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Sociology 2240E Lecture Notes - Montesquieu, Organicism, The Principle

Course Code
SOC 2240E
Charles Levine

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Wednesday October 17, 2012
Lecture 5
- 3 major points of Montesquieu’s book:
- 1. Have to be able to disassociate itself from the outside world in order to look at it
- 2. Intra and Inter cultural differences- idea being that the social location you are in will influence
how you will think
- Montesquieu was trying to set the stage
- In 1755 he wrote his most famous book called the Spirit of Laws
- What does he mean by Spirit? 2 things?
- 1. The nature of Government- how power is distributed among persons- all Government’s
distribute power, some do it differently than others. In most instances the power is covered up
or transformed into authority
- He says Governments also requires principle not just power and authority
- 2. The Principle of Government any Government functions because of the average sentiment
that motivates most of the population. Sentiment= emotion.
- Difference between power and authority: Power is the ability to make someone do something
regardless of whether or not they want to. Authority is legitimate power.
- The Legitimization of power means some is okay to do and some isn’t. For example, if you try to
enforce someone through authority you can’t because your authority cant make you do that if
you’re a prof. But if he asks for you to put your cellphone away you will
- If you just look at Government through nature you are reminded of the social contract- if you
have authority your expected to do what they ask and the authority figure is supposed to
respect your rights.
- Montesquieu understands what later theorists call the sub contractual basis of social contract:
people have to want to make it work- the emotional disposition is more foundational. Trust
underlies the contract
Types of Government
Non Social Factors
Mutual Respect
All persons equality
Honour (Makes you
follow the King)
Moderate (Europe)
Fear ( what motivates
you to listen to the
person with power)
1 Person (Dictator)
Large (Asia)
- Non-social factors- population density, weather, population number, size of territory- he is
talking about physical geography.
- These non-social factors strongly influence the nature and principle of Government, if you have
a large area you are likely to have one person with power
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- The King has some power his role of King is largely based on legitimate authority, like define
rights of Kings- his power is legitimized. Your likely to see a few groups that mediate his
influence, the King really can’t do anything he wants
- He says the world doesn’t work (nature) unless you want it to work (principle)
- You are equal because power is distributed equally
- Power is always in existence, issue is how it is distributed
- Mutual respect- difficult to actualize it. You can only find out if your intention is mutually
respectful is you communicate with the other person
- Mutual respect is an ongoing process, the thing that keeps it together and growing is dialogue
- Montesquieu is not talking about representative democracy but real democracy that can only
exist in a small location (non social factor)
- He realizes he can only see one example of a democracy- Ancient Greece- however slaves and
women were not equal, Montesquieu did not think about the issue of women, but he thought
about the idea of slaves
- Democracies don’t have slaves- Montesquieu now has a logical problem, the only example he
can find for his theory doesn’t support it
- He can do two things: his theory is wrong, or the Greek’s messed up.
- He decides that the Greeks screwed up.
- The logic is that non social factors are clogging social factors, he is saying that the variables of
non social factors constitutes causal law- laws that cause- they cause what he calls Laws as
commands (nature and principle)
- Causal law causes law as commands- territory (non social factors) cause nature and principle of
the Government
- What makes the world go around are factors that are not intentional- realistic argument
- He is saying that causal law(non social factors) causes laws as commands (nature and principle)
- Montesquieu is supposed to be the spokesperson for the principles of the Enlightenment- but
those principles- are nominalism
- So why is he being called an Enlightenment theorists: because of the problem of Greece
- His problem was that either his theory was wrong or the Greeks were wrong- he decided the
Greeks were wrong
- Why were the Greeks wrong: they were wrong because they didn’t have sufficient reason- their
moral development was not sufficient
- He’s talking about this issue of reason – he is saying the Greeks messed up his theory because
they weren’t morally sufficient- the Greeks weren’t aware of something: Universalistic Laws as
- Montesquieu proposes the third rule of laws: Universalistic Laws as Commands: they are
universally valid moral points of view
- He is saying in space is a universally valid notion of what is right- that all persons could
understand if they thought about it carefully
- He is saying if the Greeks carefully thought about it they would realize that they ought not to
have slaves- but they didn’t think carefully enough (Universalistic laws as commands)
- Universalistic laws of commands has a scale:
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