First-Principles Approach - Core Texts
The approach of the School of Statesmanship is classical. It begins with the idea that American politics should be understood in light of its first principles. That requires, first, an understanding of these principles as they were understood by America’s founders. Additionally, it requires comprehending the relation of these principles to the Constitution and their fate in the development of modern American political institutions and practice.
The first principles of American politics are rooted in what Jefferson called the “elementary books of public right,” the classic works of the Western tradition from Plato to John Locke. Students in our graduate program begin by reading these and continue by reading more modern writers such as Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche, to understand the roots of contemporary political thought.
Both the master’s and doctoral programs are centered around the following core texts from the Western and American traditions of political thought. Doctoral students are held responsible for being familiar with and understanding these texts on their comprehensive exams.
- Plato, Republic
- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Politics
- Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Treatise on Law
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Hobbes, Leviathan
- Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Letter Concerning Toleration
- Rousseau, Second Discourse, Social Contract
- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
- Hegel, Philosophy of History; Philosophy of Right
- Marx, Communist Manifesto; Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
- Nietzsche, Use & Disadvantage of History; Beyond Good and Evil
- U.S. Declaration of Independence
- U.S. Constitution
- The Federalist
- Essential writings of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America
- Lincoln-Douglas Debates
- Lincoln, Lyceum Speech; Temperance Address; Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Speech on the Dred Scott Decision; Cooper Institute Speech; House Divided Speech; First and Second Inaugural Addresses; Message to Congress of July 4, 1861; “Gettysburg Address”
- Progressive commentaries on American constitutionalism by Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert Croly
- Franklin Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Address; 1944 Annual Message
- Other writings on 20th and 21st century thought and politics in America, including institutions and policies, used in coursework during the student’s time in the program
Both doctoral and master’s students are required to take a certain number of courses in each of two fields: Political Philosophy and American Politics & Political Thought. The doctoral program has a set of required core courses in each field.
Our courses carry the “POL” designation in the course listings and are offered at the 600-800 level. Some advanced undergraduate courses may be cross-listed for graduate credit and are designated at the 500 level. These courses will incorporate additional requirements and rigor commensurate with graduate level study. All courses are for 3 credit hours, unless otherwise noted.