What you think about morality informs what you think about a good state

Posted by Hannah Gaschler on 2/26/24 9:12 AM

What is Political Philosophy at Patrick Henry College?

Would you like to "pursue studies at the intersection of politics and philosophy"? Would you like to develop an in-depth understanding of the origin of political and philosophical ideas to better engage with the great ideological debates around you? The Political Philosophy program might be for you. 

Learn about PHC's philosophy minorPolitical Philosophy is a track of PHC’s Government major, and is a program intended to help you "better understand the nature of justice, the relationship between human nature and the good, the characteristics of a healthy society, and the conditions necessary for human flourishing."

Political Philosophy is similar to the Political Theory track. The distinguishing feature between the two is that Political Theory students take all government courses, and Political Philosophy students take four philosophy courses—Ethics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Religion—in place of four government courses. 

“One of the features of Political Theory and Political Philosophy is they both make you write lots of papers, and they also make you analyze original texts,” Political Philosophy professor Dr. Roberta Bayer said. Those skills prepare students well for law school and other graduate school programs. She explained that the Political Philosophy track is more interdisciplinary, which well equips students to apply to a philosophy department for graduate school. 

“The students who have done political philosophy  tend to go to law school, teach, or go into academia, and I think that’s because they’re people who just love books,” Dr. Bayer said. "We encourage a love of reading and writing, and our students go into disciplines where those skills are necessary."

“I always tell students, if you want a more comprehensive philosophical education, by all means, do Political Philosophy,” Philosophy professor Dr. Matthew Roberts said. “But if you’re really committed to just diving deep on the nature of our life as a collective humanity, then do Political Theory.”

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Each of the four main categories of philosophy asks different questions. “The way you answer those questions will inevitably impact political philosophy as well,” Dr. Roberts said. For example, Ethics asks “What is right and wrong?” and “How do we become a good person?” These questions inform what someone thinks a good state looks like and what role he thinks the law plays in expressing moral beliefs.

Dr. Bayer said that most people think of political science as a discipline in which current events as well as political patterns of behavior are studied. In Political Philosophy, the focus is less on quantitative methods than on arguments and thinking. “[PHC is] much less focused on political science research methods than some other departments," she said. "We have a very strong political theory department.”

Dr. Roberts explained that “political science” implies that something is measurable and quantifiable. “That reflects the Enlightenment emphasis on measurement and observation,” he said. “Here at Patrick Henry, we are unapologetically theoretical and philosophical, in part because we’re classical, and in part because as Christians we are often thinking about the unseen realm of reality.”
Read the course list for political philosophy“These aren’t job-training programs. These are educational programs,” Academic Dean and Political Theory professor Dr. Mark Mitchell said. “You focus on learning how to think rigorously, to analyze arguments and texts and to write clearly, to speak clearly, and that really sets you up as a side-benefit to be capable of stepping into a lot of different professional positions.”

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 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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