You can download the paper by clicking the button above. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Ancient political philosophy is understood here to mean ancient Greek and Roman thought from the classical period of Greek thought in the fifth century BCE to the contending theories of international relations a comprehensive survey pdf of the Roman empire in the West in the fifth century CE, excluding the rise of Christian ideas about politics during that period. This article therefore begins by surveying political practices and the reflective accounts to which they gave rise in the classical Greek period of the independent polis.
It continues to Hellenistic Greek thinkers before considering the main currents and roles of political philosophy in the Roman republic. Politics and Philosophy in Ancient Greece 2. Greece was marked by the historical emergence of the independent city-state and the variety of regimes which it could harbor. Such conflicts were addressed by the idea of justice, which was fundamental to the city as it emerged from the archaic age, sometimes reflected in Homer, into the classical period. So understood, justice defined the basis of equal citizenship and was said to be the requirement for human regimes to be acceptable to the gods. This became the major political faultline of the Greek fifth century BCE. Among equals, however defined, the space of the political was the space of participation in speech and decision concerning public affairs and actions.
At the same time, politics was shaped by the legacy of archaic poetry and its heroic ethos and by the religious cults which included, alongside pan-Hellenic and familial rites, important practices distinct to each city-state. This was a polytheistic, rather than monotheistic, setting, in which religion was at least in large part a function of civic identity. Justice was widely, if not universally, treated as a fundamental constituent of cosmic order. Some of the physikoi influenced political life, notably the Pythagoreans in southern Italy. Others held themselves aloof from political action while still identifying commonalities between nature and politics. Socrates’ speeches in the court trial—literary versions of which were produced by Plato, Xenophon, and a number of other followers—forced him to confront directly the question of his role in an Athens defined by its democratic institutions and norms.
Socrates had played his part as an ordinary citizen, allowing his name to go forward for selection by lot to serve on the Council, and serving in the army when required. While depicting himself in his defense speeches in Plato’s Apology as a new kind of virtuous citizen, Socrates makes three remarks which have in modern times been seized upon as indications of the principled limits which he might have put on the requirement to obey the law. That debate has had to confront the fact that Socrates did not actually disobey his own death sentence with which his trial concluded: when the time came, he drank the poisonous hemlock prescribed. Athens so long as the escapee fled into exile. Socrates’ education and life in the city, a city in which he has notably chosen to remain, never traveling abroad except on military service.
Near the beginning of the dialogue, a challenge is launched by the character Thrasymachus, mentioned above, asserting that all actual cities define justice in the interest of the rulers. He takes this to mean that the ethical virtue of justice which their subjects are enjoined to cultivate—traditionally seen as the necessary bond among citizens and the justification for political rule—is in fact a distorted sham. That resolution rests on the division of the soul into three parts by which the Republic places moral psychology at the heart of political philosophy. Both soul and city are posited by Socrates in arguments in Books II-IV and VIII-IX, in particular, to have a tripartite structure when the soul is embodied in a living person.
The Republic initiates a further tradition in political philosophy by laying out a template for the integration of ethics and political philosophy into a comprehensive account of epistemology and metaphysics. Kallipolis requiring an absence of private property for the guardians is not followed. Another influential aspect of the Laws is its concern with the nature of law itself as a topic proper to political philosophy. Plato’s Academy as a youth and researched there for many years thereafter. Here arises a problem unique to humans.
While for modern readers this sentence is resonant with democratic sentiments, for Aristotle it is an analytical claim. Greek dictum of citizenship among equals is presented as an analytical truth, leaving open how such equality is to be conceived in practice. In defective regimes, the good citizen and the good man may come apart. There is also a doubt as to what is to be the supreme power in the state:—Is it the multitude? He develops in particular detail the arguments that might be made on behalf of the many and the knowledgeable one respectively.