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Political Science
Course Code
Ryan Balot

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POL200Y1Y L5101 1
R. Balot
L1: Introduction
May 12, 2009
6:00 PM
Plato's Republic - The Allegory of The CAVE
This allegory is about education
oWhy Socrates says the cave prisoners are so much like us
oWe are meant to find the prisoners pitiable
Why are we prisoners?
oThe allegory says we are imprisoned by our ignorance
Who are the puppeteers?
oThey are the unquestioned authority figures. We live our lives by convention
e.g. children must learn conventions in order to perform in life
The danger becomes that we live our lives as conformists
oUpon seeing the light, the prisoners feel safe in their convictions
Why continue digging into the nature of our values
Here, the puppeteers are also in the cave and live their lives believing that
reproducing/following convention is their goal
oThe prisoners find it difficult to walk past their puppeteers - and by extension
- convention and face the light
Awakening oneself to the order which underlies convention is Plato's most
memorable image
Education is not easy
oThe danger is conformity; hence, education grants liberation
oEducation will free you from those beliefs which are not your own/ beliefs you
can not endorse upon reflection
POL200 Mission Statement
Liberate ourselves from the tyranny of our conventional beliefs
oTo do this, we study both the makers of our conventional beliefs (Hobbes,
Locke) as well as those who offer us alternatives (the ancient thinkers)
oUpon reflection, if we find our conventions worth upholding
Then we may uphold these conventions autonomously
If happiness is the goal: recall that there are no objective standards by which to
gauge happiness
oThis set of ideas is traced back to Hobbes
oHobbes believed it was the state's role to allow each citizen to pursue
The state should mandate a form of education which will make us
Recall Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza
"life, liberty and property"
For Plato, Aristotle and Cicero the state exists to promote human goodness
oAncient politics struggled to achieve a unique sort of goodness
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oFor them, modernity is decadent and ignorant
Where do we as individuals stand on the question of objective goodness?
Why the history of political thought?
Patriotism Vs. Cosmopolitanism
Cicero argues that there are many levels of human fellowship
oBetween members of nation, city and family
oShould I deprive my child of an education in order to feed a child across the
Cicero's answer:
oNone of these affinities has more weight than the allegiance we each have to
the state
oParents are dear to us, as are children, relatives etc.
oBut the native land subsumes all affections
oHe grounds this view in a theory of human nature
oHis theory depends on this controversial claim of human nature
For him, the state is natural as it is a natural response to human
This helps to balance our duties to citizens as opposed to non-citizens
Cosmopolitan Philosophers
oLook upon state allegiance as superficial
oFor them, the state is conventional and not natural
oThe state divides human beings due to diversity of conventions
oState are therefore morally suspect
oWhy should such an accidental consideration (as where I have been born)
affect my relationship to a fellow human being
Nature vs. convention
oOur shared humanity vs. allegiance to particular city
On Tutorials
oThere will be 10 tutorials
oNo tutorials until the 3rd week
What is Politics?
Politics comes from the polis
oThe polis was a self-governing city-state
Not defined by its locale/institutions etc. but by the community
The community which confronts each other roughly as equals
A simple urban centre with public institutions (so there was a notion
of the public)
oPolitics = the business of the polis
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oThe business of a community of citizens specifically in relation to power
The field of activity in which power is exercised and contested
Michael Doyle - Empires
Politics in relation to other things usually refers to these other things in relation to
Power in relation to governments and resources (as well as their distribution)
Ancient Politics + The Greeks
Res publicae
oDecisions must be arrived at by communal means
oWhere does politics end and other spheres begin?
"the personal is political"
oPersonal relationships are decisions which possess political implications
which are informed by the structures of political power - even the private sphere
The development of personal capacities were often felt to be good both for the city
and the individual
oThe ancient would deliberate in public about what it took to live a good life
For the ancient thinkers, primarily Aristotle, the democratic context in which these
issues were worked out was important
Two Vantage points to study Political thought
See that political thought is a response to a specific historical context
These texts were highly ambitious and meant to comment on the human condition
oPlato wrote the Republic so as to revolutionize our world views
oThese theorists will be making normative claims on us
How things ought to be