Advanced Themes in Legal Theory, Philosophy, Argumentation – Thinking Dwelling Polity: The Law of Ethical-Political Life
167 001 | CCN: 26204
Thinking Dwelling Polity: The Law of Ethical-Political Life
Instructor: Nancy Weston
Location: Dwinelle 229
Date / Time: Tu/Th 3:30pm - 4:59pm
As the ζῷον πoλιτικόν, we are given, essentially, to dwell in polity. And yet we seem to have
lost sight of what it is to do so – and of what it entails, by way of thoughtful relation. Instead, we
find ourselves, now, in distinctly unsettled, even perilous times, shot through with turmoil,
disharmony, and accelerating uncertainty; in particular, our political world, buffeted by rage and
factionalism, appears irrevocably fractured. The very possibility of our living peaceably with
one another has come into profound question.
As urgent and clamorous as this situation is, we will not attempt, in this course, to confront it in
its pressing immediacy; instead, we shall enter into a sustained encounter with three great
inquiries that take up, each in its own way, the essential matters at issue here. Engaging with the
historic thinking of Plato, Aristotle, and Heidegger on questions of what it is to think, and to
dwell, with one another, we will undertake to learn, not only from the thinking in evidence there,
and their invitation to enter into it with them, but from how they understand the inquiry itself. In
particular, we will find that they did not investigate questions of truth, right, and polity as matters
for isolated fields of theoretical analysis, but inquired into all, as going to the singular and
enduring question: How shall we live?
In the company of these thinkers, we may hope to encounter, not any theoretic or policy
prescriptions for our current situation, but rather illumination for our path, as we, like them,
attend to the fundamental questions of ethics, of polity, of truth, of right action, of thinking – all,
as conjointly fundamental to human dwelling. Such attention has shown itself to be desperately
We will be giving that attention to thinking and dwelling as the element of polity, as we engage
in thinking, together, in the community of a seminar. We shall thereby be brought to think anew
on what is called for, in our dwelling with one another, by the law of ethical-political life.
Prior coursework in philosophy is not required; an openness to its challenges is.
PLEASE NOTE: All students interested in taking this class — whether pre-enrolled, wait-listed, or
neither — are to attend the first class meeting, 3:30-5 p.m. on Thursday, August 25 in Room 229,
In addition to weekly reading and writing assignments and prepared participation in each week’s
seminar meetings, students will attend to writing a final paper, to be developed, with abundant
feedback, throughout the duration of the course.
The course is an intensive seminar; prepared, participatory attendance is obligatory.
Students are advised to plan their schedules accordingly. In addition, students should be aware that wide-ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, will generally occur during office
hours held after class on Thursdays. In past classes, students have found these informal but intense discussions to be of substantial help in coming to terms with difficult material encountered in the course. Students are strongly urged to plan their schedules so as to be able to attend these sessions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the course.