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Thomas Pangle

ProfessorPh.D., University of Chicago

Thomas Pangle



Classical political philosophy; the eighteenth century theoretical foundations of modern and especially American constitutionalism and political culture; nineteenth and twentieth century German political philosophy; post-modern political theory; the moral-philosophic basis of international relations; the dialogue between political theology and political philosophy.


Before joining the University of Texas in 2004, Prof. Pangle held the University Professorship in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is a lifetime Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1987 he delivered at the University of Chicago The Exxon Distinguished Lectures in Humane Approaches to the Social Sciences. In 2004 he was a featured speaker at the first Cultural Summit of the European Union, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In January 2007 he delivered the Werner Heisenberg Memorial Lecture, in Munich, Germany, at the invitation of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. He has won Guggenheim, Killam-Canada Council, Carl Friedrich von Siemens, and four National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. He has been awarded The Benton Bowl (for contribution to education in politics) by Yale University, the Robert Foster Cherry Great Teacher of the World Prize, by Baylor University, and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, Univ. of Texas.

He is the author of articles in Journal of PoliticsAmerican Journal of Political Science, Canadian Journal of Political Science, PolityPolitical Theory, Review of Politics, and American Political Science Review; and of Montesquieu's Philosophy of Liberalism (U. of Chicago Press, 1973); The LAWS of Plato (U. of Chicago Press, 1988); The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (U. of Chicago Press, 1988); The Ennobling of Democracy: The Challenge of the Postmodern Age (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1992); The Learning of Liberty: The Educational Ideas of the American Founders, co-authored with Lorraine S. Pangle (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1993); Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace, co-authored with Peter J. Ahrensdorf (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1999); Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2003); Leo Strauss: An Introduction to His Thought and Intellectual Legacy (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2006); The Theological Basis of Liberal Modernity in Montesquieu’s “Spirit of the Laws” (U. of Chicago Press, 2010); Aristotle's Teaching in the POLITICS (U. of Chicago Press, 2013); The Key Texts of Political Philosophy: An Introduction, co-authored with Timothy Burns (Cambridge U. Press, 2014). He is the theory editor of the Encyclopedia of Democracy (4 vols, Congressional Quarterly Press, 1995).


EUS 348 • Might And Right Among Nations

36125 • Fall 2010
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm MEZ B0.306
(also listed as CTI 335, GOV 335M)

Course description:
A study of major alternative approaches, elaborated by the greatest political theorists, to the question of the moral character of international relations.

                  The basic aim of the course is twofold: 1) to gain a better understanding of what kind of justice and law exists among nations; and 2) to gain a better understanding of what justice itself means, in human relations, as its nature is revealed under the stress of the intensely competitive international arena, always overshadowed by the threat of war.
                  We will examine the original, foundational philosophic arguments for: the classical republican struggle for and against empire (Thucydides); Christian Just War theory (Aquinas and Vitoria); Islamic Jihad Theory (The Koran and Hadith; Shaybani, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun); the moral supremacy of independent national sovereignty (Hobbes); globalizing moral community achieved through commercialization (Montesquieu); and world legal order achieved through international legal organization (Kant).
                  We will try to uncover the hidden philosophic foundations of our contemporary ways of thinking, and confront our assumptions with challenges from earlier, alien ways of conceiving the world.
                  While we will not forget contemporary issues, we will try to transcend our passionate biases, and view our own immediate situation from a liberating distance, by taking as our chief empirical focus the philosophic historian Thucydides’ dramatic presentation of The Peloponnesian War—a moral as well as military struggle pitting the imperialism of one of history’s greatest democracies (Athens) against the anti-imperialism of one of the most conservative and pious aristocracies in history (Sparta).
Course Requirements/Grading Policy: THERE ARE TWO OPTIONS, ONE OF WHICH YOU MUST CHOOSE BY Monday, Aug. 30 .
OPTION ONE—Mid-term exam option
40%—Final Exam, held in the final exam period; format will be questions selected at random from study questions handed out at the end of term covering material from the entire term.
30%—Mid-term closed book exam on Thucydides, administered in class, on questions chosen at random from study questions handed out two weeks before.
20%—Attendance (required) at all lectures; each absence after the second, not excused by a doctor’s note, will subtract 2% from the overall final grade. Attendance at lecture will be recorded by noting empty seats; each student must choose a permanent seat to occupy, by beginning of class Mon., Aug. 30.
10%—Answers to closed book quizzes on the readings (clues for which will be in the weekly study questions) administered at the start of the class hour on the Fridays of weeks when Option Two will have their discussions sessions..
35%—Final Exam, held in the final exam period; format will be questions selected at random from study questions handed out at the end of term covering material from the entire term.
30%—Two short analytical/interpretative essays (each 1200-1500 words) on topics to be assigned. Late papers penalized 3% per calendar day.
15%—Attendance (required) at all lectures and all discussion sections; each absence after the second, not excused by a doctor’s note, will subtract 2% from the overall final grade. Attendance at lecture will be recorded by noting empty seats; each student must choose a permanent seat to occupy, by beginning of class Mon., Aug. 30.
10%—Answers to closed book quizzes on the readings (clues for which will be in the weekly study questions) administered at the start of each discussion section.
10%—Participation, in discussion sections, which will once on each of six weeks during term
Required Texts (be sure to get the correct editions and translations!)

