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Western political philosophy to the end of the 19th century Antiquity Although in antiquity great civilizations arose in Egypt and Mesopotamia, in the Indus Valley, and in Chinathere was little speculation about the problems of political philosophy as formulated in the West.
The Code of Hammurabi c. To be sure, the Buddhist concept of dharma social custom and dutywhich inspired the Indian emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century bce, implies a moralization of public power, and the teachings Liberty and corruption through machiavelli essay Confucius in the 6th century bce are a code of conduct designed to stabilize society, but there is not, outside Europemuch speculation about the basis of political obligation and the purpose of the state, with both of which Western political philosophy is mainly concerned.
An authoritarian society is taken for granted, backed by religious sanctions, and a conservative and arbitrary power is generally accepted.
In contrast to this overwhelming conservatismparalleled by the rule of custom and tribal elders in most primitive societies, the political philosophers of ancient Greece question the basis and purpose of government. Though they do not separate political speculation from shrewd observations that today would be regarded as empirical political sciencethey created the vocabulary of Western political thought.
Plato The first elaborate work of European political philosophy is the Republic of Platoa masterpiece of insight and feeling, superbly expressed in dialogue form and probably meant for recitation.
Plato grew up during the great Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta and, like many political philosophers, tried to find remedies for prevalent political injustice and decline.
Indeed, the Republic is the first of the utopiasthough not one of the more attractive, and it is the first classic attempt of a European philosopher to moralize political life.
PlatoPlato, marble portrait bust, from an original of the 4th century bce; in the Capitoline Museums, Rome. They state the major themes of political philosophy with poetic power.
The Republic is a criticism of current Hellenic politics—often an indictment. It is based upon a metaphysical act of faith, for Plato believes that a world of permanent Forms exists beyond the limitations of human experience and that morality and the good life, which the state should promote, are reflections of these ideal entities see Platonism.
The point is best made in the famous simile of the cave, in which humans are chained with their faces to the wall and their backs to the light, so that they see only the shadows of reality. On his realist assumption, Plato regards most ordinary life as illusion and the current evils of politics as the result of the human pursuit of brute instinct.
It follows that unless philosophers bear kingly rule in cities or those who are now called kings and princes become genuine and adequate philosophers, and political power and philosophy are brought together…there will be no respite from evil for cities.
His rulers would form an elitenot responsible to the mass of the people. Thus, in spite of his high moral purpose, he has been called an enemy of the open society and the father of totalitarianism. But he is also an anatomist of the evils of unbridled appetite and political corruption and insists on the need to use public power to moral ends.
Having described his utopiaPlato turns to analyze the existing types of government in human terms with great insight. Monarchy is the best but impracticable; in oligarchies the rule of the few and the pursuit of wealth divide societies—the rich become demoralized and the poor envious, and there is no harmony in the state.
He then examines which of the current forms of government is the least difficult to live with, for the ruler, after all, is an artist who has to work within the limits of his medium. In the Lawspurporting to be a discussion of how best to found a polis in Cretehe presents a detailed program in which a state with some 5, citizens is ruled by 37 curators of laws and a council of He had, nonetheless, stated, in the dawn of European political thought, the normative principle that the state should aim at promoting the good life and social harmony and that the rule of lawin the absence of the rule of philosopher-kings, is essential to this purpose.
But perfection in everything is perhaps a difficult thing. Political behaviour is here regarded as a branch of biology as well as of ethics ; in contrast to Plato, Aristotle was an empirical political philosopher. The book is composed of lecture notes and is arranged in a confusing way—a quarry of arguments and definitions of great value but hard to master.
The treatise is thus, in modern terms, a mixture of political philosophy and political science see also Aristotelianism. AristotleAristotle, marble portrait bust, Roman copy 2nd century bce of a Greek original c.The Quotable Machiavelli is a wry title for Maurizio Viroli’s new collection.
Machiavelli’s The Prince () immediately became one of the most widely quoted handbooks on political prudence in Western schwenkreis.com Prince’s twenty-six chapters organize pithy sayings and short lessons under titles such as “What a Prince Should Do Regarding the Military” and “Of Avoiding Contempt and.
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A Brief History of Western Anti . The model Machiavelli presents begins with a society in a ‘state of nature’ or ‘Anarchy’ that exists until the people begin to realise strength in numbers and seek leadership from the foremost individual who assumes rulership, thus evolving into a ‘Monarchy’.
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