IWP 615, Western Moral Tradition and World Politics, Fall 2012

Section: Mondays 2:00 to 5:00pm. Office hours immediately before and after each class.

Instructor: William Miller

Website: (all course assignments and announcements will be posted here)


Course Description and Expected Outcomes

This course surveys the historical development of Western moral philosophy, and then analyzes the role of morality in the conduct of foreign policy. It examines the use of ethical reasoning in helping to achieve the twin American goals of a moral foreign policy and protection of the national interest. What is unique about this course is that it conducts this examination in light of the Western, principally Judeo-Christian, tradition that has historically, but decreasingly, guided American statecraft. The course contrasts this tradition with new philosophical concepts in America and explores the real and potential consequences of those concepts.

In the first part of the course, we will examine Western moral and political philosophy by placing it within its broader ontological, cosmological, epistemological, and anthropological context. This will require us to examine these fundamental conceptions and to contrast the Classical and Judeo-Christian ideas to their Epicurean, Gnostic, and Hermetic counterparts. This half will be capped of by a ten-page paper/exam on the material. In the second part of the course, we will examine the formation and structure of modern ideologies, which constitute the principal challenge to contemporary international politics and which must be understood as deviations from the fundamental conceptions of the Western moral tradition. This will be capped off by a ten-page review essay applying the material we learn on ideologies to a particular case. The final will be an in-class, cumulative essay exam.

At the conclusion of the course, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of

  1. the Western moral tradition, its fundamental ontological, epistemological, and anthropological assumptions, and its significant differences from other enduring religio-philosophic traditions that have been influential in the West, and
  2. the conception of ideological thought, its differences from Western philosophical and theoretical thought, and several of its manifestations in the contemporary political environment.

Course Requirements

Final Exam (December 3d). 30%

Ten-page paper (higher grade). 25%

Ten-page paper (lower grade). 20%

Class participation/quizzes/written assignments. 25%

We will meet each Monday except for Labor Day, which we must make up at another time. You may have two unexcused or undocumented absences. Each additional unexcused absence will reduce your final grade by 2%. This is a seminar class: your presence and active participation is required. To be excused, an absence must be justified by a written document on official (medical, legal, employment) stationery. If your particular circumstances make it difficult to meet these requirements, please discuss them with me at the beginning of the semester or when special problems arise during the semester.

Required Texts These are the texts from which I plan to assign readings throughout the semester. The underlined texts must be purchased. Where it says "excerpt(s)," I only plan to use relatively brief excerpts (handouts) from the text. Purchase copies of texts if you wish, but many of them are available on the internet via links on my webpage or other links. Internet versions that are linked on my webpage are marked with asterisks. Newer texts that are not in the public domain and not on the internet will be placed on reserve or handed out, as appropriate. I expect you to bring hard copies of the assigned readings to class with you. No hard copy = unexcused absence.

First Part of the Course: Fundamentals of the Western Moral Tradition

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Use the Ostwald, the Rackham,* or the Ross* translation.

________. Politics. Use one of the following: Barker translation (Oxford University Press—not the later revision of Barker's translation by Stalley); Rackham* translation (Tufts); Ellis* translation. Stay away from Jowett translation.

St. Augustine. City of God. Use Bettenson translation (2003 Penguin Classics edition) or Dods* translation.

St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. English Dominican Fathers (Benziger Bros. ed.)* or other translations. Excerpts.

Cicero. De Republica*. Any edition is fine. Excerpts.

Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan*. Any edition is fine.

John Locke. Essay Concerning Human Understanding*. Excerpt.

________. Second Treatise of Government*. Any edition is fine. Excerpt.

Lucretius. On the Nature of the Universe. Trans. R.E. Latham and John Godwin. New York: Penguin Classics, 1994. ISBN:0-14-044610-9. Use this prose translation.

Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince*. Any translation is fine. Excerpt.

Plato. Gorgias. Helmbold translation (Library of Liberal Arts edition) or Lamb translation (Loeb Classical edition). Use either of these translations.

________. Republic. Bloom, Shorey*, or Grube/Reeve translations are fine. Do not use the unrevised Grube or the Jowett translations.

Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. The Crawley* translation, Hobbes* translation, or Jowett* translation is acceptable. Excerpts.

Second Part of the Course: Ideologies

Barry Cooper. "'Jihadists' and the War on Terrorism." Intercollegiate Review 42 (Spring 2007): 27-36.

Norman Cohn. The Pursuit of the Millennium. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961, 1970. Excerpt.

A. James Gregor. "The Ideology of Fascism." In Transformation of a Continent: Europe in the Twentieth Century. Ed. Gerhard Weinberg. Minneapolis: Burgess Pub. Co, 1975.

Hans Jonas. The Gnostic Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001. Excerpt.

Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf*. Any edition is fine. Excerpt.

