American Political Thought

An examination of the political theory of the American founding and its relevance to contemporary political problems.

1 unit — Fuller

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American Political Thought seeks to develop a deeper understanding of the American constitutional tradition. Students will explore fundamental principles and historical events.
Photo of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The primary aim of this course is to seek a deeper understanding of the American constitutional tradition with reference both to fundamental principles and historical experience. Politics may be understood as the activity which occurs at the intersection of our principles and aspirations with our contingent circumstances. A constitution gives structure to the manner in which we evaluate and respond to this conjunction. In politics we can never escape the need of practical judgment in conditions of uncertainty. At the same time, in making such judgments, a society’s members, while considering their immediate interests which are always present, also seek answers to questions about what we understand ourselves to be, what our identity is, what our place in history may be. Through time, patterns of reflection and argument emerge constituting a tradition informing action. A political tradition has a character but it is not easy to define since it comprises many voices which are sometime more, sometimes less, in harmony. These voices express discordant aspirations for the future and contested interpretations of the past and its legacy. A tradition is thus neither a fixed nor final event though it has features which persist through time. It is to be hoped that we will become more conversant with the American political tradition, that we will come to understand better what we already understand to some degree because we live within it. To do this, we will examine mostly original documents.


Term Block Title Instructor Location Student Limit/Available Updated
Fall 2022 Block 4 American Political Thought Timothy Fuller Palmer Hall 25A 25 / 0 06/04/2023
Spring 2024 Block 8 American Political Thought Timothy Fuller TBA 25 / 25 06/04/2023
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