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POL200Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Meritocracy

Political Science
Course Code
Janice Stein
Study Guide

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Political Theory Final Exam Essay Outlines (30%)
Machiavelli vs. Socrates: Religion
2. Compare and contrast Machiavelli’s critique of the Christian god in the name of virtu
with Socrates critique of the Homeric gods in the name of justice.
Machiavelli’s critique of the Christian god in the name of virtu
-During Machiavelli’s time, religion held a great deal of significance in the political
-Rulers claimed to represent God on earth and were selected by divine right
-Virtu encompasses a broad collection of personal qualities necessary for the maintenance
of the state and the achievement of great things
-Virtu, as opposed to the Christian virtues, includes pride, bravery, strength and a certain
amount of ruthlessness (conventional virtues and Machiavellian virtu are completely
-Virtu is in contrast with Fortuna, which refers to all those circumstances that human
beings cannot control
-If a prince can adapt his virtu to the present circumstances, he can always defeat Fortuna
-Man can either rely on God or himself
-To rely on others is to rely on God since we have faith in others as a result of our belief
in a benevolent God
-For the biblical author, David is reliant on God (he uses God in order to stand up to the
-For Machiavelli, David refuses to rely on another for arms. He refused Saul’s armor
because he wanted to create his own independent reputation
-To Machiavelli, David relied on his virtu, rather than the aid of God
-Machiavelli criticizes the Christian “Habits of the Heart”, which include empathy,
charity to the church and others, keeping promises, trusting others etc…
-Exercising these all the time can be detrimental, but the appearance of having them is
very beneficial
-It is necessary for a prince to learn to be able to not be good, and to use this and not use
it according to necessity
-To advocate ideal measures can lead one to ruin
-The divine is not to be honored as a constraint on the political
-Rather, the divine is the creation of the political
-Machiavelli views religion as a tool that can be used to keep the public from becoming
unruly, since it strikes fear into its followers
-Religion presents people with the idea that if they behave properly they can achieve
salvation, which makes it into a very controlling entity

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-The ends justify the means and thus if a prince can gain power and maintain his state to
the fullest, he will always be praised and rewarded, and the methods used to gain power,
however dubious they may be, become null and void
Socrates critique of the Homeric gods in the name of justice
-Socrates attempts to uncover what justice is in the individual through the creation of the
just city
-In this just city it must be determined how citizens will be educated
-Homer provided accounts of the gods that were accepted as factual (essentially the bible
of the Greeks)
-Socrates recognizes the impressionable nature of youth
-Socrates believes that if you want to transform people’s attitudes you would have to
begin at the top (you do not want the gods setting a bad example)
-Therefore, all of the stories regarding the god’s battles, infanticides and deceit are
-Moreover, the gods would never alter their form because any change would have to be
for the worse
-Socrates believed that these stories would encourage people to emulate the worst
behavior of tragic heroes
-Socrates begins with the premise that the gods are good and thus do no harm
-The gods must then not be the source of the evils in the world (they lose their
omnipotence: all-creating)
-The brutality of the afterlife would sap the courage of guardians
-There is no divine fix for human problems (the ability of the gods to deliver us from evil
is removed)
-The gods must coexist with these evils, rather than abolish them
-Both Machiavelli and Socrates see religion as a tool that can used to further the goals of
the state
-Machiavelli sees it as a tool that can be used to instill the fear of damnation amongst
one’s followers (armed-prophets with the backing of Gods power)
-Socrates sees religion as a tool that can be used to properly educate citizens on virtuous
behavior from a young age
-They also see religion as an impediment to necessary behavior
-Machiavelli believes that an individual, if compelled to follow Christian ethics, may be
unable to exercise necessary, but immoral behavior
-Socrates believes that a guardian would be unable to defend the city to the best of his
ability if so terrified by the brutality of the afterlife

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-They both see religion as having an important effect on ones moral outlook
-Socrates believes that the stories individuals are told about the Gods from their youth
can have a strong influence on their behavior
-Machiavelli believes that religion can have the effect of constraining ones actions to
things considered “moral”
-Machiavelli criticizes the morality preached by Christian ethics believing that it can
cause rulers to become weak and lacking of the will to do what is necessary (contrary to
-Socrates criticizes the immorality of the Homeric gods, stating that their stories of
destructive and deceitful behavior will cause youth to follow suit (contrary to justice)
-Socrates does not reduce the importance of the gods, but recognizes that the stories
regarding them need to be altered
-Machiavelli sees religion as a means to an end and diminishes its importance relative to
the pursuit of political power
Aristotle vs. Locke: Money
8. Contrast Aristotles reservations concerning the role of money in human life with
Locke’s celebration of it.
Aristotle reservations concerning the role of money in human life
-Aristotle believes that we grossly overvalue acquisition and greatly undervalue use
-By nature the acquisition of wealth is subordinate to its use
-Money came into being to facilitate the exchange between barterers
-It serves the end of infinite acquisition
-It is forgotten that wealth is an instrument that like all instruments must be limited by the
end that it serves
-Human beings have a tendency to confuse the ends with the means (to live only with an
eye for acquisition)
-Aristotle distinguishes between the art of acquiring and using objects
-The use of possessions helps us to live a good live
-From Aristotles viewpoint, the wife as a homemaker and manager of the house enjoys
as a loftier economic status than the husband as the breadwinner
-Aristotle sees it as disgraceful to make money at the expense of other human beings
-Exchanges for monetary gain are denounced as immoral and unnatural
-Of all economic activities, the most disgraceful is lending money at interest to others
(one’s possessions coming from money itself)
-Aristotle emphasizes the need to live moderately
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