Courses by semester
Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .
Introduction to Political Philosophy
This course offers a survey of Western political Philosophy. We will be reading and discussing the spectrum of great canonical theorists that include Plato, Aristotle, Christ, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, J.S. Mill, Burke, Marx, Fanon, Malcolm X and M. L. King. Our approach will be both historical and conceptual, as we explore the nature of justice, freedom and equality—their presence and absence--in the Western Tradition.
Making Sense of World Politics
An introduction to the basic concepts and practice of international politics with an emphasis on learning critical thinking. The course is divided into two parts. In the first half, we will learn about different explanations. In the second half, we will apply these explanations to a set of international events.
African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
This course is offers students a platform for critical examination of the political, historical, educational, social and economic conditions of the African continent. Topics will include eradication of poverty, access to nutrition, health care, clean water and energy, education, elimination of inequality with a special emphasis on gender equity, sustainable and environmentally sensitive industrial development, responsible consumption, protection of land and life below water, promotion of sustainable communities and global peace and partnership.
Enduring Global and American Issues
The US and the global community face a number of complex, interconnected and enduring issues that pose challenges for our political and policy governance institutions and society at large. Exploring how the US and the world conceive of the challenges and take action on them is fundamental to understanding them. This course investigates such issues, especially ones that fit into the critically important areas of sustainability, social justice, technology, public health and globalization, security and conflict, among others. Students will engage with these areas and issues and the challenges they pose, using multiple frameworks and approaches, through weekly class discussions and lectures."
|Fall, Spring, Summer.
The United States stands alone among Western, industrialized countries with its persistent, high rates of incarceration, long sentences, and continued use of the death penalty. This "American exceptionalism" -- the turn to mass incarceration -- has been fostered by the use of sharply-delineated categories that define vast numbers of people as outlaws and others as law-abiding. These categories that are based on ideas of personal responsibility and assumptions about race are modified somewhat by a liberal commitment to human rights. Our purpose in this course is to understand how such ideas have taken root and to locate the consequences of these ideas for policy and practice.
The American Legal System
This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the American legal system, its roots in natural and common law, the purposes/values it serves (e.g., resolution of private grievances; punishment of offenses against the polity and individuals; preservation, development, and limitation of individual and group rights; and facilitation of commerce and private agreements), and the roles of the judiciary, legislature, and private parties. The course is taught using the Socratic method employed at most US law schools and introduces students to fundamental concepts and techniques used by attorneys and courts in analyzing cases, interpreting statutes, and determining disputes. As in law school, students are expected to read assigned materials before each class meeting and to participate actively in class discussions. For additional information, see the Summer Session website.
What Makes Us Human? An Existential Journey Amidst Crises
"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves," wrote Albert Camus in The Plague. It is not just the current pandemic: climate change, warlike politics, polarization, tribalism, raging anxieties, AI advancement – these are just some of the many existential troubles and challenges we all, and our very "human nature," now face. This is our time to realize our humanity: find out what sets us apart as humans, and live up to it. This course invites you to an existential odyssey into the human condition and politics. Are we truly different from animals and machines? What does it mean to "be yourself"? What's the difference between freedom and liberty? Should we pursue happiness? Why do we yield to fear and anxiety? Is the search for meaning meaningless? Do we live in a post-truth era? What are the roles of morality in our society and politics? Why is God dead, but religion alive? Can we defeat alienation? Is love all we need? How much can, and should, we hope for? In this course, utilizing the award-winning edX HOPE (Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism; see https://tinyurl.com/hope44), we will address these questions, and then some more. We shall examine a dozen themes, entwining each with critical reflections, both personal and political, amidst the current crisis: Human/nature, identity & authenticity, freedom, reflection, happiness, death & dread, meaning, morality, truth & trust, God & religion, alienation & love, and finally – hope.
International Human Rights in Theory and Practice
This course will introduce students to the law, theory, and practice of international human rights. Students will think critically about the effectiveness of the international human rights system by examining its successes, failures, and dilemmas in preventing and responding to human rights abuse. Topics covered will include the origins and foundations of international human rights; the role of international, regional, and domestic institutions and actors in enforcing human rights; critiques of the human rights movement; and the relationship of the United States to the international system for the protection of human rights. The course will also explore issues such as the death penalty, women's human rights, migration, climate change, global poverty, racism and xenophobia, and responses to mass atrocities. During in-class activities, students will have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a human rights advocate and work with their classmates to address simulated human rights problems.