PS2203: Ancient Western Political Thought

Taken in:
AY16/17 Semester 1

Lecturer:
Prof Ethan Andrew Putterman
TA: Charles Brian Suresh (Bob)

What the module is about, briefly:
Aristotle, Plato and Machiavelli – political systems, human nature, religion and it’s link to politics, constitutional stuff, etc.

Texts:
Plato – The Republic
Aristotle – The Politics
Aristotle – The Poetics
Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince

Workload:
Reading the texts (if you’re not used to this kinda more archaic language) can be a challenge when you start out, nonetheless I assure you that once that’s conquered it’s not too bad. You have sparksnotes/gradesaver/etc. not for nothing. There are no other readings, maybe because the weekly set of readings (which I highly, strongly recommend for you to complete before the lecture) is more than enough.

Format of assessment:
Midterms 20%, class participation + presentation 20%, finals 60%

Project/Presentation:
You’ll be rostered to present on a certain question from 1 of the 4 texts, you can present individually or in a group setting. My recommendation is do in a group setting where you can actually go further with the entire presentation and in my opinion it is so much better than just having barely enough time to regurgitate the text content or the lecture content which is boring and useless for yourself and the class (unless no one understood the lecture which is probably not the case).

Comments on lecturer:
He’s interesting and gives you comprehensive content, complete with real life examples in lecture. In tutorial it’s not the same story though – as it’s a presentation filled tutorial and he doesn’t say much unless there’s some heinous mistake made by someone. I’ve heard the tutor approaches tutorials rather differently, with more explanations and slightly more spoon feeding which is helpful if you’re new to pol science in general. Prof Putterman just expects you to work out things in your mind and then come to him with questions. He’s very friendly which is a bonus.

Exam difficulty:
Midterms – 1 compulsory question and one other question of your choice (can be comparison if you prefer)

Finals – three essays – one comparison, then one from Section B (comparison) and one from Section C (individual book)

Pretty manageable if you studied and thought through the texts, making sure you understand critical and vital concepts/made notes etc.

Recommended:
Perhaps, if you’re interested in foundational political/economic and social ideas that were in the incipient stages of discussion. Ideas of democracy and idealism vs realism are discussed at length and that’s something very appealing to me. Also, I think the module gives you a chance at expressing your analytical and critical skills in comparison because not much is told to you concerning comparing the political thinkers so that’s for you to go figure and explore which appeals to some.

Overall rating (/10):
7/10

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