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Western Political Theory

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Antigone's Conflict with Creon
Summary: Antigone's brother betrayed the city and died in battle. Creon, the king, will not grant her brother a proper burial. Antigone argues that the gods's will is above the state's will.
Sophocles's Notion of Higher Law
Sophocles, through his play Antigone, states that the Natural or Divine law is above the State law. State law must be constantly examined to make sure it is in agreement with the divine supreme law.
Plato on the Good
The Good is the form of the soul and the cardinal virtues comes in existence from it. Described by the Simile of the Sun (the source of the light outside the cave). It is objec…
Definitions of justice throughout the Republic:
Plato - Definitions of Justice in the Republic
Plato on Justice
There are three parts of the soul: Appetitive, Spirited, and Rational. Justice is the harmony of all three parts working for the rational element of the soul. Justifies this by the form of the polis (the ideal city).
Plato on Democracy
Democracy is one of the realistic and mother regimes. It is governed by the people (demos) and is guided by the appetitive. Unrestrained liberty and the pursuit of pleasure. Extreme liberty leads to chaos…
Plato on Tyranny
Tyranny is the worst form of government. Governed by a tyrant and is guided by the appetitive without temperance (moderation). Lust, fear, and power.
Plato on Power and Wealth
Both wealth and poverty destroy the soul. The ideal city is free of both wealth and poverty. TBD
Plato on the Philosopher-Ruler
Philosophers, or Guardians, must rule in the ideal city. They are balanced, rational, understand the form of the Good, and protect the best interests of the citizens. Basically absolute public service. REASON SHOULD GUIDE POWER.
Plato on the Philosopher-Ruler (cont'd)
Until philosophers rule as kings ... so that political power and philosophy become thoroughly blended together ... cities will have no rest from evils nor, I think, will the human race. - Plato, the Republic.
Plato on Law
Law is the product of reason and is identified with nature.
Plato on Harmony
Justice is the harmony of the three parts of the soul: The appetitive (moderation), spirited (courage), and rational (wisdom). Works towards the good and is ruled by the rational (reason) element of the soul.
II. The Intelligible Realm
The Realm of Being. Characterized by the immaterial, eternal, immutable, thought / thinking (dianoxia), understanding / knowing (noesis), knowledge (epistome), and eidos (forms, ideas, types). REAL
Plato on the Forms
Eidos. The forms are the perfect visions of an idea but are not material. Because we can conceive them, they must be real. For example, imagine a circle. The circle in your mind is per…
The Debate between Callicles and Socrates
Callicles in Gorgias argues that justice is the advantage of the stronger and that man has large appetites. Doing injustice is better than suffering for it. Socrates responds by saying that it is bette…
The Debate between Thrasymachus and Socrates
Thrasymachus in the Republic also states that justice is the advantage of the stronger. Socrates refutes this by saying that rulers make errors and are not perfect. Perfection of the rulers is a qualification of Thrasymachus's definition of justice.
In descending order:
Plato's Typology of Regimes - The Republic
Plato's Typology of Regimes - Laws
Two forms of government: The despotic and the most free. Their means achieve perfection but their excess result in slavery and license.
Socrates's Arguments in the Apology
Socrates is on trial. Argues he is the "gadfly" who stings the lazy horse of a city awake. Sentenced to death but accepts it because only the gods know what happens after death. Claims …
Socrates's Arguments in Crito
Crito attempts to persuade Socrates that it would be more just to escape prison to live in exile. Socrates states that by living in Athens he is obliged to a social contract. If he br…
Socrates's Critique of Persuasion in Gorgias
Gorgias claims rhetoric (persuasion) concerns itself with right and wrong thus an art of justice. Socrates says that it is "flattery" and that the ignorant is more convincing among the ignorant crowd. Gorgias concedes …
Plato on the Form of the Polis
In the Republic, Plato takes a larger perspective of the city rather than the individual to define justice because they are isomorphic. He builds the ideal city based on needs and not unnecessary desires.…
- The Elements of the Soul
Bronze (appetitive) - producers, cardinal virtue of temperance.
Plato on the Allegory of the Cave
Used by Plato to describe moving across the Divided Line (realm of becoming to the realm of being) and the Simile of the Sun.
Plato on the Allegory of the Cave (cont'd)
The philosopher, blinded by the sunlight, is only able to see reflections of the real objects (in the cave, the reflections were of artificial objects). The philosopher adjusts their eyes and is able to…
Plato's Cardinal Virtues
In no particular order:
Plato's Three Waves
The Three Waves are objections to the following qualifications of the Guardians's life (in order of increasing objection):
Plato on How the Guardians Must Live
Balanced between intellectual and soldier. Intellectual / gentle to citizens but soldiers against threats. They are not paid, do not own property, do not have private families, and must live together in community housing provided by the city.
Plato's Dispute with Protagoras - Regarding the Measure of Things
In Plato's Protagoras, Socrates argues against Protagoras that all virtues are one but cannot be taught. Men see only short term gains but not long term losses. Protagoras concedes. Socrates, however, has to admit …
Plato on Authority and Liberty
Liberty is self-mastery guided by reason.
Aristotle's Critique of Plato
Argues that there is not a single, objective and universal form of the Good. There are many forms. Plato's concept is not practical therefore we must focus on happiness (eudaimonia).
Aristotle's Emphasis of the Polis as an Element of Humanity
Man is by nature a political animal. Aristotle states that moral and political theory are interrelated. To live without politics is to be a god or a beast. The community which attains the highest good is the political state.
Aristotle on Politics, Deliberation, Statesmanship, and Citizenship
A citizen is capable of ruling and being ruled; a mean between a master and a slave.
