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N.K. Silverman A.P. American Government PHILOSOPHERS SOCRATES (Greek: 469-399 BC) Socrates lived in poverty and neglected his own affairs, spending his time teaching and discussing virtue, justice, and piety wherever his fellow citizens gathered. When he was forty years old, the Oracle of Delphi pronounced him the wisest man in Greece. Some felt that he neglected public duty since he never sought public office, although he was famous for his courage in military campaigns. Among Socrates’ contributions to philosophy was a new method of approaching knowledge, called Dialectic, in which he would ask a series of questions, each designed to lead to another question until the final answer was the one Socrates was trying to elicit. People resented being questioned in public by a man who said he knew nothing, when the result seemed to prove their ignorance and his wisdom. He taught the techniques to the young men of the city; his disciples came from wealthy families with oligarchical sympathies. He was commonly considered undemocratic because he believed that in government, as in medicine, expert opinion alone is of value and that only those trained to do so should rule. He disapproved of the democratic concept of popular election to public office. All Greek city-states were slave-owning societies. Socrates made numerous enemies so in 399 BC he was accused of corrupting the youth and of believing in gods of his own and not the gods of the city. He was found guilty and condemned to die by drinking hemlock. PLATO (Greek: 428-347 BC) Plato was an upper class Athenian who attached himself to Socrates early in life and left Athens upon Socrates’ death. During his travels he formed a lasting friendship with Dion, who would advise Dionysius II, tyrant of Syracuse. Upon his return to Athens in 386 BC, he established the Academy that was much concerned with political science in its early years, and would continue until 529 AD. He left Athens only twice after that, both times to unsuccessfully try to get Dionysius II to reform his government. His dialogues include: Apology (defense of Socrates), Meno (he asks whether virtue can be taught), Gorgias (absolute nature of right and wrong), Phaedo (nature of Forms and Ideas), Symposium (path to the highest good is described as the ascent of true lovers to eternal beauty), and Laws (discusses in practical terms the nature of state). In his masterpiece, The Republic, he recreates a dialogue with Socrates seeking to answer the question “What is Justice?” which he uses to describe an ideal or perfect society, the first Utopia in literature. He asserts the philosopher is the only one capable of ruling the just state, since through his study of dialectic he understands the harmony of all parts of the universe. Each social class happily performs the function for which it is suited. The philosopher rules, the warrior fights, and the worker enjoys the fruits of his labor. Democracy is a state in which man does n=as he pleases, while in a republic justice reigns supreme. ARISTOTLE (Greek: 384-322 BC) Aristotle studied philosophy with Plato, although he was more scientific and less drawn to the ideal than Plato. He did scientific work as a member of the Academy until Plato’s death. He began tutoring the thirteen-year-old Alexander the Great when Alexander became king. He had to leave Athens after Alexander’s death because he was charged with impiety, similar to the charge brought against Socrates. Aristotle’s treatises include Organon or Instrument (studies in logic, a science he invented), Physics, Metaphysics (inquiries into the true nature of reality), Ethics (an inquiry into the nature of Good), Poetics (literary criticism), and Politics. Politics discusses government from the point of view of the city-state, which Aristotle explains developed from a union of families. He argues that it is the best type of political organization for man because he says it is natural. He feels that man is a political animal, and that the purpose of the state is to provide its citizens the means for living the good life. The state alone is able to do this because the good life cannot be lived in isolation. Moreover, since this purpose is moral, not material, government should rest in the hands of the good. He regards three types of government as true (monarchy, aristocracy, and constitutional government or politeia), and three types as perversions (tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy). Ideally, the best of the six is a monarchy in which absolute power is exercised by one person for the good of all, but as this is unattainable, a constitutional government is the most effective and practical since it is the most stable. THOMAS HOBBES (English: 1588-1679) In 1640 after his political writings had brought him into disfavor with the parliamentarians, Hobbes fled to France where he tutored the exiled Prince Charles. He later came into conflict with the English in France and went back to England where he lived peacefully. In 1651, he published his political philosophy in The Leviathan. He argues from a mechanistic view that life is simply the motions of the organism and that man is by nature a selfishly individualistic animal at constant war with other men. In a state of nature, men are equal in their self-seeking and live out lives that are “nasty, brutish, and short.” Fear of violent death is the principal motive that causes men to create a state by contracting to surrender their natural rights and submit to the absolute authority of a sovereign. Hobbes believes that the power of the sovereign is derived originally from the people, thus challenging the doctrine of the divine right of kings. He argues that the sovereign’s power is absolute and not subject to the law. Additionally, temporal power is always superior to ecclesiastical power. Though Hobbes favored a monarchy as the most efficient form of sovereignty, his theory could equally well apply to king or parliament. His political philosophy led to investigations by other political theorists, such as Locke and Rousseau, who formulated their own radically different theories of the social contract. JOHN LOCKE (English: 1632-1704) Locke held minor diplomatic and civil posts, and then after he lost his office he met French philosophers. His Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) examines the nature of the human mind and the process by which it knows the world. The mind is born blank, a tabula rasa, on which the world inscribes itself. Locke is most renowned for his political theory. He greatly affected Rousseau and Jefferson. His doctrine and phrases are imbedded in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Locke’s Two Treatises on Civil Government in part justifies the Glorious Evolution. Contradicting Hobbes, Locke believed that the original state of nature was happy and characterized by reason and tolerance. In that state, all men were created equal and independent, and no one had the right to harm another in his “life, health, liberty, or possessions.” The state was formed by social contract because in the state of nature each was his own judge, and there was no protection against those who lived outside the law of nature. Rights of property were important since each man has a right to the product of his own labor. Locke forecast the Marxist labor theory of value. The policy of checks and balances as followed in the Constitution was also set down by him, as was the doctrine that revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but also an obligation. Locke based his ethical theories upon a belief in the natural goodness of man. The inevitable cooperation, and in the long run private happiness and the general welfare coincide. Immediate pleasure must give way to a prudent regard for ultimate good, including reward in the afterlife. He argued for broad religious freedom, legislating against only atheism and Roman Catholicism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to property, in his faith in the new science, and in his confidence in the goodness of man. Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de MONTESQUIEU (French: 1689-1755) His greatest work, The Spirit of Laws (1748), is a comparative study of three types of government—republic, monarchy, and despotism—and shows Locke’s influence. Its main theories are that climate and circumstances determine the form of government, and that the powers of government should be separated and balanced in order to guarantee the freedom of the individual. JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU (Swiss-French: 1712-1778) Rousseau’s thought begins with the assumption that man is by nature good, and with the observation that in society man is not good. The fall of man was a social occurrence; we never return to a time of innocence. With the social order, Rousseau’s aim is freedom, which again does not involve a retreat to primitivism but perfect submission of the individual to what he termed the general will, which is what rational men would choose for the common good. Freedom then, is obedience to a self-imposed law of reason. The purpose of civil law and government, of whatever form, is to bring about a coincidence of the general will and the wishes of the people. Society gives government its sovereignty when it forms the social contract to achieve liberty and well being as a group. While this sovereignty may be delegated in various ways—monarchy, democracy, and republic—it cannot be transferred. It resides ultimately with society as a whole and with the people, who can withdraw it when necessary. Rousseau’s political philosophy assumes that there really is a common good, and that the general will is not merely an ideal. Under the right conditions, the general will is actual and full development will take place. Anyone who publicly recognizes these dogmas, but behaves as if he does not believe them, should be punished by death.