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Final

POL200Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Mpra Language, Eumeswil, Prope


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL200Y1
Professor
Ryan Balot
Study Guide
Final

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Compare Hobbes discussion of religion in Chapter 12 of the
Leviathan to Plato’s discussion of religion in Books II-III of the
Republic. Identify the similarities and differences in these accounts
and explain their significance for these authorsrespective political
theories.
To understand Platos discussion on religion one needs to also briefly look at
Plato’s description on the theory of Forms. The analogy of the cave is Platos
way of explaining the Theory of the Forms. This is what Plato also meant by
the Forms; they are the essential things that are invisible to the eye or our
other senses.
In the Republic, Plato points out that the analogy is a picture of the human
condition. People are trapped within the illusory world of the senses like the
prisoners at the bottom of the cave. However, Plato believed that it is
possible to escape from this illusion and to perceive the truth that exists
within our very souls. For Plato, the Forms represent truth, or reality. They
cannot be attained by the senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, or hearing), but
through the exercise of the mind. However, these Forms are independent of
the mind: they are eternal, unchanging and perfect. Our knowledge of the
Forms is innate, contained within our very souls, and so when we perceive
them we are recollecting our knowledge of the Forms, of truth. In the
analogy of the cave, the sun represents the Form of the Good. In the same
way that the sun is the source of all things and gives light to them, the Form
of the Good is over and above the other Forms, giving them light and
allowing us to perceive them. Therefore, when you have awareness of the
Form of the Good you have achieved true enlightenment. In Christianity, the
Form of the Good becomes God: the source of all things.
When discussing religion Plato argues that the fault lies not with God, but
with the soul that makes the choice. For Plato, therefore, there are two
realms. There is the visible realm, that is the world of matter, of the senses,
of change, the world in which everything is always becoming something else,
the world where everything is imperfect and subject to decay. How- ever,
there is the other realm, the intelligible realm in which there is perfection,
permanence and order. This is the unchanging, the timeless realm. It is
reality. The implications of the existence of these two realms is that man is
faced with a choice: To live a life ‘in the shadows, living an animal existence
and pursuing pleasures and prizes that are temporal and fleeting; or to
exercise our powers of reason and achieve awareness of the eternally good
and beautiful. The latter option is the most difficult, for it requires self-
discipline, a denial of sensual pleasures and the temptations of the world.
Plato saw the weaknesses of the body as an evil that gets in the way of the
pursuits of the mind. Bodily pleasures and desires hinder the progress of the
eternal soul in its journey towards the realm of the Forms. Socrates and
Plato were considered Christians before Christ; they paved the way for the
coming of Christianity by providing it with philosophical and theoretical
foundations that would be acceptable to the western mind.
On the other hand, Hobbes believed man's need for religion is a desire, which
is bred within man. Because of this desire for religion, which is a result of
men's insecurities over his future as well as his desire to know about the
causes of natural phenomena, some men of good judgment and intelligence
prey on this need for religion by introducing new religions so that it can
organized people into a mass of civil and obedient society or to protect their
own self-interests.
In chapter 12, Hobbes divided religion into two categories, polytheism and
monotheism. The reason for the existence of polytheistic beliefs is attributed
to four emotions in men. The first one is men's "opinion of ghosts." Human
belief in the existence of ghosts was created out of men's past experiences
with events or things that normally give him fear; hence ghosts were actually
representations of human fear rather than the true manifestations of spirits.
This created the second emotion, which is "devotion towards what men fear."
If men revered ghosts and spirits for fear of their perceived malevolence, an
intelligent man could just prey on this fear. He would create in his
polytheistic religion, in the form of spirits, many gods that not only rule
different aspects of human lives, but also acted as the progenitors of natural
phenomena, some benign and some malign. The masses would believe in
those gods because of the third emotion, they were ignorant of the true
scientific causes of such phenomena and also, the illusion of "miracles" might
compel them to believe.
Also another emotion that might compel the masses to believe in the gods
created by the intelligent man is taking of things casual for prognostics.
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The intelligent man would prey on this emotion by pretending to be able to
prophesize over the future through means like necromancy or astrology.
Since men were insecure about their future, such prophecies would appeal to
their need for security and this would compel them to believe in the
revelations of that intelligent man. In doing so, a society of obedient masses
would be created and this made it easier for the powerful man of that society
to impose his authority.
The formation of a monotheistic religion is a result of the corruption of the
polytheistic religion itself, which is largely due to the loss of credibility
among the priests or defenders of that pagan religion. In order to justify
their rule or tyranny over their subjects, some kings would increase their
stature to semi- divine status by claiming to be direct descendants of the
gods. As priests and kings lost their credibility due to their wicked and
immoral deeds, and the myths about the pantheon took on more absurdity
that could no longer compel other men to believe, men would turn to a
prophet that could reveal to them the existence of an omnipotent God that is
never humanlike in His qualities. The prophet would then rely on his
intelligence, miracles and God's own revelations to compel the masses into
believing his new monotheistic religion.
Whenever there was an introduction of a monotheistic religion to a
polytheistic society, there would be a clash between the two religions. The
reason being that the belief in one God denied the kings their perceived
semi-divine status thus threaten their authority over subjects. As Hobbes
had said that "the seed of religion is... only in man", an implication that man
created religion to satisfy his needs, therefore man would change religion if
his original religion no longer satisfy his needs and he became more
attracted to a new religion that better suited his needs and interests. To
conclude, for Hobbes, One must never allow himself to be overwhelmed by
words of wise man and believes in a particular religion if he himself never
experience events that convince him about the existence of God, for such
faith always wavers whenever tested or challenged by new ideas and
