bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar


SM07: Political Philosophy – Plato to Aquinas (and beyond)

A brief reading list

The main focus of our work over this term will be on primary sources. It will be much more important for you to read works by the authors themselves rather than concentrating on secondary texts.

For many of these authors, accessible editions of the key works are available in the ‘Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought’ series. Unless otherwise stated, that series should be used.

For each author, there is a useful recent introduction in Oxford’s ‘Past Masters’ series. For some, a ‘Cambridge Companion’ has been published, often including a relevant chapter. The Companions are available electronically, for those who have access to the Cambridge Companions Online. Below are a few further suggestions of useful secondary works – but, remember, read the set texts first.

Seminar 1: Introduction — what is political thought?

Seminar 2: Aristotle, Politics

Also: Nicomachean Ethics, The Constitution of Athens

Seminar 3: Plato, The Republic

Also: The Laws

Secondary Reading: K. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies

Seminar 4: Comparison of Aristotle and Plato

Seminar 5: Cicero, On Duties & Seneca, On Clemency

Also: Cicero, On the Commonwealth

Seminar 6: Augustine, City of God

Specific sections set: Books I – V, VIII – X, XV, XIX, XXII.

Secondary Reading: R. A. Markus, History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine (Cambridge, 1970); P. Weithman, ‘Augustine’s political philosophy’ in E. Stump & N. Kretzmann, The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (Cambridge, 2001).

Seminar 7: John of Salisbury, Policraticus

Secondary Reading: relevant sections in R. W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, 2 vols (Oxford, 1995 – 2001)

Seminar 8: Aquinas, Political Writings

Also: A. P. d’Entrèves ed., Aquinas: selected political writings (Oxford, 1948 [frequently reprinted])

Secondary Reading: J. Finnis, Aquinas (Oxford, 1998)

Seminar 9: review of outlines of term essays

Seminar 10: The influence of Aquinas: ‘mirror for princes’

Giles of Rome, On the Rule of Princes, selected sections available in A. S. McGrade et al. ed., Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts, ii (Cambridge, 2000), and Ptolemy (or Bartholomew) of Lucca, tr. J. Blythe (Philadelphia, 1997)

Secondary Reading: M. S. Kempshall, The Common Good in Late Medieval Political Thought (Oxford, 1999), ch. 5.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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