—The Landmark Thucydides, Simon & Schuster, ISBN# 0684827905 Robert B. Strassler, ed. The translation is not always accurate, and key passages will be found in accurate translation in the photocopied booklet (see below).

—Vitoria, Political Writings, Cambridge, ISBN# 052136714x Pagden & Lawrence, eds

—Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen, Cambridge, ISBN# 0521437806 Tuck and Silverthorne, eds.

—Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Cambridge, ISBN# 0521369746 Anne Cohler et al., eds. and trans.

—Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Harper, ISBN# 0061311596 H. J. Paton, trans.; and
Political Writings, Cambridge, ISBN# 0521398371, H. Reiss, ed

—Selected excerpts from Thucydides, in accurate, literal translation, and from Thomas Aquinas, Rousseau, and The Federalist as well as readings on the theory of jihad in photocopied booklet available for purchase at Co-op.


The Key Texts of Political Philosophy: An Introduction, co-authored with Timothy Burns (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2014

This book aims to help readers, through study of key texts in the history of political philosophy, begin to move toward a position from which they can freely judge for themselves whether and to what extent they should embrace, or take a critical distance from, the principles underlying and animating today’s civic culture. The authors stimulate and respond to a thirst in readers to confront and wrestle with the most fundamental questions. The thinkers and works of the past are studied here not as objects of antiquarian curiosity but as powerful voices that challenge us to join in searching debates. The point is not to learn about these thinkers and texts but to learn from them. This overall aim dictates the selective choice of texts interpreted. Every chapter is a provocative invitation and guide to the reader’s own deeper encounter with each great philosopher.

Image of Artistotle's Teaching in the Politics
Aristotle's Teaching in the "Politics"
With the Politics, Pangle argues, Aristotle seeks to lead his students down a deliberately difficult path of critical thinking about civic republican life. He adopts a Socratic approach, encouraging his students–and readers–to become active participants in a dialogue. Seen from this perspective, features of the work that have perplexed previous commentators become perfectly comprehensible as artful devices of a didactic approach. Ultimately, Pangle's close and careful analysis shows that to understand the Politics, one must first appreciate how Aristotle's rhetorical strategy is inextricably entwined with the subject of his work.

Image of Birds, Peace, Wealth: Aristophanes' Critique of the Gods
Birds, Peace, Wealth: Aristophanes' Critique of the Gods
These three comedies provoke searching reflections on the religious nature of humanity: What are the psychological sources of piety? What is longed for in and through piety? What would a god need to be, to truly provide what our humanity seeks from divinity? 

Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author.
Image of Political Philosophy Cross-Examined: Perennial Challenges to the Philosophic Life
Political Philosophy Cross-Examined: Perennial Challenges to the Philosophic Life
Political societies frequently regard philosophers as potential threats to morality and religion and even subject these thinkers to the gravest inquisitions and indictments. Socrates was executed for disbelieving in the gods of Athens, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was charged with capital crimes for his anti-Christian teachings, Galileo Galilei was found "vehemently suspect" of heresy, compelled to recant, and sentenced to incarceration for life. The contributors to Political Philosophy Cross-Examined aspire to reopen the case for the philosophic way of life while fully appreciating the harsh attacks advanced by its most fervent detractors. In an age where extremist movements, existentialism, and postmodernist thought challenge the authority of reason, the book is a seminal contribution to current literature on philosophy, politics, history, classics, and religion alike.

