Prudence in Politics

MPP 674

(3 units)

This course investigates the interplay among power, principle, and expedience in statecraft through the prism of the cardinal virtue of prudence. It begins with an analysis of rival conceptions of prudence found in Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, and Edmund Burke. The major part of the course will consist of several positive and negative case studies investigating how, why, and to what extent leaders measured up to or fell far short of the standard of prudence as the course defines it: right reasoning about right things to be done. By rigorously analyzing the meaning of prudence in theory and practice, the course strives to instill in students a standard of measure for evaluating statesmanship and a disposition to emulate the best rather than the worst examples of it, refracted through the particulars of circumstances unique to each time and place.