March 7, 2022

Assistant Professor at Arizona State University Karen Taliaferro has a long way to go for the fall semester 2022, and the way is not predictable.

His journey, comparative political thought, is an invitation to students from all backgrounds to examine the fundamental texts of political thought in Western civilization – from Plato and Aristotle to John Locke – in dialogue with texts from different world traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Confucianism and Hinduism.

These sources are discussed using the Socratic Method, a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking.

“The Socratic Method allows us to keep an open mind and challenge our own assumptions,” Taliaferro said.

CEL 394: Comparative Political Thought (class #94866) Is open to students of all majors and units. It is aimed at students dedicated to the humanities and those seeking a choice that will inspire them to be informed citizens. The lesson is offered by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. during Session C on the Tempe campus.

In this course, students will engage in participatory discussions comparing texts across civilizations, religions, and traditions, addressing basic political principles, such as justice and order, from multiple perspectives.

“Western civilization’s great legacy of political thought calls us to remain vigilant in the face of today’s challenges by delving into humanity’s most important issues of self-government, justice, individualism and civic life. We understand the present by reflecting on the principles and texts of the past,” Taliaferro said.

The course will focus on the sources of political authority, ideas of membership in a political community, the relationship between reason and religion in politics, constitutionalism, and natural or human rights.

“This course is an excellent opportunity for students of all majors and minors who are interested in the big questions in our society of justice, power, community, reason, religion and how these aspects impact our daily lives. . We will read classics of political thought, writings from different traditions and contemporary texts,” Taliaferro said.

Taliaferro was a faculty member of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership since the school’s inception at ASU in 2017 and has devoted its research to ancient and medieval political philosophy, religion, and politics, with particular emphasis on Islamic thought. His 2019 book The Possibility of Religious Freedom: Early Natural Law and the Abrahamic Faiths examines the conflict between divine law and human law in sources ranging from ancient Greece to medieval Islam, and asks whether various traditions of natural law could lessen the conflict.

We understand the present by reflecting on the principles and texts of the past.
— Assistant Professor Karen Taliaferro

Karen Taliaferro

Taliaferro holds a BA in Political Science and French from Marquette University. She went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in government from Georgetown University, as well as additional training in classics from Northwestern University. She previously taught humanities and great books at Villanova University and has held fellowships in the James Madison Program at Princeton University, as well as the School of Foreign Service at the University of Georgetown in Doha, Qatar.

Comparative Political Thought joins the list of fall 2022 courses offered by ta School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The school combines philosophy, history, economics, and political science to examine big ideas and solve contemporary problems. Courses such as Great Ideas in Politics and Ethics; debate capitalism; Politics and Leadership in the Age of Revolutions: 1776-1826; and globalism, nationalism, and citizenship prepare students for careers in fields such as business, law, public service, philanthropy, teaching, and journalism, among others.


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