Image of Sophocles,The Theban Plays: Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone
The Theban Plays: Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone
The timeless Theban tragedies of Sophocles—Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone—have fascinated and moved audiences and readers across the ages with their haunting plots and their unforgettable heroes and heroines. Now, following the best texts faithfully, and translating the key moral, religious, and political terminology of the plays accurately and consistently, Peter J. Ahrensdorf and Thomas L. Pangle allow contemporary readers to study the most literally exact reproductions of precisely what Sophocles wrote, rendered in readily comprehensible English. These translations enable readers to engage the Theban plays of Sophocles in their full, authentic complexity, and to study with precision the plays' profound and enduring human questions. In the preface, notes to the plays, and introductions, Ahrensdorf and Pangle supply critical historical, mythic, and linguistic background information, and highlight the moral, religious, political, philosophic, and psychological questions at the heart of each of the plays. Even readers unfamiliar with Greek drama will find what they need in order to experience, reflect on, and enjoy these towering works of classical literature.

Image of Recovering Reason: Essays in Honor of Thomas L. Pangle
Recovering Reason: Essays in Honor of Thomas L. Pangle
"Recovering Reason presents a delightful challenge for all those readers interested in the history of philosophy and the subtleties of important philosophic texts. In five parts, the book offers essays in the areas of political philosophy, where Thomas Pangle has made a deep and lasting contribution. With students and friends like Pangle's, it is no surprise that there are many excellent essays in this collection. Thomas Pangle is a shining example of what it is to be committed to the recovery of that invaluable civic and philosophic health, and this collection of essays is a testament to his influence in the field of political philosophy."

 —The Review of Metaphysics


Image of The Theological Basis of Liberal Modernity in Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws"
The Theological Basis of Liberal Modernity in Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws"
How, if at all, can liberal rationalism validate its most basic normative premises in the face of illiberal, theocratic challenges premised on the authority of divine revelations which purport to override or to subordinate reason? This philosophic riddle is posed in the twenty-first century more acutely than it has ever been before. But the puzzle was originally confronted, and responded to with subtlety and power, in the writings of the political philosophers of the Enlightenment. This book offers a dramatic new interpretation, and subsequent critique, of the foundational, theologico-political teaching of what is by far the most comprehensive and influential of the treatises that laid the theoretical basis for our modern constitutional government. Montesquieu's didactic rhetorical strategy is explicated in light of the Frenchman's fraught historical context of authoritarian religious intolerance and persecution. Using this key to the sinuous way in which the Spirit of the Laws is written, this book proceeds to unlock the successive stages in the argumentation by which Montesquieu aims to dispose of the intellectual challenge from theocratic thinking.

"Pangle's close textual analysis time and again sheds new light on passages that scholars have been citing for years. His interpretive lens helps to make sense of them in ways that genuinely advance our knowledge of Montesquieu's own project, the rise of liberal modernity, and the contemporary dilemmas of secularism."

—Sharon Krause, Brown University

"Pangle's work is a must read for Montesquieu scholars, and for those who want to explore further the relation between religion, on the one hand, and liberty and commerce on the other. By stating his case so strongly, Pangle has given us much to consider on all of these fronts."

—Société Montesquieu

"If Enlightenment is 'man's release from his self-incurred tutelage,' especially in 'matters of religion,' Montesquieu is a more central figure than many have realized in the Enlightenment's project of religious emancipation. Such is the theme of Thomas L. Pangle's [book] focusing on the theological assumptions that inform the political superstructure of Montesquieu's analysis—a dimension of his thought that is underappreciated, if not entirely neglected, by scholars attending to more salient features of the work. Scrutiny at the 'theological-political' level reveals that underlying Montesquieu's well-known commitment to political moderation and legislative restraint is a vision of man and the historical process that is among the more radical instances of Enlightenment thought."

Perspectives on Political Science

Click for more information on Leo Strauss
Our constitutional tradition was born from a deep and intense contest of ideas between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. This course brings those conflicts back to life, inspiring one to rethink the fundamental opposing arguments and to re-enact the agonizing choices that were made by the generation that fought over and reluctantly ratified the Constitution--a document that was felt to be so unsatisfactory that it was immediately amended dramatically, by the addition of the Bill of Rights. Analysis of the issues at stake instills a new appreciation for the magnitude of the problems that the Founders and their opponents were wrestling with. The radicalism and the unprecedented character of the American constitutional republic becomes clear, and one begins to understand why so many thoughtful Americans at the time viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the Revolution, and, indeed, of the whole previous western tradition of republicanism. Read more...

