POL 398: Advanced Survey of Political Thought

Dr. John J. Quinn
Advanced Survey of Political Thought
POL 398

Office: McClain 206D x4578

Required Texts

        This is a junior/senior level course intended to introduce students to some of the main thinkers (and their ideas) in Western political thought, though others may joinDespite having to introduce many of these ideas, it is still an upper division class with strong expectations of being able to do close reading and understand primary texts in contextThe first part of the course focuses on ancient/medieval thinkers, the second part modern thinkers, and the third contemporary thinkers.  Students are exposed to both primary sources as well as secondary interpretive sources. The primary teaching tools utilized in this course are lecture, class discussion, argument construction, and peer editing In addition, the course is intended to develop skills of careful, intentional reading, critical thinking, and the constructing and analysis of argumentStudents need to read broadly, thoroughly, consistently, critically, and carefullyBased upon this reading, students are expected to design careful and thoughtful papers, and to present and defend publicly these papersFurther, students are expected to participate actively and constructively in helping other students hone their own critical thinking and writing skillsThus, both the content and the process components of this course are important.   

Required texts: 

Western Political Thought (2d ed.) by Brian R. Nelson. Waveland Press. 2015.  

Classics of Moral and Political Theory4th (or 5th ed.), edited by Michael Morgan. Hackett Publishing,  

There will also be assigned readings posted on Brightspace.


There will be two exams to test student knowledge and understand of the reading and lecture material. The final examination is not comprehensive. To receive a good grade on the exam, students will need to demonstrate an understanding of both reading material and lecture material.  Students need to bring blank blue books to take the test.   

You will take 10 weekly book quizzes worth 10 points apiece. The quizzes are open (paper only) note. These are used to offer incentive to read on-time and to take extensive notes. Quizzes will be taken on Brightspace. They will be available 2 days before the reading is due. Once you start, you will have 10 minutes to take the quiz. The quiz is open note/open book but with the limited time, you are expected to have read the readings and taken notes before you take the quiz. 70% of the quizzes must be completed in order to pass the class. 

You are expected to attend class on a regular bases, to have done the assigned readings before arriving, to be prepared to answer questions, to participate in discussions, and to discuss the readings in class. I will grade you on your quality and quantity of comments in and outside of class.  

Students must complete three, 3 or 4 page proposition papers. The first paper will be based upon part 1 (Classical/ Medieval thinkers) and the second paper will be based upon either a thinker from part 2 of the class (Modern thinkers).  One of these papers will be presented in class (see below).  All students will write a paper on part three (contemporary thinkers), but none of these will be presented in class.  More details to come.   

Students will review two student papers and submit suggestions for improvement.  One of these critiques will be presented publicly, following the prior student’s presentation.  The other will just be written and then given to both professor and the author.

Students will present their proposition paper from part 1 or 2 of the class, and they will present ONE of their discussant suggestions papers.