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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

T C 301 • Morality and Politics - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43330 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

What is the proper relationship between morality and politics? Should the demands of morality bow before the necessities of politics? Or should political action be restricted by moral principles? If morality is relevant in political life, what moral principles should guide and limit political action? And how do these issues play themselves out in actual political situations? In this course, we will reflect on these questions by reading and discussing a set of philosophic and literary works that spans a wide range of periods and genres. We will start in the world of ancient Greece with Sophocles Antigone and selections from Thucydides The Peloponnesian War. After Sophocles and Thucydides, we will turn to Shakespeare and consider the moral dilemmas presented in Julius Caesar and Hamlet. Then we will turn to the classic argument for the subordination of morality to politics: Machiavellis The Prince. How convincing is Machiavellis argument that morality should give way to political expediency and that virtue should even be redefined to reflect the harsh realities of politics? After considering Machiavelli, we will end by examining the very different perspective defended by Immanuel Kant and by discussing the complex presentation of the problem of political morality in Arthur Koestlers novel Darkness at Noon. The aims of this course are to encourage students to confront a wide range of views on one of the central issues of human life, to hone abilities to think critically and read carefully, and to improve writing.

About the Professor

Professor Stauffer studies ancient and early modern political philosophy. He has written two books on Plato, and taught courses on topics such as liberalism and its critics, the theoretical foundations of modernity, and the Socratic quest for justice. Prior to coming to the University of Texas, Professor Stauffer taught at Kenyon College and St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. While at Kenyon, he received two research fellowships that were awarded on the basis of teaching excellence. In his spare time, he tries to keep alive his slowly dying athletic career, and he cooks for his wife Dana and his dog Pedro.

Grading Policy

This course contains a Substantial Writing Component.

Careful reading and active participation in class discussions are the most important requirements. But grades will be broken down as follows:

Three essays (6 pages each): 60%
Class participation: 20%
Final exam: 20%


Sophocles, Antigone
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Shakespeare, Hamlet
Machiavelli, The Prince
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
Kant, "Perpetual Peace"
Koestler, Darkness at Noon


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