Waller Newel

Waller R. Newell

Visiting Faculty Fellow

Waller R. Newell is a Visiting Faculty Fellow and Professor at the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education at the University of Florida and Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Carleton University, where he helped found and teaches in The College of the Humanities, Canada’s only four-year baccalaureate in the Great Books.  He is a Senior Fellow of the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy in Calgary, Alberta and an Adjunct Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.  He has been a Visiting Fellow in Humanistic Studies at the Black Mountain Institute, University of Nevada Las Vegas, a John Adams Fellow at the University of London, a Fellow of the Eccles Centre at the British Library, a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., a Fellow of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and a Junior Fellow of Massey College, the University of Toronto.  He has also held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship, and has received research grants from the Olin, Bradley, Earhart and Donner Foundations.

Professor Newell’s books include Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger (Cambridge University Press), Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice and Terror (Cambridge University Press), Tyranny: A New Interpretation (Cambridge University Press), The Soul of a Leader: Character, Conviction and Ten Lessons in Political Greatness (Harper Collins 2009), The Code of Man: Love, Courage, Pride, Family, Country (Harper Collins, 2003),  What Is A Man? 3000 Years of Wisdom on the Art of Manly Virtue (Harper Collins 2000),  Ruling Passion: The Erotics of Statecraft in Platonic Political Philosophy (Rowman and Littlefield 2000) and Bankrupt Education: The Decline of Liberal Education in Canada (University of Toronto Press 1994, with Peter C. Emberly).  He is the author of numerous articles on classical, Renaissance and modern European political philosophy and literature in journals including The American Political Science Review, Political Theory and History of European Ideas.   He has been a keynote speaker at Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, Peterhouse College University of Cambridge, the University of Toronto, the University of Richmond, Hamilton College, and the Onassis Cultural Center of New York City.

Professor Newell’s specialties include classical political philosophy and German Idealism with its ramifications for contemporary continental political theory, as well as early modern political thought and the history of liberalism.  He has comprehensive experience teaching the history of political thought from ancient to contemporary times, including works by Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Thomas More, Hobbes, Locke, Swift, Burke, Rousseau, J.S. Mill, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger.  He has taught an annual undergraduate lecture course on 19th and 20th century European political thought focussing on German Idealism in the College of the Humanities while also teaching and supervising M.A. and Ph.D. students in Carleton’s Political Science Department.  

Carleton’s College of the Humanities is Canada’s only four-year baccalaureate in core texts, team-taught by faculty from Political Science, History, Philosophy, English Literature, Classics and Religious Studies.  Professor Newell played a leading role in devising its curriculum.  He has also devoted many years to building the Political Science Department’s graduate program in political theory, and has supervised many Master’s and Doctoral students. His life-time totals to date are 17 Master’s theses and research essays supervised to completion, and 10 Ph.D dissertations supervised to completion on the political theories of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Shakespeare, Schiller, Hegel, Rousseau, Thucydides, St. Augustine, Derrida, Habermas, Gadamer, Schmitt, Oakshott and Heidegger.   

Professor Newell has also had extensive administrative experience, including as Acting Director of the College of the Humanities (with its three degree programs in Humanities, Greek and Roman Studies and Religious Studies) and as Supervisor of Graduate Studies for Carleton’s  Political Science department, one of the largest graduate programs in Canada, along with service on numerous department, College and university-wide committees. With graduate student teaching in particular, he intertwines the canonical texts with contemporary themes in political theory.  His aim is to show students that before they can take meaningful part in these contemporary debates, they need to understand how these current schools and movements are organically rooted in the earlier canonical texts and major thinkers.  Hence, an intensive look at a work by Hegel or Nietzsche could be framed in terms of a contemporary debate exemplified by figures including MacIntyre, Derrida, Habermas, Taylor, Arendt, Strauss, Gadamer, Oakshott and Foucault.  

The arc of Professor Newell’s scholarly career — reflected both in his publications and his teaching — has been motivated by the question of whether substantive political community with its emphasis on civic virtue can take place under the conditions of modernity with its emphasis on individualism, economic prosperity, and the social contract.  This drew him early on to classical political philosophy and the attempt of German historicist thinkers such as Hegel to restore a sense of inter-subjective political community inspired by classical thinkers such as Plato, while conceding that the modern account of nature, and worthy aspects of modernity such as the emphasis on individual autonomy, made a literal return to classical standards both impossible and undesirable.  Within that over-all interest in political community as a theme in the history of political thought, Professor Newell has also explored the problem posed to ordering a just political community by tyrannical ambition and excessive political honor-seeking, and how the latter might be rehabilitated by being assimilated to a vigorous service of the common good, as in the civic education of Plato’s Republic.

His publications exploring these themes have been both purely scholarly and in the realm of the public intellectual. His book Tyranny: A New Interpretation explored the differences between ancient and modern tyranny as a theme in the history of political thought.  Its central premise was the change from classical statecraft’s emphasis on the character of the ruler to modern political theory’s search for an impersonal or institutional method of rule. It includes an exploration of Machiavelli’s influence on English and American republicanism.  Its sequel, Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice and Terror, continues exploring the contrast between ancient and modern tyranny, but moves ahead in time to modern millenarian tyranny beginning with the Jacobins, and is aimed at a general reading audience.  His most recent book, Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger, is about the search for human wholeness through political community as explored by Rousseau, Schiller, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger.

It also provides a more scholarly consideration of millenarian tyranny and how the Philosophy of Freedom beginning with Rousseau may have, intentionally or unintentionally, promoted extremist political movements such as Jacobinism, Communism and Fascism.

On the public intellectual side, he has written three books for Harper Collins – What Is A Man? Three Thousand Years Of Wisdom On The Art Of Manly Virtue, as well as The Code Of Man: Love, Courage, Pride, Family, Country and The Soul Of A Leader: Character, Conviction And Ten Lessons In Political Greatness.  These were intended for a general readership and were widely reviewed.  His topical journalism has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The New English Review, Tablet, The Washington Free Beacon, American Educator, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Times and History News Network.

Current Project

I am developing a book project entitled Faustian Pact: Techno-tyranny and the Conquest of Nature.  It will seek to trace the origins of contemporary global technology in the project inaugurated by Machiavelli and Bacon for the conquest of nature.   As such, it will take issue with thinkers such as Heidegger who argue that contemporary technology actually originated in the “productionist” metaphysics of Plato, and stress instead that it is unique to modernity and the modern project for the mastery of nature.  Why is this important?  If technology’s origins reach back all the way to Plato, then it might appear to be our insuperable destiny from which there is no escape.  If, as I argue on the other hand, its origin does not predate modernity, then a whole range of pre-modern sources of intellectual, religious and aesthetic reflection are sources from which we can draw in order to devise ethical boundaries for technology’s ever-growing might.


  • BA - University of Toronto, Arts and Sciences
  • MA - University of Toronto, Political Economy
  • Ph.D. - Yale, Political Science

Publications - Books

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