PHIL682: Aristotle’s Politics and the Middle Ages
Instructor: Dr. Jonathan McIntosh
Aristotle’s Politics is one of—if not the most—influential texts of political philosophy of all time, touching on such topics as the origin and purpose of the political community, slavery, the family, the citizen, class conflict, and the different kinds of government in general and forms of democracy in particular. Yet the actual period in which Aristotle’s Politics exerted its greatest influence was the Middle Ages, when many medieval schoolmen wrote commentaries on the work and incorporated its ideas into their own political treatises. This course thus begins with a careful reading of Aristotle’s Politics, guided by his most famous and insightful commentator, St. Thomas Aquinas. After this, the course turns to consider the role Aristotle’s Politics played in shaping the political thought of the scholastic period, including the evolving debate over the proper relationship between the church and the state and, related to this, such topics as the relation of grace and nature and of faith and reason in man’s social and political life. In addition to learning more about Aristotle’s Politics and its influence on medieval thought, the course will challenge students to develop and sharpen their own political thought and its application to issues of contemporary concern.
At the end of this course students will be able to:
- provide a thorough overview of both Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s (the “Christian Aristotle”) political thought. This will be measured by students’ participation in online and in-residence seminar discussions, reader responses, and an end-of-course final written and oral exam.
- list and summarize some of the principal debates in how later Christian intellectuals influenced by Aristotle’s political thought were developing and applying the latter in their own context. This will be measured by students’ participation in online and in-residence seminar discussions, reader responses, and an end-of-course final written and oral exam.
- make application of some of the political-philosophical insights from the ancient and medieval world to their own contemporary context. This will be done in seminar discussions and reader responses.
- practice their skills of graduate level research, writing, and argumentation. This will be done in the term research paper.
Course Assignments and Expectations
- Timely completion of all readings.
- Participation in weekly online seminars.
- Weekly reader responses (posted online).
- Weekly responses to classmates’ online posts.
- Research paper.
- Final written exam.
- Final oral exam.