Bruce Hoffman. "Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 18 (1995): 271-284.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto*. Any edition is fine.

Stephen McKnight. Sacralizing the Secular: The Renaissance Origins of Modernity. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989. Excerpt.

Gerhart Niemeyer. Aftersight and Foresight. Lanham: Intercollegiate Studies Institute and University Press of America, 1988. Excerpt.

________. Between Nothingness and Paradise. South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 1999. Excerpts.

________. Within and Above Ourselves. Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1996. Excerpt.

David Rapoport. "Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions." American Political Science Review 78 (1984): 658-677.

Jean Jacques Rousseau. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Cole* translation. Excerpt.

________. Social Contract. Cole* translation. Excerpts.

Eric Voegelin. The New Science of Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952, 1987. Also reprinted in Modernity without Restraint. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000. Volume 5 of the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin.

________. Science, Politics & Gnosticism. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1968. Also reprinted in Modernity without Restraint. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000. Volume 5 of the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin.

Frederick Watkins. The Age of Ideology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964. Excerpt.

Recommended Texts These texts are directly related to the material we will cover in class. I have no present intentions to assign material from these books, though I may do so if interest demands it. Some of these texts may be used for book reviews. Many of the texts are available on the internet.

Fundamentals of the Western Moral Tradition

St. Augustine. The Political Writings. Ed. Henry Paolucci. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1962.

St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics. Trans. and ed. Paul Sigmund. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.

Harold O.J. Brown. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodixy in the History of the Church. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984, 1988.

Christopher Dawson. The Formation of Christendom. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1965, 2008.

________. Religion and the Rise of Western Culture. New York: Doubleday, 1950, 1991.

Mircea Eliade. Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt, 1959; reprint, 1987. Excerpt.

Henri and H.A. Frankfort et al. Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950. Also printed as an old Penguin paperback under the title of Before Philosophy. Excerpt.

Werner Jaeger. Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.

________. Humanism and Theology. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980.

________. In Search of the Divine Center. Vol. II of Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

John Mark Mattox. Saint Augustine and the Theory of Just War.New York: Continuum, 2006.

Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953, 1999.


Barry Cooper. New Political Religions, or An Analysis of Modern Terrorism. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004.

Raymond Ibrahim. The Al Qaeda Reader. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

Imam Khomeini. Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini. Trans. and ed. Hamid Algar. North Haledon, NJ: Mizan Press, 1981.

Laura Mansfield. His Own Words: A Translation of the Writings of Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri. N.p.: TLG Publications, 2006.

Kenneth Minogue. Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology. Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute Books, 2008.

Seyyid Qutb. Milestones. Damascus, Syria: Dar al-Ilm, n.d. ISBN-13: 978-1567444940

Herman Rauschning. The Revolution of Nihilism. New York: Alliance Book Corporation, 1939.

Steven Runciman. The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1947.

Tuveson, Ernest Lee. Millennium and Utopia. Berkeley: University of California, 1949.

________. Redeemer Nation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Midway Reprint, 1980.

Roelof van den Broek and Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Gnosis and Hermeticism: From Antiquity to Modern Times. State University of New York Press, 1998.

Eric Voegelin. Hitler and the Germans. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. Volume 31 of the Collected works of Eric Voegelin.

See generally the following journals:

Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

Terrorism and Political Violence

Politics, Religion & Ideology (formerly Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions)

Tentative Schedule This is emphatically tentative! Though the contents of the course listed below will remain the same, the sequence of subjects may well be altered and adjusted to class progress. Detailed assignments for each class will be listed on my webpage. Check the assignment link before every class.

Class One: Introduction to course; fundamental conceptions of philosophy; four traditions influencing Western thought; the nature of ideology.

Class Two: Essay on political theory (link); handout on ancient mythopoeic thought; Lucretius on the fundamental conceptions of the Epicurean philosophy.

Class Three: The Classical tradition: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero on ontology and epistemology.

Class Four: The Classical tradition: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero on philosophical anthropology, ethics, and politics.

Class Five: The Classical tradition: the Gorgias.

Class Six: The Classical Judeo-Christian tradition: St. Augustine and St. Thomas.

Class Seven: Epicurean philosophy revisited: Thomas Hobbes and the modern political philosophers.

Class Eight: The Gnostic tradition: Apocryphon of John (from the Nag Hammadi Library), Voegelin, Cohn-Jonas-Knox on antimomianism.

Class Nine: Hermeticism: Pico della Mirandola, McKnight, van den Broek.

Class Ten: Political ideology: Watkins, Voegelin

Class Eleven: Political Ideology: Voegelin, Niemeyer.

Class Twelve: Ideology and Religion: Hoffman, Rapoport, Cooper.

Class Thirteen: Communism, Nazism, and Fascism: Marx, Hitler.

Class Fourteen: Communism, Nazism, and Fascism: Gregor, Voegelin.