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College of Arts & Sciences


College of Arts & Sciences
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AMERICAN POLITICAL IDEAS AND THEIR ORIGIN

There is an inescapable tension between the individual and society. Humans are social beings, but their perceptions are solitary; they crave human contact, but also autonomy. A fundamental challenge to a polity, or a political community, is to reconcile the social with the personal. This is particularly the case for the American polity, which has self-consciously sought to build political community on a foundation of freedom. This course is an introduction into the philosophical, institutional, and operating principles of the American political system.

Political theory, or political philosophy, is interested in the construction of the "good" or "just" society and the problems regarding how public life ought to be organized. Such political theory has serviceability within the discipline of political science because each action of government implies a view of the human condition. Governmental processes, policies, and programs cannot be adequately understood without an awareness of their hidden political assumptions and related necessities. Political philosophy serves to heighten this awareness. Throughout the semester, the theoretical writings of the foundation of the American Constitutional Republic and its philosophical notion of a self-interested human condition will be explained and compared to current American politics. To accomplish these objectives, both reading work and written assignments will be used in this course. Through the required readings of classical and current analyses of the political structure and writing assignments on the theoretical foundations, historical development and critical examinations of American politics, students will learn how to think analytically about issues fundamental to the enduring American democracy.

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