Advanced Govt Class Documents & Handouts

General Class Information
Coursepack ***REQUIRED***
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Focus Questions

  • Flannery - Liberal Arts

    • Why did Churchill call the Germans “nominally” civilized?
    • Why did the author include the examples of the Holocaust and other genocides? What point is he making?
    • How do many universities answer questions like “what are the liberal arts and what is their relationship to education as a whole”? What are their answers missing?
    • What were the traditional liberal arts? Where did they come from?
    • What is the order in which students should learn the liberal arts? Why was this the order suggested?
    • What does “liberal arts” actually mean? What is the alternative type of art that people must have?
    • What is the relationship between school and leisure?
    • What unifying idea came under attack during the Modern era?
    • What are your conclusions about this article? What are your thoughts?

  • Plato - Republic (Discussions I & II)

    • BEFORE YOU READ: What, in your own words, is “justice”?  How do you know what is a “just” action?
    • Why is Discussion One titled: The Will of the Majority? What point is that title making?
    • How does Cephalus answer the question of what is “justice”? What example does Socrates use to highlight its weakness?
    • What is Cephalus’s attitude to the question of “what is justice?”
    • After reading Discussions One & Two, how would your answer to the question of “what is justice” change?

  • Plato - Republic (Discussion III)

    • How does Polemarchus extend Cephalus’s (or rather, Simonides’s) definition of justice to save it?
    • In what ways does Socrates attack this definition of justice?
    • How does Polemarchus adjust (or accept Socrates’s adjustment) of his initial definition?
    • What do you think of Socrates’s arguments? What were his strongest points? Weakest?
    • How has your own definition of justice evolved since finishing these two readings and the class discussion we had?

  • Plato - Republic (Discussion IV)

    • What is Thrasymachus like as a character?
    • What is Thrasymachus’s (first) definition of justice?
    • How does Thrasymachus feel about Socrates’s philosophical method?
    • How does Socrates attempt to disprove his definition?
    • How does Thrasymachus modify his definition to try to satisfy Socrates, and how does Socrates challenge this modification?
    • After Thrasymachus’s speech with the shepherd analogy, the discussion shifts away from talking about justice and moves to discussing the benefits of living a just or unjust life. What is Thrasymachus’s stance?
    • How does Socrates show that the unjust cannot also be wise and good?
    • What flaws can you find in Socrates’s arguments against Thrasymachus? What general lessons can we learn from this discussion

  • Aristotle - Politics Book 3 (Parts I-IV)

    • What is a state, according to Aristotle?
    • What criteria can’t you use to determine who is a citizen?
    • What is a citizen?  What form of government is Aristotle’s definition best suited for?
    • What is problematic about birth-right citizenship?
    • How should you not define a state?  Why?
    • What is the virtue of a citizen and how does Aristotle compare it to the virtue of good men? 
    • What is the virtue of a ruler and how does Aristotle compare it to the virtue of good men and of good citizens?
    • What rule of thumb does Aristotle recommend for the exercise of authority by freemen over freemen?

  • Aristotle - Politics Book 3 (Parts V-IX)

    • How does having a variety of people as citizens complicate the question of what makes a “good” citizen?
    • What is the purpose of the state? (and, for that matter, of individuals)
    • How is the interest of the master and the interest of the slave similar?  What would Socrates likely say to this argument?
    • What makes a government despotic and perverse? What makes it a true government?
    • What are the three forms of governments (and what are their perversions)?
    • What truly distinguishes a democracy from an oligarchy?
    • How does Aristotle add to the complications of our understanding of justice?
    • Why isn’t mere companionship the purpose of civil society?  What is its purpose?

  • Aristotle - Politics Book 3 (Parts X-XII)

    • How does Aristotle show that the will of the majority cannot be the measure of what is just?  What do you think of his argument?
    • What other problems does he identify with the rule by the few and the rule be one?
    • What argument does he lay out to support the rule of the many as superior than other forms of governments?  Why is this argument not universally applicable to all groups?
    • Why does Aristotle believe that it’s better to include some of the common, poor members of society in government?  What do you think of his argument?
    • What argument does he offer to suggest it’s not a good idea to allow common people to vote? What do you think of how he overcame that dilemma?
    • What is justice, according to Aristotle? 
    • In your opinion, what has been the strongest definition of justice you’ve come across so far?  Why is it stronger than others?

Model Congress

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