Have a Question? Contact the Humanities Office or an Academic Unit


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Stefan Sciaraffa

Email: sciaraf@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23467


Office Hours: By Appointment

Course Objectives:

History of Political Philosophy                    

CNH 106 M/Th 9:30 & T 10:30       

Office Hours: By appointment (but you typically can find me in my office immediately after class)         


Marking TA: Maggie O’Brien (obriemj@mcmaster.ca)


Course Description

Political philosophy queries the nature, value and justification of political community. First, we will examine excerpts from Aristotle’s work addressing these issues. Then, we will survey two major approaches developed and offered over the course of the 17th to the 19th centuries: the social contract (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant [though we won’t cover Kant in this class]) and the utilitarian traditions.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics and Politics (Avenue to Learn)

Hobbes, Leviathan, Ed. Curley, Hackett, 0-87220-177-5

Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Cambridge University Press, 0-521-35730-6

Rousseau, Basic Political Writings, Hackett, 2nd ed., 0-87220-047-7

The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham and Mill, Hackett, 0-87220-649-1

Method of Assessment:


First Paper (30%) No more than 2500 words. This first paper will be assigned no later than Thursday, February 5 and will be due two weeks after the date assigned. We will return grades for this assignment well before March 13. As a general rule, we will excuse late papers only in extreme circumstances, such as a family or medical emergency. We reserve the right to dock papers 5% if late and then 3% for every 48 hours late thereafter.


Second Paper (30%) No more than 2500 words.

Later in the term, we will distribute topics for the second essay. This paper will be assigned no later than March 13 and will be due two weeks after the date assigned. Papers submitted late will be docked 5% each day late unless excused. As a general rule, we will excuse late papers only in extreme circumstances, such as a family or medical emergency. We reserve the right to dock papers 5% if late and then 3% for every 48 hours late thereafter.


Final Exam (30%)

Students will write the exam in person during the scheduled exam period. The exam will be cumulative. This will be an open book and open note exam. You will be able to bring your answers to the study questions I have assigned for the purposes of this exam. See Avenue to Learn for the study questions. I advise you keep up with these as you go.


Attendance  (5%)

There will be five pop quizzes over the course of the semester, each counting 1% of the final grade. Correctly entering name on the quiz sheet counts for 50% of the grade.


Peer Review (5%)

Each student will belong to two peer review teams. Each peer review team will review two papers. Each of the four reviews will be graded on a check or check minus basis. A check for any review will count as an 80 or the weighted average of the student’s other grades for the course, whichever is higher. A check minus will count as a 0 for that peer review. [So, for example, 4 check minuses would result in receiving a 0 for 5% of the course final grade.]


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

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:

Reading Schedule:
The following reading schedule is aspirational. We will proceed in this order, though we may find it necessary to eliminate some readings as we go given time constraints. See Study Questions for precise page numbers and paragraphs to read most closely.

1.) Aristotle's Ethics and Politics
       Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk I*
       Aristotle, Politics, Book I, Ch. 1-6*

The Contract Tradition
2.) Hobbes: Human as mechanism, state as artifact
       Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Introduction, Ch. 5, 6, 8, 10-11

3.) Hobbes: The state of nature as a state of war
       Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. 13, 17

4.) Hobbes: The law of nature and convention
       Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. 14-15,16, 18-21

5.) Locke: Did God make us slaves?
       John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 1

6.) Locke: Natural religion and the law of nature
       John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 2-4, 6

7.) Locke: Consent and the right to revolution
       John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 7-9, 10-12, 14-19
       The American Declaration of Independence*

8.) Locke: Property
       John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 5, 13

9.) Rousseau: Is society good for us?
       Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Second Discourse

10.) Rousseau: Can society be made good?
       Excerpts from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract

11.) Bentham: The principle of utility as ultimate standard
Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chs. 1-4

12.) Mill: Utilitarianism
       Excerpts from John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

13.) Mill: On Liberty
       John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Ch. 1-4

Other Course Information:

Administrative Notes

1.) The class convenes for three one-hour sessions each week. I will lecture during these sessions, but I welcome questions and encourage discussion.

2.) The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades.

3.) It is the policy of the Philosophy Department that all email communication between students and instructors (including TAs) must originate from their official McMaster

University email accounts. This policy protects the confidentiality and sensitivity of information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor.

Philosophy department instructors will delete messages that do not originate from McMaster email accounts.

4.) The instructor and the 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 course. If either type of modification becomes necessary, where possible reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Students should check their McMaster email and course websites frequently during the term and to note any changes.