PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Fall 2016, Section 002 - Phil of Politics: 2016 Election
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Course Note:
This course is designed to provide first-year students with an intensive introduction to philosophy in a seminar format. The content varies, depending on the instructor.
Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Otto Von Bismarck famously said, “Politics is the art of the possible.” While much political philosophy focuses on ideal theory, Bismarck tells us that these answers aren’t so relevant to how actual politics works. It is complex, messy, and full of compromises. As Bismarck also said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” One might say the same thing about elections.

During the 2016 presidential election season, and in its aftermath, this class will focus on issues relating to American politics and the election. In the first place, we will consider the election dispassionately: as a horse race. What do polls and betting markets show us about the preferences of the electorate, and to what extent are they predictive? How do the dynamics of primaries differ from those of a general election, and what are the strategic ramifications of these differences? What are "wedge issues” and how are they used by campaigns? Have you ever watched a political debate only to discover that its practical effects were very different from your assessment of who won? Why was that? Notice that all these questions can be posed and answered without regard to which side is right about the issues, in your opinion or mine.

In the second place, though, we will consider the substantive issues at stake in the election — but we’ll consider them through the lens of politics rather than ideal theory. That is, our focus will be less on who is right or wrong, and more on what are the ramifications of different positions, and how the candidates have changed their emphasis (or even their stated views) from the primary to the general election. Finally, we will consider the issues substantively, assessing the merits of each side. In doing so, however, you will have to understand the best arguments for the opposing view. Only by doing so can you be justified in holding your political positions. As a general rule, people don’t like to be confronted with “adverse discussion”: arguments for conclusions they reject. They prefer simple narratives that avoid engaging the crux of the issues, or else form their preferences on other grounds entirely. Politicians know this and capitalize on it. In this seminar all of your preconceived political views will be challenged, specifically in the context of the ongoing presidential campaign.

Course Requirements:

No data submitted

Intended Audience:

No data submitted

Class Format:



PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for PHIL 196.002

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for PHIL 196 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)