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PHILOS 4K03 Adv St Ancient Western Philos

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Mark Johnstone

Email: mjohnst@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 307

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23461


Office Hours: Mondays 1:00-2:00 and Wednesdays 1:00-2:00, or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Class meets Wednesdays 2:30 – 5:00pm in CNH 102

Course Description
This course is a close, critical examination of Aristotle’s Politics. The Politics is one of Aristotle’s most widely studied works, and for good reason: it is one of the most influential works in the history of political thought and is packed with interesting and sometimes provocative ideas about how society should be organized and why. Topics covered include: the relationship between human nature and political organization, the relationship between individual and state, the theory of justice, the rule of law, the nature and basis of political authority, the merits and weaknesses of different forms of constitution (including democratic constitutions), the relevance of ideals to politics, the causes of faction and division with society and ways of addressing them, the importance of having an educated citizenry, and the relationship between ethics (understood as the study of the good individual life) and political science (understood as the study of the good society).
We will work our way through the whole text, aiming to understand Aristotle’s ideas and his reasons for proposing them, evaluating their merits, and (where appropriate) asking whether they have continuing relevance for us today. The course will be pitched as an “advanced introduction”: although some prior familiarity with Aristotle’s philosophy (especially with his ethical thought), with ancient Greek political thought, and with political philosophy more generally would all be helpful, no specific prior knowledge will be presupposed. All texts will be read in translation: however, students with some reading knowledge of ancient Greek will be encouraged to draw on this where possible.
The class will meet once a week for up to three hours (in practice, we should be finished by 5:00pm most days). Required readings will be moderate in length, averaging around 25 pages per week in total; however, some material will be challenging and will require re-reading. You will be expected to attend class. For information on assessment, see below.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Text:

There is just one required book for this course, which will be available at the campus store:
Aristotle: Politics, translated by C.D.C Reeve (Hackett, 1998).
Please purchase this book: the translation is generally reliable, the introduction is useful, and the book is modestly priced. This is the translation we will be using in class.

Additional readings will be placed on the course website on Avenue to Learn

Method of Assessment:

Assessment will be based primarily on four short (2-3 page) critical reflections, an in-class presentation, and a final essay. Attendance will be expected, not rewarded. However, a small bonus will be available for excellent class participation. There is no final exam.

1. Reflective summaries: You will be asked to complete a minimum of four (4) short “reflective summaries” (short discussion papers) over the course of the term. You may submit up to five: in that case, the best four will count towards your final grade. Each reflective summary should be 2-3 pages in length (12 pt. font, double-spaced). In these assignments, you will be asked to succinctly summarize Aristotle’s main claims/arguments in a section of the text, and to offer brief critical reflections on them. You will have considerable freedom to select which sections of the text you wish to write about. See schedule below for the due dates. I will provide further information about these assignments, and my expectations for them, in class and on the website.

2. Oral presentation: You will be asked to give one in-class oral presentation. This should be 10-15 minutes in length, and will be followed by 10-15 minutes of questions and discussion. Topics will be allocated at the start of the semester. You will have the opportunity to meet with me to discuss the material and your plans for approaching it in advance of your presentation. I will provide further information about the presentations, and my expectations for them, in class and on the website.

3. Final essay: You will be asked to write a single longer essay on a topic of your choosing (I will provide suggestions and advice concerning topics). The essay should be 7-10 pages in length (12 pt. font and double-spaced). Essays are due by 11:59pm on Saturday, April 16. I will provide further information about the essays, and my expectations for them, in class and on the course website.

4. Attendance and Participation: Regular attendance is a requirement of this course. If you are unable to attend class for any reason, please let me know (by email) in advance if you can. In a seminar-format course like this, it is important that students attend class in person. For one thing, you will get far more out of the course that way. Attendance is expected, not rewarded (more than two unexplained absences shall constitute adequate grounds for failing the course). However, students who both attend class and participate well in discussion will receive a bonus of up to 2% on their final grade.

