Skip to Main Content


POL 121: Introduction to Politics [Reynolds]: About Politics

Supplementary Internet materials for students taking the Introduction to Politics course at Saint Leo University

Observing "Politics"

Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D. makes the following observation:

At its best politics can be a civilizing activity; it can preserve the peace, protect human rights, advance economic prosperity, and encourage excellence in the arts and sciences.  When it's done wrong, politics unleashes war, tyranny, economic ruin, and barbarism.   

Political science is both the oldest of the social sciences and the most comprehensive. Aristotle identified it as the supreme art, because its practical purpose is the promotion of the highest human good -- namely, that which includes the ends of all the other arts and sciences but whose own end is itself included in none.  Erasmus proclaimed it the most refined and difficult science to master, although the most deserving of study. 

For two and a half thousand years, the study of political science has held its place within the Western tradition as the centerpiece of a liberal arts education.

Copyright © 2000  Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D.

Modern Definitions of Politics

The American Association of Political Science endeavors to define the study of politics.

What Is Political Science?

Political science is the study of governments, public policies and political processes, systems, and political behavior.  Political science subfields include political theory, political philosophy, political ideology,  political economy, policy studies and analysis, comparative politics, international relations, and a host of related fields.  (For a good cross section of the areas of study, see the list of APSA Organized Sections.)  Political scientists use both humanistic and scientific perspectives and tools and a variety of methodological approaches to examine the process, systems, and political dynamics of all countries and regions of the world. 

Why Study Political Science?

Are you interested in American politics?  International affairs?  Critical issues such as health, the environment, civil rights?  Theories concerning the ideal government and how power and resources are allocated in society?  Do you want to study these subjects and pursue a career based on your interest?  If so, you should consider studying political science.

Political science students can gain a versatile set of skills that can be applied in a wide range of exciting careers in federal, state and local governments; law; business; international organizations; nonprofit associations and organizations; campaign management and polling; journalism; precollegiate education; electoral politics; researchand university and college teaching. 


What is Politics?

Aristotle's Politics

On Aristotle - "The Teacher"

Aristotle (b. 384 – d. 322 BCE), was a Greek philosopher, logician, and scientist. Along with his teacher Plato, Aristotle is generally regarded as one of the most influential ancient thinkers in a number of philosophical fields, including political theory. Aristotle was born in Stagira in northern Greece, and his father was a court physician to the king of Macedon. As a young man he studied in Plato's Academy in Athens. After Plato's death he left Athens to conduct philosophical and biological research in Asia Minor and Lesbos, and he was then invited by King Philip II of Macedon to tutor his young son, Alexander the Great. Soon after Alexander succeeded his father, consolidated the conquest of the Greek city-states, and launched the invasion of the Persian Empire. Aristotle returned as a resident alien to Athens, and was a close friend of Antipater, the Macedonian viceroy. At this time (335–323 BCE) he wrote, or at least worked on, some of his major treatises, including the Politics. When Alexander died suddenly, Aristotle had to flee from Athens because of his Macedonian connections, and he died soon after. Aristotle's life seems to have influenced his political thought in various ways: his interest in biology seems to be expressed in the naturalism of his politics; his interest in comparative politics and his sympathies for democracy as well as monarchy may have been encouraged by his travels and experience of diverse political systems; he criticizes harshly, while borrowing extensively, from Plato's Republic, Statesman, and Laws; and his own Politics is intended to guide rulers and statesmen, reflecting the high political circles in which he moved.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Online Readings