Founded by nationally renowned scholar, Willmoore Kendall.
Nationally acclaimed for teaching excellence.
Committed to forming broadly educated citizens and scholars.
The aim of the Politics Ph.D. program is to help form students who will be able to
bring to the perennial political questions an understanding shaped by the centuries
of discourse on such questions. Our graduates have gone on to teach at leading colleges
and universities, to clerk for justices of the Supreme Court, and to hold high positions
in presidential administrations.
Reflect upon the proper order of constitutions.
The study of politics at the University comprises all human things. If the polis is
the association whose purpose is the complete human life, then politics includes all
the activities whose end is the complete human life. In reflecting upon these activities,
politics becomes philosophic. Indeed, it is only political philosophy, whose founder
was Socrates, which takes seriously the possibility of the best regime as the standard
whereby every other polity is to be judged. Political philosophy, according to Aristotle,
is an inquiry into the soul. For it is ultimately the proper order of the human soul
which determines the proper order of constitutions.
The modern difficulty is that we no longer think of politics as concerned with all
human things. The state has replaced the polis, and that means that we now understand
politics as concerned only with the external conditions of human existence.
In the Politics program, students encounter the great texts of political philosophy
not as systematic treatises with propositions to be memorized as true statements,
but instead as indications, suggestions, openings, into existence. It is only in conversation
-- in the exchange between the texts, the students and the teacher (who is but a more
experienced student) -- that the texts come alive. These works do not so much state
what the nature of things is as reproduce a journey of the soul toward seeing or intellecting
both the principles and ends of existence. Thus a different kind of reading and scholarship
is required, one which is able to reproduce this journey of the soul.
Restore the rhetorical tradition.
The program also means to restore the importance of the rhetorical tradition. We wish
to restore the understanding that the word has a power over the soul. The tendency
in political thought today is to interpret human actions as caused by some impersonal
force, whether mode of production, the market place, sexual or biological forces,
or the mysterious dispensations of History. Political thought becomes an epiphenomenon,
a mere reflection or deceptive rationalization of true hidden causes. Thus not rhetoric
but a science of economics, of behavior, or of the history of being is said to be
of primary importance.
Students are asked to read the works of the tradition with a seriousness which, in
the past two centuries, has too often been lacking. Such seriousness requires not
only native intelligence and good character, but also a great capacity for work and
a willingness to acquire all the tools necessary for such a task. One of these tools
is a knowledge of the languages in which these works were originally written. Students
are required to obtain a working knowledge of least two of the languages of the philosophic
tradition, one ancient and one modern.