Advice to Young Leaders (FS 40j)





Prof. David Armitage

Tuesday, 2-4 pm, CGIS K031

Enrolment: limited to 15; freshmen only

A surprising number of the classic works of political and ethical theory in the western tradition were written for young people in their teens and early twenties, and particularly for those likely to enter public service or positions of authority, as many Harvard students will. This Freshman Seminar will take a selection of these major texts of advice and encouragement and read them with an eye both to the past and to the present. First and foremost, the class will introduce students to some major thinkers and ideas through a selection of texts designed to speak to those at a similar stage in their lives and careers. It will also show how to treat such works historically, in their own terms and their own contexts, while also applying their arguments critically to current concerns and dilemmas. The overarching aim is to urge students to think rigorously about their own imminent responsibilities as citizens and leaders by reflecting on arguments addressed to rising generations like their own in the past.

Readings (provisional list):

Plato, Republic, ed. G. M. A. Grube and C. T. C. Reeve (Hackett)

Aristotle, Ethics, trans. Terence Irwin (Hackett)

Cicero, On Duties, ed. M. T. Griffin and E. M. Atkins (Cambridge)

Seneca, Moral and Political Essays, ed. John M. Cooper and J. F. Procopé (Cambridge)

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. Quentin Skinner (Cambridge)

Desiderius Erasmus, The Education of a Christian Prince, ed. Lisa Jardine (Cambridge)

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge)

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J. G. A. Pocock (Hackett)

The Heart of William James, ed. Robert Richardson (Harvard)

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, trans. Mark Harman (Harvard)

Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures, ed. David Owen and Tracy B. Strong (Hackett)

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (Harvest)

Draft syllabus.pdf95 KB