Graduate School Curriculum

Graduate School Curriculum

Core Texts

Degree programs are centered around the following core texts from the Western and American traditions of political thought. All courses are offered with these texts in mind, and doctoral students are held responsible for being familiar with and understanding them on their comprehensive exams.

  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Politics
  • Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Treatise on Law
  • Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Hobbes, Leviathan
  • Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Letter Concerning Toleration
  • Rousseau, Second Discourse, Social Contract
  • Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
  • Hegel, Philosophy of History; Philosophy of Right
  • Marx, Communist Manifesto; Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
  • Nietzsche, Use & Disadvantage of History; Beyond Good and Evil
  • U.S. Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • The Federalist
  • Essential writings of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington
  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  • Lincoln, Lyceum Speech; Temperance Address; Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Speech on the Dred Scott Decision; Cooper Institute Speech; House Divided Speech; First and Second Inaugural Addresses; Message to Congress of July 4, 1861; “Gettysburg Address”
  • Progressive commentaries on American constitutionalism by Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert Croly
  • Franklin Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Address; 1944 Annual Message
  • Other writings on 20th and 21st century thought and politics in America, including institutions and policies, used in doctoral coursework during the student’s time in the program


In addition to a core course on Statesmanship, both doctoral and master’s students are required to take a certain number of courses in each of two fields: Political Philosophy and American Politics. Beyond this, the doctoral program has a set of required core courses in each field.

Core Political Philosophy Courses

  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Medieval Political Philosophy
  • Early Modern Political Philosophy
  • Late Modern Political Philosophy

Core American Politics Courses

  • The American Founding
  • The Federalist
  • The American Republic: Early Challenges and Assessments
  • American Progressivism
  • Contemporary Institutions and Policy

Sample Elective Courses

  • The Natural Law
  • Politics and Religion
  • The American Congress
  • The American Presidency
  • Parties and Elections
  • Constitutional Law I and II
  • Administrative Law
  • Liberalism After Progressivism
  • American Foreign Policy
  • Specialized political philosophy courses, such as Xenophon, Thucydides, Locke, Tocqueville

Humanities Seminars

All doctoral students are required to take six hours of Doctoral Humanities Seminar.

These are year-long, two-credit courses that address the broad themes of the humanities and draw upon the breadth of the Western tradition.

The purpose of these seminars is to emphasize to students the place of the study of politics within the humanities and liberal arts as a whole, and to help prepare them for teaching positions which will often be found at liberal arts institutions. The texts studied will be drawn from the great books of the Western canon. The seminar will meet 4 times per semester, nine times per academic year, and each session will be guided by a different Hillsdale College faculty member.

Disciplines to be drawn from will most likely include, but are not limited to: classics, English, history, philosophy, and politics. Sessions will normally be scheduled for three hours in the evening and will consist of a faculty lecture followed by questions and discussions with the doctoral students led by the faculty member. Students will write a paper for each year of the seminar, based upon a particular session from that year, under the direction of the faculty member who conducted the session. Session themes and faculty will be organized by the Graduate Dean.