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pol200 exam package.docx

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Political Science
Course Code
Janice Stein

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question 1 04/11/2013
1. "The philosophers have only interpreted the world ...; the point, however, is to
change it." (Marx, Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach). How adequate is Marx's
characterization of "the philosophers" to Plato? To Machiavelli, Hobbes, or
Locke? (Discuss Plato and any ONE of these three modern thinkers.)
In Marx’s interpretation of change he neglects to recognize the essential component of Plato
argument, which is on order to effectively change the world you must first have a clear understanding and
interpretation of it. This interpretation must be understood as the objective understanding of right and
wrong, or just and unjust. In contrast the Machiavellian lens would partially align with Marx in the belief that
the philosopher could never rule because the philosopher themself is ruled by the concepts of just and
For Marx the philosopher is just an idealist, and it takes more then ideals to change the world. This
differs from Plato, who proposes that it is the Philosopher that by understanding and interoperating the
world has the tools necessary to change it for the better.
To begin, by employing the lens of the philosopher Plato you see that it is believed that the
philosopher is the only one capable of understanding and thus changing the world. The first reference to
this point, by Plato, is the metaphor of the stargazer and the Captain of a ship [Plato pg168]. This metaphor
demonstrates that the ability to pilot a ship cannot be dependent solely on the ability of keeping the ship
afloat, being able to steer it effectively, and manage a crew. In order to be an effective pilot or true pilot you
must have an understanding of navigation and direction, which according to Plato is held by the stargazer.
By understanding the stars he can effectively guide the ship and thus the parallel is being able to
understand and interoperate the world is the only way in which you will be able to guide it or change it. The
true pilot must be both the manager and commander of the ship and the stargazer, just like the philosopher
is must be the individual that understands the world (the stars and seasons) and has the ability to change it
(command the ship and its crew). It is by this means of rational thought that Plato believes that the
philosopher is the only one that has the understanding and ability to change the world as desired by Marx.
Secondly, through a Machiavellian lens the philosopher cannot be the ruler/prince, he is the advisor
of the prince, and thus has no real ability to shape or change the world. Unlike the philosopher, the prince is
not overtly concerned with the concepts of just and unjust, he maintains power through fear, as it is safer to
be feared than loved as the prince [Machiavelli pg51]. By assuming the delicate balance of the lion and the
fox [M pg 61] he is able to change the world/city as he sees fit. However, like the philosopher the prince
must be an educated individual [Lecture] and is not completely impulsive in their decisions, by
understanding the past and its outcomes they learn to make decisions that will avoid undesirable ends
[Lecture]. In the end the Prince understands the role of the philosopher, but is not inclined to follow the
advice of the philosopher, for the philosopher is an idealist who does not maintain the ability to rule the city
because they are ruled themselves by the concepts of just and unjust.
In conclusion, Marx and Machiavelli would agree that it takes more than idealistic concepts of
philosophers to effect change on the world, it takes a combination of education and ability to decided when
to be guided by the just and when to necessary to be the unjust. In contrast, Plato believes that it is only the
philosopher that is enlightened enough to not only understand how the world needs to change, but also
employs the tools necessary to accomplish his ends. The philosopher to Plato is the enlightened one that
was able to emerge from the shadows of the ‘cave’ [Plato pg211].
Version 2
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world ...; the point, however, is to change it." (Marx,
Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach). How adequate is Marx's characterization of "the philosophers" to
Plato? To Machiavelli, Hobbes, or Locke? (Discuss Plato and any ONE of these three modern thinkers.)
The Answer to the question:
Both Plato and Machiavelli disregard the merit in ruling. Plato claims that he can change the world if people
saw the use of philosophers. He uses the example of the ship and the analogy of the cave to support that
people find philosophers useless. While Plato understands that he cannot change the world due to the view
on philosophers in ancient times, he still claims that philosophers can be the best rulers and can change
the world if given the chance. Machiavelli, a modern thinker believes he can in fact change the world and
writes an instruction manual-type book to do so. Machiavelli’s ultimate goal towards a better world is full
control of power. This maintains peace and security in a populace, through the instillation of fear of course.
The Church divides power in principalities and it is this variable that must be eliminated to consolidate pure
power within a principality. Despite Plato and Machiavelli’s thinking which could change the world in theory,
as philosophers, they are simply useless.
Supporting Details
Socrates’ city in speech can only be possible if the philosopher is the king.
Through metaphors such as the Cave analogy, the philosopher can never lead society towards
This is different from modern thinkers because classical thinkers understood they could not change the
world. In the past, these classical thinkers were often crushed by society. They are compelled to question
the opinions that the city holds sacred and assumes to be true. Thus, gaining the support of the entire
populace was often a useless endeavor.
The rule of the philosophers depends on the ideal regime, and in turn this same ideal regime must depend
on their creation by the ideal thinker, a philosopher. The fact that the philosopher and regime depend on
each other to come into existence means they are both impossible in reality.
ex. Plato’s regime – His utopian city is split into different classes, his regime being “made of gold” or top
In light of this argument, it is only the philosopher who can form an ideal regime because they see far more
clearly than the rest of society in the imperfection of things.
Ex. USA believes their regimes are just. They cling to opinions and the way of life these opinions support.
The philosopher is a lover of wisdom and sees past this all and thus, only he can create the utopian regime.
The philosopher does not dwell on good things but rather good in itself.

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