Aristotle's Typology of Regimes in Politics
There are three correct forms of government and each has a deviant counterpart.
Aristotle on the Wisdom of the Multitude
Though democracy is a deviant form of government to Aristotle, he argues that popular rule can be more beneficial than a single, wise ruler. Many whose individual virtue is less than that of a philoso…
Aristotle on the Intermediate in the Typology of Regimes
Best form of government is one in which its citizens attain true eudaimonia, hold public office, and have private property. This is not always practical so a polity controlled by the middle class wi…
Aristotle on Tyranny
Tyranny combines the worst elements of oligarchy and democracy. They are short-lived forms of government but can be preserved in two ways:
Aristotle on Right Constitutions
Constitutions which aim at the common advantage are correct and just without qualification, whereas those which aim only at the advantage of the rulers are deviant and unjust, because they involve despotic rule whic…
Stoics on Nature and Reason
The unive…
Stoics on Natural Law
The Stoics pointed to the existence of a rational and purposeful order to the universe. The means by which a rational being lived in accordance with this cosmic order was considered natural law.
Stoics on the Divine Spark
Stoics identified with reason, all humanity has a soul.
Stoics on the Cosmopolis
The cosmos is a polis because the cosmos is in perfect order by right reason.
Stoics on the Types of Law
Those who share law, share justice.
Bentham on Natural Law, the Social Contract, Common Law, and Tradition
Cicero / Stoics on the Cycle of Being, Cycle of History, and Cycle of Regimes
Everything inevitably generates, degenerates, and regenerates. For example, kings are followed by tyrants. Tyrants are expelled by aristocrats, whose government eventually degenerates into oligarchy. Oligarchy degenerates into democracy, and democracy, in turn, degenerates to ochlocracy.
Cicero on the Best Regime
The best regime is Monarchy. The process of generation, degeneration, and regeneration of regimes is inevitable with time therefore the best regime is one in which all forms are mixed (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy).
Cicero on the Essential Quality
Duty is the most important virtue. An active life is the most important life. TBD
Stoic Views of Freedom and Necessity
The power to live as you will. Stoics believed that we are bound to fortune / fate. Man must complain little. TBD
Cicero on the Law and Commonwealth
Commonwealth are things shared. Composed of juris societas, or fellowship of the just, and res publica, or things public. The ideal government is the Republic of Rome in which is established by the rule of law.
Stoics Compared to the Epicureans and Cynics
Stoics are much more divine orientated and believe the universe is ordered and rational as opposed to the Epicureans who believe the universe is random and that the material is what is real.
Stoics Compared to Plato and Aristotle
Stoic thought is closely aligned to Aristotle's but opposed to Plato's because Stoics believed that all knowledge comes from the senses. Plato believed that the mind was the source of all knowledge and that se…
Cicero's Highest Virtue
Duty to others is the most important virtue
Christian and Jewish Foundations of Western Political and Social Thought
Judaism emerged as the first monotheist religion. Concept of universal brotherhood, prophets became the conscience of the people, were outspoken against injustice, and advocated a social welfare program. Christianity concerned with the soul, salvation,…
Jerusalem and Athens
Jerusalem represents faith and religion; Athens represents reason. Multiple attempts to reconcile them.
St. Paul on Freedom
Epistle to the Galatians. "For, brethen (brothers), ye (you) have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love to serve one another."
St. Augustine on Justice
True justice only exists in the City of God. On Earth there is only justice relative to other states. "Justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else."
St. Augustine on the Necessity of Government
Though all earthly cities are imperfect, they serve a divine purpose. Governments keep the order and act as agents of God's will, serving justice through punishment.
St. Augustine on the Two Swords Doctrine
Royal power and priestly power were two separate but cooperating authorities divinely established to govern men's lives in this world; the State was to deal with human, temporal concerns while the Church was charged …
Al-Farabi's Typology of Regimes
Al-Farabi's perfect regime is the Virtuous Regime. It aims at virtue, flourishing, and happiness in light of the First Principle of Being. The imperfect regimes are Ignorant (unaware of higher virtue), Erring (incorrect), and Wicked (immoral).
Al-Farabi on Philosopher Rulers and Prophet Legislators
Those who know (deep understanding of being) must rule. Philosopher Ruler (intellect) with Prophet Legislator (imagination) is the highest ideal; reason with faith.
Al-Farabi's Virtuous City Compared to Plato's City of Speech
Aims at justice, divided into three parts, and closely resembles Plato's City of Speech:
Four Dimensions of Law:
St. Thomas Aquinas's Dimensions of Law
Do and seek good and shun evil.
St. Thomas Aquinas on the First Precept of the Natural Law
Gives two answers:
St. Thomas Aquinas on the Best Regime
On Property - provides order
St. Thomas Aquinas on Property, War, Tyranny, and Resistance
Biblical Passages from the Old and New Testaments
Exodus - Ch.20, verses 1-17, Ch.21, verses 12-26, Ch.22, Ch.23, verses 1-18.
Biblical Passages from the Old and New Testaments (cont'd)
1 Samuel - Ch.8, Ch.10 verses 17-24, Ch.12, Ch.17
Cardinal Virtues:
St. Thomas Aquinas on the Cardinal and Spiritual Virtues
- Comparison of the Polity to a Human Body
The commonwealth has direct counterparts in the components of the human body. The prince (top authority) is the head, the senate (good works) is the heart, officials and soldiers ("attend to the prince are lik…
John of Salisbury's Notion of Statesmanship (King as Minister)
The prince is ... a minister of the priestly power.
John of Salisbury on Tyranny
The tyrant who is its head is the likeness of the devil.