precepts.
Discuss the positions taken by Machiavelli and Aristotle on the
desirability of a mixed constitution and the character it should
take. What are the similarities and differences in their theories?
In The Discourses, Machiavellis true political convictions are revealed as he
declares that a well-managed republic is preferable to a principality or
indeed any other form of government. In arguing this point, Machiavelli
alludes to the well-established typology of constitutions employed by
Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero comprised of principalities, aristocracies,
democracies and their degenerate counterparts. Therefore, princely power,
nobility and popular government all have their place in republican
governance. The Prince, however, serves a particular role; he is needed in
times of crisis either to found a republic from unsuitable material or to
restore it from corruption. In such instances where good laws do not suffice,
it is necessary to have a superior force, such as appertains to a monarch,
who ha[s] such absolute and overwhelming power that he can restrain
excesses due to ambition and the corrupt practice of the powerful.
Machiavelli concludes that a mixed constitution is the ideal arrangement
since such a government would be stronger and more stable, for if in one
and the same state there was principality, aristocracy and democracy, each
would keep watch over the other.The blending of these estates, Machiavelli
says, “made a perfect commonwealth.
Machiavelli is less sanguine at some points than at others about a mixed
regime's ability to last. Because one cannot give a certain remedy for like
disorders that arise in republics, it follows that it is impossible to order a
perpetual republic, because through a thousand unexpected ways its ruin is
caused. To expect a regime to last forever would certainly be to ask for too
much; even Rome eventually collapsed. Machiavelli goes on to explain the
essential preconditions for ensuring a long life to things such as mixed
regimes. All things pass away but "generally they go the whole course that is
ordered for them by heaven, so that they do not disorder their body but keep
it ordered in such a mode that either it does not change, or, if it changes, it is
for safety and not to its harm...I am speaking of mixed bodies, as are
republics. In other words, a mixed regime may live out a healthy life if it does
not change or if the changes it undergoes improve it. A time will certainly
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come when it is confronted by some accident to which it must either react
and hence change to some extent or perish and thereby (to put it mildly)
change for the worst. We also know from the analysis of the founding’s of
mixed constitutions that a regime that manages to remain relatively un-
changed, like Sparta, misses the opportunity to change for the better, as
Rome did. Machiavelli writes that for a mixed regime already underway to
maintain itself, it must in some way return to that beginning. The causes of
this renewal "return to beginnings" are referred to by Machiavelli first as
either an "external accident or intrinsic prudence." Machiavelli declares that
it is good if such accidenti force the framing of new laws or the action of a
single man every 10 years to stave off corruption. Machiavelli promotes the
institution of the dictator as a legal and constitutional means of dealing with
accidenti and preserving a mixed regime
With regards to the constitution Aristotle states that the constitution is a
certain way of organizing those who inhabit the city-state. The city-state is
by nature a collective entity, a multitude of citizens. Aristotle defines the
constitution as a way of organizing the offices of the city-state, particularly
the sovereign office The constitution thus defines the governing body, which
takes different forms: for example, in a democracy it is the people, and in an
oligarchy it is a select few (the wealthy or well born). The fundamental claim
of Aristotle's constitutional theory is that "constitutions which aim at the
common advantage are correct and just without qualification, whereas those
which aim only at the advantage of the rulers are deviant and unjust,
because they involve despotic rule which is inappropriate for a community of
free persons." Aristotle thus distinguishes several types of constitutions. The
distinction between correct and deviant constitutions is combined with the
observation that the government may consist of one person, a few, or a
multitude. Hence, there are six possible constitutional forms, Kingship,
Tyranny, Oligarchy, Polity, Aristocracy and Democracy. For instance,
Aristotle observes that the dominant class in oligarchy is typically the
wealthy, whereas in democracy it is the poor. Moreover, polity is later
characterized as a kind of "mixed" constitution typified by rule of the
"middle" group of citizens, a moderately wealthy class between the rich and
poor.
Aristotle views different constitutions as different applications of the
principle of distributive justice. Justice requires that benefits be distributed
to individuals in proportion to their merit or desert. The oligarchs
mistakenly think that those who are superior in wealth should also have
superior political rights, whereas the democrats hold that those who are
equal in free birth should also have equal political rights. Both of these
conceptions of political justice are mistaken in Aristotle's view, because they
assume a false conception of the ultimate end of the city-state. Hence, the
correct conception of justice is aristocratic, assigning political rights to those
who make a full contribution to the political community, that is, to those
with virtue as well as property and freedom.
Political science studies a comparable range of constitutions: first, the
constitution which is best without qualification, i.e., "most according to our
prayers with no external impediment"; second, the constitution that is best
under the circumstances "for it is probably impossible for many persons to
attain the best constitution"; third, the constitution which serves the aim a
given city-state population happens to have, i.e., the one that is best "based
on a hypothesis": "for [the political scientist] ought to be able to study a given
constitution, both how it might originally come to be, and, when it has come
to be, in what manner it might be preserved for the longest time. Hence,
Aristotelian political science is not confined to the ideal system, but also
investigates the second-best constitution, the one that is the best that most
city-states are capable of supporting. This is the closest approximation to full
political justice, which the lawgiver can attain under the circumstances. In
Aristotle's own "best constitution" each and every citizen will possess moral
virtue and the equipment to carry it out in practice, and thereby attain a life
of excellence and complete happiness The second-best system typically takes
the form of a polity (in which citizens possess an inferior, more common
grade of virtue) or mixed constitution (combining features of democracy,
oligarchy, and aristocracy, so that no group of citizens is in a position to
abuse its rights).
For more information: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-politics/
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