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History of Political Thought 1


INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Ctlin Avramescu

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This is a first-year mandatory course designed to be an introduction to the

history of political thought from Antiquity to the end of the 18th century.

GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY: History of Political Philosophy (eds. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey)

EDITIONS AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS: Most of the texts of the authors we will discuss
are readily available in a in the departments library, or on the internet, in the public domain. There are no
indications of page numbers, as the students are expected to be capable to independently identify and to
follow the relevant arguments.

COURSE/SEMINAR REQUIREMENTS AND EVALUATION: The course covers two out of the available
three hours and the rest will be reserved for discussions and clarifications of the materials previously
presented. It is necessary that students read in advance the texts. Credits will be granted only to those
students who will attend 80% of the classes and will take three out of the four intermediate tests. The final
examination will be viva voce. The criteria used in evaluation include the mastery of the bibliography, the
comprehension of the subject, the capacity to elaborate a well-structured argument, the ability to establish
relationships between various parts of the syllabus, the ability to indicate the historical context and the
supplementary readings.

Week 1
Greek Political Thought
A. The polis and the Orators: Isocrates and Demosthenes
B. The Philosophers: Plato and Aristotle
C. Historians and Statesmen: Thucydides and Xenophon
Talking points: Who are the theorists and practitioners of politics in the Greek polis? Which is the best
regime for Plato and Aristotle? Which are the dangers to civic liberty identified by the Greek writers?
Focus: The Theory of Tyranny in Xenophons Hiero
The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought (eds. Christopher Rowe and Malcolm

Week 2
Roman Political Thought
A. Roman Law
B. Historians and Statesmen: Polybius and Cicero
C. The Stoics: Seneca and Marcus Aurelius
Talking points: What was the influence of Roman jurisprudence on the development of political thought?
How Roman authors were influenced by Greek culture and models? What were the attractions of Stoicism?
Focus: Virtue and Rule in Senecas De clementia
The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought (eds. Christopher Rowe and Malcolm

Week 3
Hellenistic, Patristic and Byzantine Political Thought
A. The Hellenistic Heritage: Epictetus and Plutarch
B. The Political Thought of the Church Fathers: Augustine and Gregory the Great
C. Byzantine Political Ideas
D. The Formation of Canon Law
Talking points: Which were the main schools of Hellenistic thought? To what extent Patristic writings
continue arguments of the classical Greek and Roman writers? What elements contributed to the formation
of Byzantine imperial ideology?
Focus: Justice and War in Augustines Letter 189
The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought c.350 - c.1450 (ed. J. H. Burns)

Week 4
Jewish Political Thought
A. Israel and Old Testament
B. Medieval Jewish Political Philosophy
C. Early Modern Political Jewish Thought
Talking points: What was the influence of the Old Testament and rabbinical literature on the development of
political thought? What is the effect of repression on the expression of political and ethical ideas in the
Middle Ages? What is the significance of the theory of covenant on the development of modern political
Focus: Freedom and Tolerance in Spinozas Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
Michael Walzer et al. (ed), The Jewish Political Tradition. I. Authority

Week 5
Medieval Political Thought
A. Rulers and Scholars of the Dark Age
B. The Controversies of the Theologians: Aquinas and Ockham
C. The Critique of Power: Marsilius of Padua and Conciliarism
Talking points: How was scholarship possible in the Dark Age? What is Scholasticism? What was the
importance of the controversies on the power of the Pope?
Focus: Property and Poverty in Ockhams Epistola ad fratres minores
The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought c.350 c.1450 (ed. J.H. Burns)

Week 6
Renaissance Political Thought
A. Advising the Sovereign: Machiavelli and Erasmus
B. Law and Reason of State: Bodin and Botero
C. The Influence of Republicanism
Talking points: Why the court literature achieved such a status in the Renaissance? What influenced the
curriculum of legal education in the Renaissance? Which were the main republics of the Renaissance and
what were the main values of the civic discourse of the humanists?
Focus: Rule and Counsel in Machiavellis Il Principe
The Cambridge History of Political Thought 1450-1700 (ed. J.H. Burns)

Week 7
Political Thought of the Reformation
A. Luther and Calvin
B. The Radical Reformation
C. The Counter-Reformation
Talking points: What are the arguments in favour of political resistance of the writers of the Reformation?
Which are the main strands of the Radical Reformation? Where were the ideas of the Counter-Reformation
most influential?
Focus: Resistance and Consent in Etienne de la Boties Contrun
Quentin Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought

Week 8
Political Thought in the Age of Discoveries
A. The Theory of Natural Slavery and the Theory of the State of Nature: Vitoria and Hobbes
B. Utopia and the New World: Morus and Campanella
C. Colonialism and Development: Ferguson and Raynal
Talking points: Why are the newly discovered nations so interesting for political theory? How does utopia
relate to geographic discoveries? To what extent the social history of the Enlightenment philosophers is a
normative science?
Focus: Egalitarianism in Mores Utopia
F. Manuel & F. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World

Week 9
Political Thought in the Age of the Scientific Revolution
A. The Reform of Knowledge: Bacon and the Encyclopaedists
B. The Materialists and the Clandestine Philosophes
C. Elections and Numbers: Harrington and Condorcet
Talking points: What sciences have most contributed to the advance of political theory in the 17th century?
How were the clandestine and materialist philosophers able to disseminate their ideas? How mathematics
relate to the formation of modern political analysis?
Focus: Science and the State in Bacons New Atlantis
The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (eds. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler)

Week 10
The Modern School of Natural Law
A. 17th Century: Locke and Pufendorf
B. The Common Law Background: Coke and Blackstone
C. The Idea of Social Contract: Rousseau and Hume
Talking points: What are the sources of the modern science of natural law? What sort of influence did the
common law jurists exercise over the political discourse of their age? Is the theory of social contract
inherently democratic?
Focus: Popular sovereignity in Rousseaus Du contrat social
Knud Haakonsen, Natural Law and Moral Philosophy from Grotius to the Scottish Enlightenment

Week 11
Peace, War and Revolution in the Modern Age
A. The Theory of Just War: Grotius and Vattel
B. The Treatises of Perpetual Peace: Penn and Kant
C. Opposing Views on the Revolution: Paine and Burke
Talking points: To what practical needs did the theory of just was answering? What is the place of European
identity in the theories of perpetual peace? Are there any common points in the opposing views of Burke
and Paine on the revolution in France?
Focus: The Idea of Perpetual Peace in William Penns An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of
James Turner Johnson, The Quest for Peace: Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History

Week 12
The Well-Ordered State of the Moderns
A. The Balance of Power: Montesquieu and the Federalists
B. The Defence of Tolerance: Voltaire
C. Order and Freedom: Beccaria and Adam Smith
Talking points: What is the difference between the theory of the mixed regime and that of separation of
powers? Why is there an emphasis on the practice of religious toleration in the Enlightenment? What is the
theory of the hidden hand?
Focus: The Theory of the Separation of Powers in Montesquieus Esprit des Lois
The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (eds. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler)