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The History of Political Thought. The Hindu Vision. The ancient Hindus believed that one must first master himself before he qualified to exercise power over others Illusion and ignorance are the source of fear Liberation from fear brings perception that all beings are interconnected.

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The History of Political Thought

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The history of political thought l.jpg

The History of Political Thought


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The Hindu Vision

  • The ancient Hindus believed that one must first master himself before he qualified to exercise power over others

  • Illusion and ignorance are the source of fear

  • Liberation from fear brings perception that all beings are interconnected.

  • The Hindus distrusted politics and the state


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Hindu Education

  • Artha – the value of wealth and property

  • Kama – sensual, especially sexual pleasure

  • Dharma – religious duties which lead one toward righteousness

  • Moksha – spiritual liberation, freedom from illusion, fear, and ignorance and the discovery of the unity of all beings


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The Hindu Stages of Life

  • Brahmacharya – the student stage (0-25) Composed of studying all knowledge and the texts of Hinduism

  • Grihastha – the householder stage (25-55) providing for family and raising children

  • Vanaprastha – literally “forest hermit,” this person sought truth is solitude. He left all family responsibility behind to seek truth.


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The Hindu Stages of Life

  • Sannyasa – meaning “saintliness.” This depends on the result of vanaprastha. The person returns to society once being enlightened with the unity of all things.

  • The sannyasin is strictly noviolent because the connection of all things leads to the truth that in injuring another, we injure our self.


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The Hindu Castes

  • The Hindus believed in a tripartite soul – sattva (wisdom or goodness), rajas (courage or energy) and tamas (desire or appetite).

  • The social organization reflects the predominance of these qualities among the people.

  • The Castes were originally merit, not heredity based.


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The Hindu Castes

  • Brahmans – the philosopher/priest class dominate because of their wisdom and goodness

  • Kshatriyas – the political/military class excel in courage and energy

  • Vaishyas – the commercial and agricultural class are characterized by desire and appetite.


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Egypt

  • The Pharaoh was considered to be both god and man.

  • He thus ruled absolutely – his word was law.

  • The power of governance was held by a single person. Rule was not by the consent of the governed.

  • Note that Egyptians owned their own land until the time of Joseph.


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Ancient Israel

  • Israel started out without any national political system.

  • They had a legal system and local government (the elders of each city)

  • They were warned by Samuel against having a king.

  • The Lord’s anointed king only became king when so chosen by the people.


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The Athenian Democracy

  • Every adult male citizen shared in direct rule

  • The Athenian assembly met once a month

  • There were no literacy or property qualifications

  • Any citizen could address the assembly and propose legislation

  • Every citizen could serve in some public office


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The Athenian Democracy

  • Women and slaves were denied any representation in the government

  • Direct rule was exercised by 40,000 men out of a population of 350,000

  • Politics were dominated by amateurs


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The Athenian Democracy

  • The rights of an Athenian citizen included

    • freedom of speech

    • freedom of expression

    • the right of a trial by jury

    • the right to bear arms

    • the right to participate in the Assembly

    • the right to hold government office

  • An Athenian didn’t have freedom of religion – to be Athenian meant to worship the Greek gods.


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The Athenian decline

  • Pericles led Athens into war against Sparta – The Peloponnesian War.

  • Part of the war centered on Corcyra, an island whose people were split in allegiance between Athens and Sparta.

  • The people of this island committed horrendous atrocities against each other


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The Athenian decline

  • Thucydides, a Greek historian, wrote that “People went to every extreme and beyond it.”

  • Fathers killed sons. Whole families were executed. People were killed in the religious temples.

  • Reflecting on the ruin this brought to the Athenian civilization, Thucydides wrote “War is a violent teacher.”


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The Athenian decline

  • In the Athenian society, different factions twisted the meanings of words which led to the degeneration of civilization.

  • Character deteriorated as people were carried away by their passions and forgot reason.

  • Thucydides concludes that “love of power, operating through greed and personal ambition, was the cause of all these evils.”

  • He then asked “Can power be wielded wisely?”


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Socrates and Truth

  • Socrates asks “What course of life is best?”

  • In answer, he recommends the philosophical life – the pilgrimage for truth.

  • Wisdom consists of knowing that one does not know. One must recognize his own ignorance and be humble to search for truth.

  • Truth must be pursued, it cannot be infallibly possessed (religions claim to possess truth)


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Plato vs. Hindus

  • Plato see the state as a moral force – an agent of virtue and a means of education.

  • The Hindus see the state as an agent of discipline.

  • Plato believes that the wise can be trusted to wield power wisely.

  • The Hindus believe that political power will corrupt the wise.


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What is justice?


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The Republic of Plato

  • Polemarchus argues that justice is giving each man his due.

  • Justice is “an eye for an eye”

  • Socrates responds that it can never be just, though it may be expedient, to harm another person


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The Republic of Plato

  • Thrasymachus claims that justice is “might makes right.” The stronger party defines “just” as whatever is its best interest.

  • Socrates responds that just as a doctor seeks to benefit not himself, but his patients, a ruler must seek to benefit his subjects. Like the doctor, the ruler must posses the scientific knowledge proper to his craft.


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The Republic of Plato

  • Glaucon argues that justice arises not from moral truth, but from expedience. Justice originates in the desire of the weak to have security against the strong. He claims that all people will pursue their own self-interests regardless of law or justice if they have the opportunity.

  • He cites the myth of Gyges to support this social contract view of justice.


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The Republic of Plato

  • Socrates responds that the state, like an individual, is composed of reason, spirit and desire. Justice is the right balance of these three elements with reason over all.


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The Republic of Plato

  • Plato argues that Athens is in need of drastic reform and proposes 3 waves of change

    • Qualified women must be allowed to hold political power

    • The nuclear family and private property must be abolished to raise up common interest

    • Philosophers should rule.


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The Republic of Plato

  • Plato points out 3 failures of democracy

    • it failed to distinguish between freedom and license

    • it catered to the satisfaction of desires while neglecting to provide order and foster civic duty

    • it was governed by mere opinion instead of by genuine knowledge

  • He then offers the parable of the ship of state


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Plato’s Forms

  • Plato believed that everything on earth has eternal, perfect counterparts that exist independent of human reality.

  • Something's goodness is dependent on how similar it is to the perfect form.

  • Plato proposes a perfect city to which we should aspire. This city is very similar to Augustine’s City of God.


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Raphael’s painting, “The City of Athens”


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Aristotle vs. Plato

  • Aristotle was from Macedonia and wasn’t affected by Athens defeat in the Peloponnesian War as Plato was.

  • Aristotle saw his teacher live a long productive life where Plato saw his teacher condemned and executed.

  • Aristotle came from the middle class where Plato was an aristocrat.

  • Aristotle was schooled in biology and natural sciences where Plato was schooled math.


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Aristotle’s Response

  • Aristotle proposed the “golden mean.”

  • The mean is the way of moderation. Most things have two extremes, we need the middle way.

  • On one side is cowardice, on the other side is foolhardiness. The golden mean is courage.

  • Not everything has a mean; there is no right way to commit adultery.


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Aristotle’s Response to the First Wave

  • Aristotle argues against women as rulers

  • He says that nature shows us that there need to be both the ruler and the ruled.

  • The ruling people have reason and foresight.

  • The ruled people should obey the rulers

  • This is evident in nature and in societal institutions such as family and polis.


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Aristotle’s Response to the First Wave

  • The human soul has two elements, one that rules (reason) and one that is ruled (passion).

  • Women must not be allowed to rule since they lack rational capacity. In men, the rational always rules but, for women, it is present but ineffective.

  • Slaves are slaves because they lack the capacity to reason.


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Aristotle’s Response to the Second Wave

  • Aristotle says that the institutions of family and property are rooted in nature. Observation shows that we take care of what is our own, and neglect that which is not our own. Possession brings duty and obligation.

  • The family is natural and promotes civic virtue and mutual care among loved ones.


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Aristotle’s Response to the Second Wave

  • Private property is necessary because people neglect common property but care for private property

  • Property should be possessed in moderation and put to public use when possible

  • Charity is only possible under private property


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Aristotle’s Response to the Third Wave

  • Aristotle believes that it is dangerous to concentrate power in an elite.

  • Concentrated power will breed discontent

  • The middle class embodies moderation since they hold property and make livings. They will reject radical change.

  • Qualified rulers are then male property owners who are literate.


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Alexander the Great

  • Was a student of Aristotle

  • Believed that

    • all men are equal

    • men should be judged by virtue rather than race or religion

    • the government should be tolerant, multicultural and diverse

    • peace and harmony would be increased by free trade and tolerant social policies

    • by intermarriage men would accept each other as brothers


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The Roman Republic

  • The Roman Republic was born after Rome’s defeat by Carthage in 216 BC (70,000 Romans died in one battle).

  • The last king had been driven out of Rome in 509 BC and Romans hated the idea of lex. This is why the Caesar was not king.

  • The Roman republic was a model of a balanced constitution.


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The Roman Republic

  • The Romans believed there were three essentials for good government:

    • Monarchy – the need for strong leadership

    • Aristocracy – the need for guidance by a small group of wise and experienced citizens

    • Democracy – the need for a broad base of popular support


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The Roman Republic

  • The branches of Roman government were:

    • Consuls, the executives. Two were elected every year and were the generals of the armies. Each had veto power over the other. The senate had to approve any spending.

    • Senate, the aristocracy was composed of 300 former magistrates who served for life. Senate controlled spending and foreign policy. The Senate could not pass laws.


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The Roman Republic

  • Magistrates, the judges, were elected directly by the people. The judges sought to discover and apply law.

  • Assembly of all Roman citizens. This was the sovereign power of Rome. It was composed of all males who served in the military and it passed laws and decided all matters of war and peace. The assembly elected the magistrates.


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The Roman Republic

  • Tribunes were the protectors of the people. Every year 10 tribunes were elected. A single tribune had veto power over the Assembly, the Senate and the Consuls.

  • The Romans held civic virtue high and their education system trained people to be virtuous and civic minded.

  • The Roman army was a citizen army – all men had to serve for 16 years.


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    The Roman Republic

    • The rights of a Roman citizen included:

      • The right to vote and participate in politics

      • Equality under the law

      • Freedom from arbitrary arrest

      • The right to trial by jury

      • Freedom of speech

      • Economic freedom

    • You did not get freedom of religion; to be a Roman citizen meant to worship Rome’s gods.


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    Machiavelli

    • Machiavelli and Plato share similarities. Both

      • lived in times of political crisis and turned to power based solutions

      • believed in strong central leadership

    • Machiavelli sees the state as an instrument of force rather than of virtue

    • He views human nature more like Thucydides than Plato or Aristotle.


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    Machiavelli’s The Prince

    • He urges the Prince to act pragmatically and to practice vice whenever it is useful to do so. He also says that virtue or ethics need not apply in politics.

    • He tells the Prince that it is better to be feared than to be loved. The Prince must use violence and strength decisively.


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    Machiavelli’s The Prince

    • Keeping one’s word is praiseworthy but gain is more likely by using illusion and deception.

    • The Prince should study the fox and the lion – cunning and strength. Often trickery is preferable to brute force.

    • Machiavelli taught that the end always justified the means. The Princes methods are always worthy


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    The Divine Right of Kings

    • The king is chosen and ordained by God. The king rules on earth in Gods place thus resistance to the king is blasphemy.

    • This is an old concept, from Egypt and Mesopotamia, known by Homer, and written into Roman law (for the Emperors)

    • People used Paul’s statement in Ro 13 to back this idea.


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    We are skipping the English tradition and that of the Founding of America in this set of slides. We will cover it later in this course.


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    Anarchy

    • Emma Goldman was an anarchist. She stood for personal freedom and predicted the downfall of Soviet communism.

    • Anarchists reject the entire system of government as authoritarian and hierarchical. They want to overturn the class structure.

    • Their main principle is resistance to authority because it deprives us of freedom of expression and belief.


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    Anarchy

    • The 3 main points of anarchy are as follow:

    • Human nature is seen as good

      • it is flexible and dynamic and changes

      • it is not innately aggressive but is cooperative such that a child can be raised so that authority is unnecessary

      • People want to help each other and live in social harmony


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    Anarchy

    • Freedom is the supreme value

      • freedom and equality are tied together

      • equality means equality of opportunity and economic equality

      • Emma spent time in jail for teaching women about birth control.


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    Anarchy

    • The relationship of the means to the end must be correct

      • Emma criticized communism for believing that the end justifies the means

      • She asserted that any attempt to change the human condition must make its “first ethical precept the identity of means used and aims sought.”


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    Fascism

    • Fascism derives from Machiavelli’s ideas

    • Fascism is anti-intellectual

    • It holds that all truth is a matter of opinion and what counts is action

    • The fascist worships power and believes that might makes right


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    Fascism

    • Fascists view the government and the country as the same thing

    • They want a strong, charismatic leader

    • They are often intolerant of other religions, ethnicities or other factors

    • Fascists will do whatever seems necessary – be it allow freedom or remove it.


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