steven M. Cahn, Classics of Modern Political Theory.  The text is available for purchase at the University Book Store.  Except for the first class, readings should be done before class on the Monday of the week they are assigned.


            III. Course Requirements.

            1. Class Attendance:  Students are required to attend all classes.  Classes are MW 1:30 – 3:20 pm in Johnson 022, except for Wednesday, Nov. 23 (early release for Thanksgiving Day).

            2.  Email.  I will send out important class and individual messages to your U.W. email account.  You should check that account regularly.  I also encourage you to use email to contact me.  My email address appears above.  I usually answer email messages within 24 hours during the week and within 48 hours on weekends and holidays.

3. End-of-Class Questions (1-10 Points Each).  At the end of each class, except the day of the midterm exam, you will be asked to give a written answer to a question based on the readings or the discussion in lecture.  These assignments will constitute a substantial portion of your final grade, approximately equal to one of the in-class exams.  It is important to come to class prepared each day, so that you will be prepared to write these essays.  Answers to end of class questions may not be turned in late, unless the absence is excused.  If you are present or have an excused absence and receive less than 1/2 credit for your answer to an end-of-class question, you may resubmit for up to 1/2 credit.  All answers to end of class questions for excused absences and all resubmits must be received before the beginning of the in-class portion of the final exam.

4. Midterm Exam (200 Points—100 Points for Each Part).  The Midterm Exam will have two parts.  The first part will be given in class on Wed. Nov. 2.  The second part is a take-home essay.  The topic will be handed out in class on Wed. Nov. 2 and the essay will be due in the PHIL 332 electronic dropbox at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 6.  

            6. Final Exam (200 Points—100 Points for Each Part).  The Final Exam will be in two parts.  The first part will be given in class at 2:30 pm on Monday Dec. 12.  The second part will be a take-home essay.  The topic will be handed out in class on Monday Dec. 12 and the essay will be due in the PHIL 332 electronic drop box at midnight on Thursday Dec. 15. 


NOTE:  Please bring a pen and a blank exam book with no missing pages to all exams. 


            IV. Course Web Site.  All handouts, transparencies, and end-of-class questions will be available on the course Web site (see URL above).  So if you are ever absent, you can check the course Web site to find out what you missed.


V. Academic Integrity. Whenever you turn in any assignment in this course, the understanding is that what you are turning in is your own original work, except to the extent that you explicitly credit others for their contributions. You have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, by always attributing any argument or idea that you have borrowed, even if you have modified it, to its source.  The source may be written or oral.  For example, if an argument was suggested by a fellow student, include that information in a footnote.  If it is determined that there has been cheating that involves one student copying another's work on an assignment or exam, if both students were aware of the copying, both will receive zero credit for the assignment or exam, in addition to any other sanctions that might be imposed.


            VI. Extensions Of Time.  Extensions of time should be requested in advance of the deadline.  Unexcused, late work will be penalized.


            VII. Grades.  Grades will be based on points earned (out of a total possible of approximately 460 points) as follows:  (1) End of Class Questions (Approx. 60 Points); (2) Midterm Exam (200 Points—100 Points for Each Part); (3) Final Exam (200 Points—100 Points for Each Part).  Grades are based on total points earned, as follows:  96% = 4.0; 95% = 3.9; 90% = 3.5; 80% = 3.0; 65% = 2.0; 50% = 1.0.  Your contribution to discussion in class can improve your grade, but cannot lower it.


            VIII. Course Evaluation.  Wednesday Dec. 7, in class.  The course evaluation is your opportunity to evaluate my performance and to provide suggestions for improving the course.


            IX. Return of Final Exams.  Unless other arrangements are made, the in-class portion of the Final Exam will be available for pick-up in the Philosophy Department Office, Savery 361, during the first week of winter quarter.  If you would like your final exam to be mailed to you, please provide me with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for mailing.  


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