SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy began when Greek thinkers (ca. 600 BCE) began to account for nature in terms of rational principles rather than as a mythological playground of the gods. For these earliest philosophers, “nature” was comprehensible in terms of reason. The whims of the gods could not and did not explain the “natural.”
By the time of Socrates and Plato (ca. 400 BCE), the Sophists had argued that the political realm could be distinguished from the natural order (as described by the philosophers). For the Sophists, as for Plato and Socrates, there is a political order which is not identical with the processes of nature. Since the political realm is free from the inevitable processes of nature, it can be fashioned in accordance with a rational model. Convention and nature can be transcended. Political philosophy which emerges for the first time in Socrates/Plato presupposes that the political order is amenable to human art.
For Plato, the independence of the political order from religion, convention, and nature did not imply its independence from the moral order (as it did for the Sophists). True knowledge of the political order transforms politics and brings it into alignment with the moral order.
“Political philosophy will then be the attempt to replace opinion about the nature of political things by knowledge of the nature of political things. . . . Political philosophy is the attempt truly to know both the nature of political things and the right, or the good, political order.”
“[I]t is not the case that one has a choice between having a political philosophy and not having a political philosophy. The choice is between, on the one hand, holding a political philosophy that is derived from habit or from an intellectual fad shared by a peer group and, on the other hand, holding a political philosophy that is created through encounters with fundamental principles.”
Political philosophy is not focused on factional or party politics. Rather, it reflects on the relation between current practices, issues, and institutions and more fundamental notions such as justice, power, and authority. Politics assumes the legitimacy of current institutions; political philosophy seeks to appraise institutions and practices in light of considerations which originate outside of political practice itself.
“[M]ost of the great statements of political philosophy have been put forward in times of crisis; that is, when political phenomena are less effectively integrated by institutional forms. . . . Although the task of political philosophy is greatly complicated in a period of disintegration, the theories of Plato, Machiavelli, and Hobbes, for example, are evidence of a ‘challenge and response’ relationship between the disorder of the actual world and the role of the political philosopher as the encompasser of disorder. The range of possibilities appears infinite, for now the political philosopher is not confined to criticism and interpretation; he must reconstruct a shattered world of meanings and their accompanying institutional expressions; he must, in short, fashion a political cosmos out of political chaos.”
“Of all the authoritative institutions in society, the political arrangement has been singled out as uniquely concerned with what is ‘common’ to the whole community. . . . political philosophy has been taken to mean reflection on matters that concern the community as a whole.”
“[A]t all other levels of reflection on political life we have before us the single world of political activity, and what we are interested in is the internal coherence of that world; but in political philosophy we have in our minds that world and another world, and our endeavour is to explore the coherence of the two worlds together. . . . Political philosophy . . . is the consideration of the relation between civil association and eternity.”
“[I]deas are the most migratory things in the world.”
“[T]he quest of a historical understanding even of single passages in literature often drives the student into fields which at first seem remote enough from his original topic of investigation. The more you press in towards the heart of a narrowly bounded historical problem, the more likely you are to encounter in the problem itself a pressure which drives you outward beyond these bounds.”
“[I]t is remarkably difficult to avoid falling under the spell of our own intellectual heritage. As we analyze and reflect on our normative concepts, it is easy to become bewitched into believing that the ways of thinking about them bequeathed to us by the mainstream of our intellectual traditions must be the ways of thinking about them. . . . The history of philosophy, and perhaps especially of moral, social and political philosophy, is there to prevent us from becoming too readily bewitched. The intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds.”
Over the past generation there has been a major
shift in how the classics of political philosophy are understood. Prior to the
1960s, many understood the canon of leading texts as timeless commentaries on
perennial issues, e.g., the nature of authority, the conditions necessary for
political order, etc. Since the 1960s, however, a school of interpretation—centred in
After the Greek victory over the Persians in 490
Hostilities broke out between the Spartan-led
As the war dragged on, strong factional interests
As the war progressed, strong complaints were registered against the incapacitated assembly. The playwright, Aristophanes (ca. 448—388 B.C), railed against the democracy which had devolved into mob rule and which was led by demagogues interested only in power, honour, and wealth.
By the end of the war, suspicions were at an all-time high: the poor suspected the oligarchic intentions of the wealthy who in turn plotted against the ineptitude and corruption of the democratic assembly.
The Greek word dike which is usually translated as ‘justice’ actually has a much broader connotation than our word ‘justice.’ Dike is perhaps best understood as synonymous with ‘right’ or ‘righteousness’.
During the war, a wide variety of conceptions of justice were invoked. Some of these conceptions were rooted in traditional Greek society, some in the calmer life of the polis (city-state) and some in the exigencies of war. For instance, even in Plato’s day, the traditional Greek understanding of justice as helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies was still subscribed to.
During the conference held by
All Lacedaemonians [Sparta and her allies] who are
of the opinion that the treaty has been broken, and that Athens is guilty,
leave your seats and go there,” pointing out a certain place; “all who are of
the opposite opinion, there.” They accordingly stood up and divided; and those
who held that the treaty had been broken were in a decided majority. Summoning
the allies, they told them that their opinion was that
On still other occasions the Athenians espoused the view that justice was the right of the stronger to rule the weaker. When confronting the Mileans with the threat to submit or die, the Athenian representatives alleged that justice was simply the expediency of superior force.
