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Political Theory.docx

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 2511
Johnvon Heyking

of 52
Political Theory
Political Philosophy
- How should we live?
- What is the best way of life?
- What is to be done?
- Considers normative questions of political order
o What is justice?
o What is a good regime?
o What causes justice
o How can we become just?
Change laws?
Institutional reform?
- 4 Books
- 4 perspectives on justice and a good regime
- What justice is
- Is justice realistic?
- Whether justice and expediency can be reconciled
- Plato’s Republic
o Written in 4th Century BCE
o Foundational text of Western thinking
o Can a philosopher king ensure justice?
- Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics & Politics
o Student of Plato, teacher of Alexander
o Written in 3rd Century BCE
o Political science as a practical science
o Ethics
o “Man is a political animal”
- Machiavelli’s The Prince
o 16th Century
o Written as a guidebook for princes during the Italian Renaissance
o Since justice is impossible, the price should seek glory
- John Locke Second Treatise of Government
o Published during the English Civil War 1689
o Influenced founders of US and Canada
o Political Society has limited aims
o Justice consists of preserving life, liberty and personal property
Types of Philosophy
- Epistemology
o What is knowledge?
- Metaphysics
o What is the foundation of matter?
- Ethics
o What is right?
o Political Philosophy
What is right for political society?
Political philosophy
- Reflective side of political science
- Studies why?
- Battle of ideas
- Ideas have consequences
- Clarity of political order can help improve it
Political Science
- Studies how
o Follows method
o Quantitative data
“Real World” Political Philosophy
- All political opinions aim at some good
o Opinions are partial and incomplete
- Desire for good implies a complete picture of the good
- Political philosophy emerges when directedness towards good becomes
- When the desire arises to replace opinions with knowledge of good
- All political action implies a desire to have complete knowledge
o Implies philosophy
- Humans possess only partial knowledge
o No perfect wisdom
o “Only the Gods are wise” – Socrates
Politicians Influenced by Political Philosophers
- Gandhi
o Influenced by Aristotle
- USA and Canada
o John Locke
- France
o Jean-Jacque Rousseau
- Pierre Trudeau
o Machiavelli, St. Thomas Aquinas, Lord Acton
- Martin Heidegger praised Nazism
Reading Political Philosophy Texts
1. Cambridge/Historical School
o Political philosophers can only be understood with reference to their
historical context
o Advantages
Reminds of political problems that were of immediate concern
to political thinkers
Identifies the audience of the thinker
Studying historical context can reveal unspoken assumptions
o Disadvantages
Makes political thinkers irrelevant
Cannot change our prejudices
Underestimate how radical they can still be
2. Textualist/Straussian
o Must understand political philosophers as they understood
o “Great texts” were written with great care
o Every statement is part of a grand puzzle
o Historical context not important
o Authors converse with each other within a tradition of readers
o All great political events and revolutions originate from a philosopher
o Advantages
Importance of careful reading
Unspoken assumptions can usually be gleaned from
careful reading
Makes us more attentive to views of others
Forces us to confront our prejudices
o Disadvantages
Unspoken assumptions formed by historical context
3. Dialectical
o Political philosophy as a struggle for truth or order amidst untruth
o Political philosophy diagnoses contemporary political disorder
o Inquiry leads to majors thinkers of the past who have penetrated the
surfaces of problems
The Republic
- Book 1
o Opening scene “I went down (kateben)”
Journey to Hades
Wisdom through suffering
o Port of Piraeus
Socrates guilty of corrupting the youth and making up new
o Kateben
Image of hell
“On that day, when I went down inside the house of hades,
seeking to learn about homecoming, for myself and my
companions (Homer, Odyssey)
Degeneration of Athenian culture
Defeat in Peloponnesian War
Wisdom through suffering
Hell images in Republic
Myth of Er
Analogy of the cave
Ring of Gyges