Click for more information on Leo Strauss
"It is both welcome and timely that a scholar of the stature of Thomas Pangle should address this subject and treat the topic in a detached and philosophical spirit. Not only is he one of the most accomplished political theorists in the world today, but he is also a leading student of the thought of Leo Strauss. The book, first and foremost an introduction to the political philosophy of Leo Strauss focusing on larger themes and questions, is readable and accessible to a general, higher-level intellectual audience." Read more...
-James W. Ceaser, University of Virginia


Click for more information on Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham
"Like all of Thomas Pangle's work, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham is stunningly erudite and discerning. Pangle makes splendid use of the great commentators and critics, listening to voices as diverse as the Rashi, Maimonides, Ibn Ezra, Calvin, Spinoza, and Kierkegaard, but Pangle's argument is very much his own. He is intellectually relentless, wrestling with titanic questions, arguing with elegance and clarity." Read more...
-Wilson Cary McWilliams, Rutgers University


Click for more information on Justice Among Nations
co-authored with Peter J. Ahresndorf
"A major contribution to the study both of international relations and the history of political philosophy. Filled with fresh and penetrating insights, it's easily the best and most comprehensive study of its kind." Read more...
-Carnes Lord, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy


Click for more information on The Learning of Liberty
co-authored with Lorraine Smith Pangle
"This may be the best intellectual history of early America since Perry Miller'sThe New England Mind. It is a genuinely important book that could help guide us out of our present moral and civic morass. Read more...
-Journal of Church and State


Click for more information on The Ennobling of Democracy
"The historical period we are entering looms as one of extraordinary opportunities for the moral as well as material betterment of humanity and, simultaneously, of deepening assault on civilized life. The more widely Pangle's powerful and penetrating Ennobling of Democracy is read and discussed, the better will be our chances for a wholesome outcome." Read more...
-Eugene Genovese


Click for more information on The Spirit of Modern Republicanism
"A work of extraordinary ambition, written with great intensity.... a trenchant analysis of Locke's writings, designed to demonstrate their remarkable originality and to clarify by doing so as much the objective predicament as the conscious intentions of the Founding fathers themselves." Read more...
-John Dunn, Times Higher Education Supplement

Click for more information on The Roots of Political Philosophy
"This book consists of literal English translations of ten Socratic dialogues that have been largely neglected for the last century.... Pangle offers a spirited criticism of arguments that have been adduced to support the view that some of the dialogues are counterfeit and shows in scrupulous detail why he believes in their authenticity...." Read more...


Click for more information on The Laws of Plato
"Pangle's edition of Plato's Laws will supersede all available translations. It is by far the most accurate rendition of the Laws into English that I have seen, far surpassing those of Bury, Taylor, and Saunders. Its note to the translations are thorough and helpful, bespeaking a wide familiarity with Greek literature and philosophy as well as with the contributions of modern classical philology. The interpretive essay shines with a lucidity that is admirable in view of this difficult and sometimes deliberately obscure dialogue." Read more...
-Western Political Quarterly


Click for more information on Montesquieu's Philosophy of Liberalism
"Pangle's brilliant explication is of monumental importance for the study of the roots of liberal democracy and the teaching of Montesquieu. Furthermore, Pangle demonstrates to the serious student how political philosophy should be studied." Read more...
-Virginia Quarterly Review

Purchase from Amazon



Image of Political Philosophy and the Human Soul: Essays in Memory of Allan Bloom
Political Philosophy and the Human Soul: Essays in Memory of Allan Bloom
"Anyone engaged in the study of Plato, or Homer, or the Bible, or (more generally) of the relationship between philosophy and religion, or of Tocqueville, or of philosophical novels such as Don Quixote and Flaubert's Sentimental Education, or of philosophical dramas such as Machiavelli's Mandragola and Lessing's Nathan the Wise, will find in this collection things worth reading. . . . A piece that is of striking quality is contributed by one of the editors, Thomas Pangle. His "The Hebrew Bible's Challenge to Political Philosophy: Some Introductory Reflections" contains enough wealth of observation and analysis to structure a respectable volume in itself."
—Canadian Journal of Political Science


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