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New Laws and New Orders

ENGL 016.303
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

"But since my intent is to write something useful to whoever understands it, it has appeared to me more fitting to go directly to the effectual truth of the thing than to the imagination of it. . . . for a man who wants to make a profession of good in all regards must come to ruin among so many who are not good."

"For the vulgar are taken in by the appearance and outcome of a thing, and in the world there is no one but the vulgar." Machiavelli, The Prince.

In this class we will read central texts that define moral thought before and after the "new modes and new orders" that Machiavelli declared were necessary for modernity. Before the new orders, virtue was beautiful and allied with an ideal; it was an end in itself. With the "new orders" of modernity, virtue becomes a means; everyone understands that everyone pursues power and security, but everyone also understands that one must continue to use virtue-talk because the vulgar demand it. We will read one play by Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound,) two plays by Sophocles (Oedipus Rex and Antigone), three dialogues of Plato (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito), and, in the modern age, Machiavelli's The Prince and Hobbes's Leviathan. Four short papers (3 pp.) and a final exam.