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|PS 208 - Introduction to Political Theory|
Learning Objectives: Upon successful completion of this course, the student should be able to: 1. Apply analytical skills to social phenomena in order to understand human behavior. A wide range of the theories of prominent political philosophers are presented in lecture format. I outline the major arguments of each theorist, examining how they understand human behavior and why they prescribe rules for behavior. We continuously analyze the applicability of theories to different social phenomenon, examining how the theories learned apply to both hypothetical situations and real social phenomenon. The idea is to get students to critically assess the utility of various theories in explaining human behavior. 2. Apply knowledge and experience to foster personal growth and better appreciate the diverse social world in which we live. Students are encouraged to bring their own knowledge and experiences to class discussions, the term paper, and to the exams. Personal growth can result from a better understanding of one's own political beliefs as they are embedded in the theories of different political theorists. The wide diversity of theorists examined provides students with a wealth of knowledge from which they can approach and appreciate our diverse social world. Lectures demonstrate the wide diversity among theorists and the small nuances between theorists of a similar stripe. Lectures also illustrate the development of political theory over time, from the ancient Greeks to contemporaries, explaining how political thought is embedded in and dependent upon historical time periods. 3. Understand the role of individuals and institutions within the context of society. The role of the individual, social groups, and political institutions is examined for most of the theorists covered. In fact, this is very project of much political theory. Some theorists focus on the role of the individual, others on groups, and a few on institutional arrangements in their ideal societies. The diversity of theorists examined presents students with the opportunity to learn about the role of individuals, groups, and institutions from differing perspectives. 4. Assess different theories and concepts, and understand the distinctions between empirical and other methods of inquiry. Assessment of different theories and concepts is the essence of this class. For many theorists, although not for all, we examine how they arrive at their theories, what methods of inquiry they utilize, and examine the origin of methods of inquiry. 5. Utilize appropriate information literacy skills in written and oral communication. In the term paper students are required to come up with their own problem statement, determine the nature and extent of the information needed to address the problem, assess the relevant information, and evaluate this information critically. This is a difficult task in political theory, so I offer continuous support at all stages of writing the term paper. During class discussions and in the exams I use questions to get students to formulate problem statements, from which we then gather information in the form of diverse viewpoints, and critically assess the information. 6. Understand the diversity of human experience and thought, individually and collectively. The diversity of theorists we examine in ten weeks illustrates the diversity of human thought. The course moves fast and we cover a lot. 7. Apply knowledge and skills to contemporary problems and issues. After I have lectured on a topic, and often during lectures, we apply theories learned to historical and contemporary issues and debates. Rather than simply present the ideas of theorists, through discussion and in exam questions, an emphasis is placed on the application of theoretical knowledge to real world phenomenon.
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