Introduction to Political Theory
POSC 7: Introduction to Political Theory
First Essay Assignment
The ability to analyze and interpret texts is an essential skill in the study of political theory. The
purpose of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to develop that skill by preparing a
short, carefully-crafted essay on the similarities and contrasts between Plato’s The Republic and
Aristotle’s Politics on several topics. These papers are to be exegetical or interpretive, which
means that the task is not to evaluate the validity of what the authors are saying, but rather to
explain what they are saying—and why—in the passages under discussion. In so doing, you will
be defending a certain interpretation of the texts at hand.
TOPIC: Answer the following question in an essay of approximately 1650 words:
“Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle’s views on both the best kind of human life, and
the best kind of regime or political rule. To what can we attribute the differences in their
views on these issues? (Hint: Make sure you discuss the role of teleological thinking within
each thinker’s writings, and the differences in their respective approaches to teleology.)”
In writing this essay, make sure you identify the basic assumptions (regarding human nature, the
order of the universe, the role of human beings within this order, human capacities, the nature of
political rule, etc.) upon which each thinker bases his claims. How do these assumptions lead to
the conclusions about human life that each thinker arrives at? Make sure also that you address
the question of what accounts for each thinker’s emphasis on a particular kind of regime, what
the alternatives are to their ideal regime, and why those alternatives are considered inadequate.
Finally, who is the ideal kind of ruler or statesman for Plato and for Aristotle, and to what extent
does each of them believe that the ideal regime can or cannot be achieved? What accounts for the
difference in their views?
Please note that your essay should not resemble a “laundry-list” of items that simply summarizes
all of the ideas above. Rather, the first part of the question (in bold type) is meant to be the
central and primary question to be addressed. The rest of the prompt gives you secondary
questions, all of which are designed to aid you in making secondary arguments. In a paper that
flows well, the secondary arguments will coherently come together to support the central
argument of the paper, in response to the central question. In other words, a good answer to the
primary question depends not only on constructing good arguments in response to the secondary
questions, it requires understanding the correct relationship of all the secondary arguments to one
another, and to the primary question. Note, therefore, that you do not need to address the
secondary arguments in the order that they appear in the prompt above. It is more important
your argument flows logically and well, while making the right connections between all the
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