Political Theory, often also referred to as 'political philosophy' or 'political thought,' approaches the study of politics with theoretical and philosophical concerns foremost. According to political theorists in order to be able to robustly describe a given political phenomena or problem and prescribe viable and morally legitimate alternatives or solutions, one must cultivate a comprehensive, holistic grasp of the human condition. More specifically, one has to develop a consistent set of theories including: epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics (theory of reality), philosophical anthropology (theory of human nature), and ethics (theory of value and obligation). Only having done so can one attempt to answer perennial questions such as: "what is the meaning of life?" "what is the good life?" "what is politics?" "what is the purpose of politics?" "what is justice?" and so on. The history of Western Political Philosophy, stretching from Homer to Habermas, consists largely of the successive efforts of political theorists to formulate and persuade others of the validity and utility of their widely divergent answers to such questions.
The academic study of Political Theory encompasses both the critical examination of the historically rooted philosophical efforts of others and the effort to engage in political theory for oneself. Close reading, careful reflection, and critical scrutiny of the so-called 'canonical' political philosophers fills one with a sense of conceptual possibilities, limitations, and alternatives. However, eventually, the point of such study is to begin to formulate one's own views. Remarkably, for all their differences, political theorists through the ages have agreed with the dictum, attributed to the philosopher Socrates, that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Courses in political theory include surveys of the history of Western political theory, thematic studies, and analyses of contemporary issues and range from from abstract philosophical considerations to concrete questions of public policy.