Course Plan And Assignment Schedule

PHL 325: Special Topics in Moral and Political Philosophy

The City in Moral and Political Thought

Note: This course plan is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. Students are expected to check this page frequently to remain abreast of any updates.

Course Organization

In this course we will explore how the role of the city in moral and political philosophy evolved and changed from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the time of the Industrial Revolution. As our course progresses, two themes will emerge. One theme is that of the city as a political ideal, or metaphorical construct used to think about the best form of political organization. A second, competing theme is that of the city as an object of analysis, or a decidedly non-theoretical site of historically specific, political and practical problems. As we go along we will see both themes emerge and develop over time, the first into the modern and still influential ideal of cosmopolitanism; the second into the powerful and important moral theory of utilitarianism.

Course Introduction

  • Weeks 1-2: Argumentation, Principles of Dialogue, Argument Diagramming, Background for Reading Plato

First Theme: The City as Moral and Political Ideal

  • Week 3-5: Plato's Republic

Second Theme: The City as Object of Political Study

  • Week 6: Aristotle, Politics

From Polis to Patria to Cosmopolis

  • Week 7: Cicero, De Officiis

The City as Image of Social Order Human and Divine

  • Weeks 7-8: Augustine, City of God

The City as Object of Historical and Economic Analysis

  • Week 9: Machiavelli, Discourses and Smith, How Towns Improve the Nation

The Cosmopolitan Legacy in the Modern Era

  • Weeks 10-11: Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity", French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), Kant, "Toward Perpetual Peace"

After Industrialism: The City as the Site of Justice

  • Weeks 12-15: Video, Engels, "Conditions of the Working Class in Manchester", Marx & Engels, "The Communist Manifesto", Mill, Utilitarianism

Specific dates and assignment details are given below in the Course Calendar. Remember to use the "Agenda" view and click on "more details" to get full text and active links.

The whole term is planned out on this calendar. Click on the entry for any day to see what readings and work are assigned for that day. If you have a gmail account you can incorporate the events on this calendar into your own rather easily so that you may access them from your own computer or smartphone.


  1. In some cases the schedule must be viewed by clicking on "Agenda" at the top right box in order for all the text put down for a given day to be visible.
  2. Clicking on "more detail" at the bottom of an entry will display clickable links to readings, etc..

List of Supplemental Media

In the course of the term we may make use of electronically accessible journal articles and other media. Below is a listing of these items. Consult the detailed course plan for specific readings and assignments. Note that access to the journal articles comes via our library. Thus, if you have trouble accessing the articles the first place you should go for help is the reference desk at the library. Please be aware that computer problems of any kind will not excuse anyone from the responsibility to do the work of the class. Please plan ahead.

Basics of Philosophical Argumentation

Example Diagrams of Common Argument Structures

Handout on Toulmin by L. K. Wheeler, Carson-Newman College

Handout on Resolving Value Conflicts

Handout on Theories of Distributive Justice

Handout on Pareto Optimality

Handout on Rawlsian Political Liberalism

Handout on Human and Civil Rights

Political Typology Quiz

Direct Link:

Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies Response to Coverage of the Situation in Detroit

Race, Class, and Inequality (PhilosophyTalk Radio Program)

Direct Link:

Tommie Shelby, "Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto"

Other Resources

Selected Reading List for Political Philosophy (1944-2014)

Selected Bibliography of Sources for Doing Political Philosophy About Cities

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