The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

CTI 310 • Ancient Philosophy

33095 • Koons, Robert C
Meets TTH 930am-1100am WAG 308
(also listed as C C 304C, PHL 301K)
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An introduction to the political ideas and theories of the ancient Greeks and Romans. We will focus on primary texts by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Augustine of Hippo, supplemented by some selections from the Greek historian Thucydides and the political school of thought known as the “Sophists”. About one-third of the course will be devoted to role-playing game, The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.  This game is part of a “Reacting to the Past” method developed at Barnard College. Students will be assigned different roles, e.g. Thrasybulus, a radical Democrat, Oligarch, Supporter of Socrates, Rich Athlete--derived from the historical setting, each role being defined largely by its game objective-exonerate Socrates, banish Socrates, condemn him to death. Students will determine on their own, however, how best to attain their goals, though they will receive guidance from important texts in the history of ideas.

The heart of each game is persuasion. For nearly every role to which you will be assigned, you must persuade others that your views make more sense than those of your opponents. Your views will be informed by the texts cited in your game objectives, and the more you draw upon these texts and the more cleverly you draw upon them, the better. You have two ways of expressing your views: orally and in writing. Both will be graded.

CTI 335 • Regime Persp On Amer Politics

33130 • Tulis, Jeffrey
Meets TH 330pm-630pm GAR 1.134
(also listed as GOV 379S, LAH 350)
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This is a seminar on American politics and culture.   Two purposes govern the selection of texts for the course and guide our discussion of them.  All of our texts attempt to look at American politics as a whole.  Most books and courses on America look at only a part, such as the Presidency, or elections, or popular culture.  Here we attempt to think about how the parts of America fit together.  Even when these texts speak about a part, for example an institution such as the presidency or the Congress, they present the topic from a vantage point on the whole polity.   This also means that we have to revisit and rethink aspects of our political life that we take for granted – that we don’t examine because those parts have become so natural or familiar to us.  Seeing the polity whole enables us to render the familiar unfamiliar, to make what we take for granted strange and new. 

To see the polity as a whole requires that we get some distance from our subject, much like looking at planet earth from outer space.  It is difficult to get visual perspective on a place living within it, and it is difficult to understand the promise or pathologies of a regime from within it.  To get critical distance from our politics, we closely study three sets of texts that look at American politics from a distance.   The first part will recover the perspective of the founding debate between Federalists and Anti-federalists.   This fundamental debate reveals what is a stake in the basic architecture of the American regime.  The second part is a close study of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.  Regarded by many as the best book ever written on democracy and the best book written on America, Tocqueville sees our polity whole because he looks at it from the vantage point of Europe, in general, and France, in particular.  In the third part we think about American politics from the perspective of thoughtful commentators who feel only nominally included in the polity.   Half in and half out, these extraordinary black American writers reveal fissures and fault lines in the American regime.  We end with a discussion of America’s place in the world today – examining a speech by a writer who articulately raises challenges to our self-understanding that are inarticulately expressed today in rage and ranting from enemies of the United States.


The Federalist

Selected Anti-Federalist writings

Selected writings by Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin

Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart”

Tocqueville, Democracy in America


Four take home writing assignments.  Analytic essays, each 1000-1500 words.  (Grades weighted: 10%, 25%, 25%, and 25%)  Late essays will not be accepted, except with a doctor’s excuse or a Dean’s excuse for family emergency.   Regular preparation and class participation: 15%.

OR as an option:   By prior arrangement with me by the due date of the second analytic essay, students may substitute one longer research paper (15 – 20 pages) for two of the last three analytic papers  This paper will be on a topic of the students choosing , if I approve, and the due date will be the same as the last assigned analytic essay.  This project would count 50% of the students course grade. Regular attendance and informed participation in the seminar is a vital component of the course and will be weighted 15% of the final grade.   Every student will prepare a short, one or two paragraph “reader response” before each class meeting and circulate it to the entire class via “Blackboard.”

