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Argos in the Classroom: Sources of American Jurisprudence

June 1, 2023 | Brandy Gottlieb |

Students and faculty sit in a roundtable discussion.
Students and faculty discuss classical political texts.

“What is the law for us?” Socrates presents this question in Plato's dialogue "Minos." 

This question served as the basis of study for Sources of American Jurisprudence, a distinguished group of government undergraduate students from the spring ‘23 semester.

Led by UWF's Reubin O'D. Askew Department of Government, students studied the works of Plato, Aquinas and Rousseau. The works of American scholar Hadley Arkes were also among the studied texts. 

Through the reading-group model, students were given the opportunity to  explore one of the perennial questions of politics. 

Dr. David Ramsey, government department chair and associate professor, and Dr. Alfred Cuzán, distinguished university professor, co-led the course. This included facilitating discussions and research activities. 

Geared toward exceptional undergraduates, the course has been offered eight times in the past 12 years with plans to offer the course again in spring of 2024.

The course is different by design. The government department invites students with at least  75 credit hours and a GPA of 3.5 or higher to join the class of eight. Though graduate students have been welcome to join, undergraduates are given priority enrollment. The small class size allows for deep critical discussion and textual analysis.

“Over time this course has proven to be a sort of talent incubator for the Department of Government--participants have secured substantial funding to pursue graduate or legal training at a number of prestigious institutions, including Vanderbilt, Baylor, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Florida State and the University of Florida,” said Ramsey of the learning experience.

According to Ramsey, the course is modeled on the English tutorial system that Ramsey experienced  as an undergraduate at the University of Reading and as a graduate student at St. John's College in Annapolis. Students are expected to read, write and engage in class discussion at a higher level than is common in our other upper-level courses. 

The course also welcomes notable scholars to lead class discussions and deliver public lectures. Joining by Zoom this year was Professor Arkes, member of the Amherst College faculty since 1966 and an Edward Ney Professor of Jurisprudence since 1987.

In previous years, scholars Gordon Wood and James Otteson were among the featured guests.

To learn more about the programs offered in the Reubin O'D. Askew Department of Government, visit