GOV 382M / PHL 387 / LAW 379M


Professor Budziszewski


This online summary of the syllabus includes only the general design of the course.  It does not include detailed information such as the course calendar, which changes from semester to semester.


Prerequisites and other boilerplate

Graduate standing.



We will consider the ethical foundations of law and politics, focusing on the moral virtues.  These are questions not just of law and political science in the narrow sense, but of legal and political philosophy.  The approach is partly historical, partly contemporary.

Most of our ancestors took for granted that it was impossible to organize a decent political order without a certain kind of character on the part of the citizens and the rulers.  Some thought we inevitably get the government we deserve; others thought that certain constitutional devices could ‘stretch’ virtue, so that it might be possible to get a somewhat better government than we deserve (for example, with the help of checks and balances).  Not until Hume did it became common to suppose that a well-designed regime is not particularly reliant on virtue at all.  On this view, arguably, it should have been easier than it has been to promote republican government in countries that are not accustomed to it.

I am primarily an ethical and political theorist, rather than a jurisprude, a historian, or a number cruncher.  However, I invite students who identify with a variety of approaches.


Grading Policy

Research paper


Vigorous participation in seminar




A readings packet will be available for purchase, including a large number of readings from ancient times to the present.  Additional readings will be available online.  All required readings will be either online or included in the packet.  The packet will be available for purchase in the McCombs location of UT Copy Services, GSB 3.136.



All readings not included in the readings

packet are available online.

Week 1:

Introduction to the course.  Skim the readings for the entire semester.

Week 2:

Plato, Gorgias, entire (read only the work itself, not the translator’s introduction).  Available at .

Week 3:

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bks. 1-5 (each book entire), Bk. 10 (Ch. 9 only).  Available at .

Week 4:

Aristotle, Politics, Bks. 1, 3-4, 7-8. Available at .

Week 5:

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De officiis (“On Duties”), Bk. 1.  Available at .

Week 6:

The Bible, excerpts concerning virtue, vice, and statecraft (RSV translation).  Readings packet item 1.

Week 7:

Augustine, City of God, Bk. 2 (Chs. 2, 18-21), Bk. 5 (Chs. 12-21), and Bk. 19 (Chs. 12-17, 21, 24-26).  Available at .

Week 8:

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, as follows.  Available at secundae partis, which means “First Part of the Second Part,” is commonly abbreviated “I-II.”  Secunda secundae partis, which means “Second Part of the Second Part,” is commonly abbreviated “II-II.”  “Question,” meaning major part, is abbreviated “Q.,” and “Article,” meaning articulation, or smaller part, is abbreviated “Art.”

I-II, Q. 55, Art. 4, whether virtue is suitably defined

I-II, Q. 58, Art. 4, whether there can be moral without intellectual virtue

I-II, Q. 58, Art. 5, whether there can be intellectual without moral virtue

I-II, Q. 61, Art. 2, whether there are four cardinal virtues

I-II, Q. 61, Art. 3, whether any other virtues should be called principal rather than these

I-II, Q. 62, Art. 1, whether there are any theological virtues

I-II, Q. 63, Art. 1, whether virtue is in us by nature

I-II, Q. 63, Art. 2, whether any virtue is caused in us by habituation

I-II, Q. 65, Art. 1, whether the moral virtues are connected with each other

II-II, Q. 30, Art. 3, whether mercy is a virtue

II-II, Q. 58, Art. 1, whether justice is fittingly defined as being the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right

II-II, Q. 122, Art. 1, whether the precepts of the decalogue are precepts of justice

Week 9:

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, as follows.  Available at .

I-II, Q. 92, Art. 1, whether an effect of law is to make men good

I-II, Q. 96, Art. 2, whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices

I-II, Q. 96, Art. 3, whether human law prescribes all acts of virtue

I-II, Q. 105, Art. 1, whether the Old Law enjoined fitting precepts concerning rulers (that is, whether the law of the Old Testament enjoined fitting precepts concerning the form of government)

Week 10:

Samuel Langdon, "Government Corrupted by Vice, and Recovered by Righteousness," 1775.  Public domain.  Readings packet item 2.

David Hume, “That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science.”  Available at .

James Madison, speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention (20 June 1788), paragraph 9.  The relevant passage by itself is available at .  To read it in context, see .

James Madison, Federalist, No. 10, paragraphs 17-19.  Available at .

James Madison, Federalist, No. 51, entire.  Available at .

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, No. 55, final paragraph.  Available at .

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, No. 75, final paragraph.  Available at .

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, No. 84, paragraph 11.  Available at .

Centinal, No. 1, the paragraphs excerpted at .

Week 11:

Albert W. Alschuler, “A Century of Skepticism.”  Available at .  The complete version of this essay may be found in Michael W. McConnell, Robert F. Cochran, Jr., and Angela C. Carmella, eds., Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought (Yale University Press, 2001).

J. Budziszewski, “Politics of Virtues, Government of Knaves.”  Available at .

J. Budziszewski, “The Lower Is Not the More Solid.”  Communio: International Catholic Review 38 (Summer 2011), pp. 279-297.  Readings packet item 3.

Timothy Cantu, “Virtue Jurisprudence and the American Constitution,” Notre Dame Law Review 88:3 (2013), pp. 1521-1542.  Available at .

Week 12:

G.E.M. Anscombe, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy 33:124 (1958), pp. 1-16.  Available at and at .

Josef Pieper, “Justice,” comprising pp. 41-113 of Joseph Pieper, The Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame, Indiana:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1966).  Readings packet item 4.

Peter Geach, “Justice,” comprising pp. 110-130 (Chapter 6) of  Peter Geach, The Virtues (Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 1977).  Readings packet item 5.

Week 13:

Alasdair MacIntyre, “Justice as a Virtue: Changing Conceptions,” comprising pp. 244-255 (Chapter 17) of Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 2d ed. (Notre Dame, Indiana:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).  Readings packet item 6.

Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Political and Social Structures of the Common Good,” comprising pp. 129-146 (Chapter 11) of Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals (Peru, Illinois:  Carus Publishing, 1999).  Readings packet item 7.

Alasdair MacIntyre (with comments by Donald P. Kommers and W. David Solomon), “The Privatization of Good,”  Review of Politics 52:3 (1990), pp. 344-377.  Available through JSTOR.

Week 14:

If this is Fall Semester, then this is Thanksgiving week.  No class meeting.

Week 15:

Wide-open discussion of the entire theme of politics, law, and moral character.  No new readings.  Review the readings for the entire semester.