Dr. Robert C. Jeffrey
Associate Professor of Government

Govt. 392 - Modern Political Thought (Modernity)

Syllabus for Spring 2005

Dr. Robert Jeffrey
206 Daniel Building
Office Phone: x4581
Home Phone: 948-1297
E-mail: jeffreyrc@wofford.edu or rcjeffrey@home.com
Office Hours:

Required Books

The Machiavellian EnterpriseNiccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, tr. Leo Paul deAlvarez
Leo Paul deAlvarez, The Machiavellian Enterprise: A Commentary on The Prince
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration
John Locke, Second Treatise Of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First and Second Discourses, tr. Roger Masters
Assorted Xeroxed Material (Mandragola, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, etc.)

Course plan:
Week of:
February 7
Machiavelli, The Prince, xi-28
February 14 
Machiavelli, The Prince, 29-92
Leo Paul de Alvarez, Commentary on The Prince, pp. vii-71
February 21
The Prince, pp. 93-158
Commentary on The Prince, pp. 75-140
February 28
The Prince, Second Reading
Machiavelli, Discorses (xeroxed excerpts)
Machiavelli, Mandragola (xeroxed)
March 7
Machiavelli, Summary and Conclusion
  Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (xeroxed)
Howard White, “Francis Bacon”
March 14
Francis Bacon, continued
Rene Descartes (xeroxed excerpts)
March 21
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, pp. 98-124, 19-55, 80-97
March 28
Hobbes, Leviathan, pp. 129-141, 159-168, 198-269, and etc. (TBA)
April 11
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapters I-VI
April 18
  Locke, Second Treatise, Chapters VII-XIX
April 25
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First Discourse
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Second Discourse, pp. 76-119
May 2
Rousseau, Second Discourse, 119-181
May 9
Rousseau, (xeroxed excerpts)
Rousseau to present, Readings TBA
Course Requirements:
2 Mid-term Exams 50%
Final Exam 25%
Term Paper Essay 25%

The midterm exams will be of the take home essay variety and will call for a thoughtful application of what we have learned. The term paper topic will be assigned by the professor at some point during the course.

Note on the Course

In general, our approach in the course will be to seek to understand the thought of the formative thinkers of the modern world (modernity) through a reading of several of their most important books. These authors have a teaching they wish to convey through these books. Some are more straightforward and frank than others, but all require great care in reading because they do aim their words at the most intelligent and perceptive readers. We are severely hampered because of our lack of a classical education, which may seem to be a pre-requisite for fully understanding the heavily allusive style of Machiavelli in particular. Notwithstanding this disadvantage we will press on, trusting in the native ability of our minds, as well as our experience of modern things.

You will see that the ideas of certain seminal thinkers were the fundamental causes of the world in which we now live. This may be difficult for some to swallow. But consider that Machiavelli initiated the fundamental turn in western civilization from thinking as understanding to thinking as the source of power. And then consider the tremendous amount of power, of destructive nihilistic power, available today to those we call “the terrorists.” And then consider this: If human beings are to survive on this earth, it is absolutely necessary, from now until the end of time, that a regime like the United States continue to exist. That is, it is necessary for all time to come, that the strongest power on earth be capable of self-limitation, that is, of seeing that power is not the end of politics. Where does this knowledge and capacity come from? Not from modernity, but from pre-modern sources: from classical philosophy and Biblical religion--from the past, from piety, from tradition, from true self-knowledge--not from the politics of progress. The same thing could of course be said about the revolutionary science of biotechnology as of weapons of mass destruction. For human beings to remain on this earth the power to “perfect” human nature out of existence must be constrained, within the souls of those ruling the strongest nation on earth.

In this course, if you apply yourself, you will begin to understand the inner nature of the modern world. We will proceed by going back to the beginnings, to the formative moments and formative thoughts. We will disinter (dig up) the origins and follow the development of modernity, to the point at which the post-modern comes into view. We will also discuss the ambiguous place of the United States in modernity, and how it was formed and is preserved by both modern and pre-modern elements.

The modern world (modernity) as we know it does not seem to have been entirely fated. It is in whole or in part the result of choices made by the great among us. I am going to ask you to judge those choices, both as to their prudence and truth. That is, does “the cave” we live in reflect the truth of real things to a greater or a lesser extent as a result of those choices?

I am always happy to talk with you about the issues of the course. Feel free to contact me at any time.

Dr. Robert Jeffrey
Daniel 206
x4581 (office)
948-1297 (home)




Homepage for Dr. Robert C. Jeffrey

 Last Update: March 25,, 2005