CTI 371 • Einstein In Age Of Conflict

33160 • Martínez, Alberto A.
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm MEZ 1.122
(also listed as HIS 350L)
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While age-old scientific concepts were being overturned by the rise of modern physics, Europe was torn apart by wars of unprecedented scale. This history course analyzes these developments, examining the rise of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics against the stage of international political upheavals. Following the life of Albert Einstein, the course focuses on conceptual developments (from the 1880s through the 1940s) and intellectual conflicts. It also studies the lives of physicists such as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, in the context of changing cultural and political environments. We will read and discuss various kinds of materials: manuscripts, letters, accounts by historians, physicists, essays, and even secret transcripts of controversial conversations. The material will be understandable even to students with no significant background in physics. Among the topics involved are the following: How did relativity and the quantum clash with earlier conceptions of nature? Why did physics become so apparently difficult to understand? In Europe and America, how did scientists and politicians behave in times of international catastrophe? How were the academic and social orders affected by the development of nuclear weapons?



•           Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

•           John Heilbron, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man. Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science. Harvard University Press, 2000.



•           One reaction essay, of 600 words in length. 

•           One historical analysis paper, 1000 words. The topic of the historical analysis paper will be individually selected by each student from a few alternatives. 

•           Final Research Paper, of at least 2500 words. A draft of the introduction or outline of the Research Paper will be expected 3 weeks before the final due date; for critical feedback. The subject of the final Research Paper will be designed by each student under advisement with the Instructor. This will equal 75% of the grade for the course.

CTI 372 • Darwin & Politics Of Evolution

33165 • Prindle, David
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm PAR 301
(also listed as GOV 353D)
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“Darwin and The Politics of Evolution”

Spring,  2016

Professor David Prindle


Purpose of the Course


            Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, generally shortened to The Origin of Species, is one of the two or three most influential science books ever published.  But unlike the case with other science books, The Origin, published in 1859, is also of profound political importance.  Part of this political importance—the implications of Darwin's theory for religious explanations of the diversity of life—is well understood by all socially-aware citizens.  But there is much less awareness of the political implications of controversies within the science of evolutionary biology founded by Darwin.

     In this class I will explicate and explore both the "outside" and "inside" political implications of the science launched by the Origin, and ask the students to evaluate them.


Assigned Reading


1)  Charles Darwin,  The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, first edition,

      (Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004) [first published 1859]

2)  Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True  (Viking, 2009)

3)  Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, second edition, (InterVarsity Press, 1993)

4)  David Prindle, Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution  (Prometheus Books,


5)  A package of readings, available online.


Grading Criteria


        There are three assignments due in this class. I may make some minor adjustments in a few of the final grades to reflect excellent class participation, but in general, each of the three assignments counts one-third of the final grade.

        For your three assignments, you may choose to write two essays and take one test, or take two tests and write one essay.  It is up to you to decide how you mix the tests and essays, and in what order you choose to do them.  You may not, however, "load up" by turning in an essay at the same time that you take a test, thus getting two‑thirds of the assignments out of the way on the same day.

            At the end of the semester, an average of 92.3 or higher will earn an "A,", 90 to 92 will earn an “A-,” 88 to 89.7 will earn a “B+,” 82.3 to 87.7 will earn a "B," 80 to 82 will earn a "B-," 78 to 79.7 will earn a "C+," 62.3 to 77.7 will earn a "C," 60 to 62 will earn a "C-," and 50 to 59.7 will earn a "D."  People who have missed one or more of the three assignments, or who average below 50, will receive an “F.” 





            Student are able to enroll in this class through two channels.  First, Government majors who are eligible for upper-division standing may enroll through the usual departmental processes.  Second, students who are participating in the Thomas Jefferson Center’s “great books” program (officially, CTI in the catalogue), may enroll in the class through that program.

CTI 375 • History Of Rome: The Empire

33180 • Riggsby, Andrew M
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 101
(also listed as AHC 325, HIS 321)
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This class will cover the story of the Roman empire from the death of Caesar to the fall of Rome in A.D. 476.  After working our way through the narrative of this period (about half th semester), we will examine a number of topics that cut across time.  The course will touch on politics, law, war, the economy, social classes, gender, and psychopathic emperors.