Reflective summaries (4 x 10% each) 40%
Oral presentation 20%
Final essay (due 11:59pm on Saturday, April 16) 40%
Attendance and participation up to +2%

Instructions for Submitting Essays
All written assignments (reflective summaries and final essays) should be submitted electronically, using the “dropbox” tool on Avenue to Learn. Please include your name on all submissions, and also page numbers (this makes commenting easier). Please submit in only one of the following two file formats: MS Word or pdf. There is no need to submit a hard copy in addition to the electronic copy.

Work submitted on Avenue may be checked automatically by Turnitin.com to reveal plagiarism. If this check occurs, it will be added to the Turnitin database. If you do not wish to have your work added to the Turnitin database, please send it to me as an e-mail attachment instead. No penalty will be assigned if you submit your work this way. To see the university’s Turnitin.com policy, click here.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

  • Late assignments (both reflective summaries and final essays) will be penalized at a rate of 3% for every day or part of a day late (this includes weekend days). Assignments submitted more than one week late will not be accepted at all (i.e. they will receive a grade of zero), unless you have obtained special permission from me to submit that late.
  • I understand that students are sometimes unable to complete a piece of assessment on time (or at all) for legitimate medical or personal/compassionate reasons. If you find yourself in such a situation, please contact me (by email) as soon as possible to let me know – ideally, before the due date of the assignment in question. Once I have been made aware of the situation, I can grant an extension or take other steps to ensure that you are not unduly penalized for the late or missed work.
  • The final essays are due at the end of the term, a time that will be very busy for many of you. I encourage you to start them early if you can. For those of you with several pieces of assessment due at that time, I will usually be happy to grant short extensions (say, 2 or 3 days), so long as you make a request (by email) prior to the due date. This does not apply to the reflective summaries – I will be stricter with deadlines for those.
  • Completion of a McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) counts as the equivalent of a doctor’s note for a minor illness. You should contact me by email immediately after submitting the form. I will usually grant (at most) a one-week extension, based on the original due date. Use these forms wisely (and honestly!), as you only get one/semester. Note that the final essay not MSAF-eligible, since it is worth 40% of your final grade.
  • Students registered with SAS should see me as soon as possible after the start of the semester – I would like to know who you are and if there is any special assistance you require, while you will need to provide me with a copy of your accommodations letter.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Class                    Date                   Topic and Required Reading
Week 1                  Jan 6                  Introduction to the course
Week 2                 Jan 13                 From Ethics to Politics Nic. Ethics I.1-3, 7; X.9
Week 3                 Jan 20                 Nature and Political Community Politics I 1-2
Week 4                 Jan 27                 The Household: Slavery, Family, Economics Politics I 3-13

RS 1 due (Sat, Jan 30)

Week 5                 Feb 3                  Criticisms of Other Views (esp. Plato) Politics II (all)
Week 6                 Feb 10                Citizenship; Classifying Constitutions Politics III 1-8

RS 2 due (Sat, Feb 13)

**Mid-term recess**

Week 7                  Feb 24                  Justice, Political Power and Law; Kingship Politics III 9-18

RS 3 due (Sat, Feb 27)

Week 8                  March 2                  Democracy, Oligarchy, and the Middle Class Politics IV (all)
Week 9                  March 9                  Political Stability and Political Change Politics V and VI (all)

RS 4 due (Sat, Mar 12)

Week 10                 March 16               Special Topic: Aristotle and Democracy [Josiah Ober visit]
Week 11                 March 23               The Ideal Constitution I Politics VII 1-12
Week 12                 March 30               The Ideal Constitution II: Education Politics VII 13-17, VIII (all)

RS 5 (optional) due (Sat, Apr 2)

Week 13                  April 6                  Conclusion and review

Final essay due, Sat Apr 16

Other Course Information:

Additional Notes:
1. Please retain a copy of all your graded papers.
2. The scale used by the Registrar’s Office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades. Here’s a link to the standard chart: https://iss.mcmaster.ca/incoming-exchange-students/academics-undergraduate/grading-system.html
3. You will have the opportunity to evaluate my teaching and the course as a whole towards the end of the term.
4. You may find the Student Success Centre of assistance in developing your writing and study skills: http://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/students.html

Final note:
The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.