As the war dragged on, many came to regard the rhetoric of ‘justice’ as simply a cloak for uncaring self-interest. Underneath the rhetoric lurked revenge, simple acquisitiveness, the love of honour, or even the venting of spontaneous passion.
“The new type of man developing under the pressures of war was a cynic who believed that might makes right, who rejected all the old loyalties and the old virtues unless they were expedient, that is, unless they helped him accomplish his private ends.”
Justice seemed utterly powerless in the democratic assembly and the battlefield. “Justice itself . . . [was] . . . among the chief victims of the [Peloponnesian] war.”
In Plato’s day there was a pervasive relativism regarding the nature of justice. Class antagonisms grew. The democratic assembly was contorted by violent mood swings. Politicians “fashioned power from the grievances, resentments, and ambitions festering the community.”
For Plato, this factionalism or “politics” was the source of instability and was fostered by the democratic impulses which aimed at maximal individual liberty. The only hope was that the moral order might come to dominate the life of the polis. Only then could wisdom, justice, harmony, and political order secure the best human life.
“By the end of the fifth century B.C. all aspects of the culture . . . had combined to produce an extremely dangerous situation. A widespread dissolution of the old beliefs that had held society together, coupled with a radical scepticism about the possibility of discovering new and better grounds for the old social formula, had resulted in the same narrow and ruthless self-seeking that the tensions of war and defeat had naturally and independently engendered. Thus the very fabric of society seemed to be collapsing. The hard-won and only recently achieved political unity of the city-state had disappeared in divisive party conflict; the old ideal of sophrosyne, of moderation and self-discipline, had given way to deliberate and unrestrained seeking of extremes; the old probity, the high-mindedness, loyalty, and devotion to civic duty that had enabled a tiny state like Athens to defeat the great Persian empire less than a century earlier, had been replaced by licentious self-seeking and a concentration on sensual pleasures that was altogether incompatible with the health of the city.”
Cephalus: Justice is speaking the truth and paying debts
Polemarchus: Justice is benefiting one’s friends and harming one’s enemies
Thrasymachus: Justice is the advantage of the stronger who get to identify justice with their own interests
331c (Classics, 6): Contra Cephalus
338e-339a (Classics, 9): Thrasymachus states his view
342e (Classics, 13): Contra Thrasymachus
Each of these conceptions of justice fail since they overlook an essential feature of justice, namely, that it is unqualifiedly good or salutary. Everything that is just must also be unreservedly good. Justice can only be fully salutary when the laws of the city (polis) are themselves good and then and only then can the good citizen justly obey the laws of the city.
Socrates is challenged by Glaucon in Book II to show that justice is an intrinsic good, that is, it is good or self-sufficiently productive of happiness apart from the benefits (reputation, honours, money, etc.) which may accrue from it.
The connection between justice and the good moves us from considering justice as a property of actions per se to a conception of justice which arises within the soul or city prior to any given act. Thus, in order to show the linkage between justice and the good, an ideal (“in speech”) city must be examined.
357b (Classics, 18); 367c-d (Classics, 26): The challenge to prove the intrinsic value of justice
368e-369a (Classics, 28): The search for justice begins with the city
413c-d (Classics, 32): The training of the guardians
414d-415c (Classics, 33-34): The noble fiction of a common origin & divine selection
432a (Classics, 42): The location of three classic Greek virtues—wisdom, courage, and moderation in the city
434c-d (Classics, 44): The location of justice in the city
434d-441c (Classics, 44-50) The soul has three parts: reason, spiritedness, and appetite.
441e (Classics, 51): Justice is the proper relation between parts of the soul
Plato had established in Laches that virtues cannot refer primarily to outward actions since every imaginable “just” act can issue from a nonvirtuous soul.
“We ordinarily attribute a virtue to a person on the basis of certain sorts of behaviour. When Plato tells us what the virtue is, he identifies the underlying condition of soul which normally gives rise to this behaviour.”
443d (Classics, 52): Justice as concerned with the inner parts of the soul
443e (Classics, 52-3): Justice preserves and achieves the inner harmony of the city and the soul
445a-b (Classics, 54): Justice as intrinsically valuable—that is, prior to any advantage it may bring. Justice directly or immediately promotes happiness. [See also 588e-589a (Classics, 91)]
The justice of the polis is not a generalization about its members, (i.e., all of the members are just therefore the polis is just). Nor is the justice of the polis simply that everyone does his own function. Rather the polis ensures that everyone will do his own function and only his own.
“This, therefore, is the lynch-pin of the whole, that each class should do its own, and it is with this feature of the polis that its justice is identical. So long, in particular, as only those men and women rule who are fitted by nature to do so, and so long as they carry out assiduously the duties of rulers, the polis and all its educational, legal, and other social institutions will function as they should. It is this feature which ensures that every man does his own. It is this feature which produces and preserves the virtues of wisdom, courage and temperance in the polis.”
For Plato, education is character training, bringing the spirited and appetitive elements under the proper moral influence of the rule of reason. Since the ideal city has been founded, innovation is not permitted, not even in children’s songs (IV.4).
“A state which is meant for the moral perfection of its members will be an educational institution.”
“It is because the polis as a whole is just that the members of every class are just. The apparent conflict disappears when the temporal dimension is taken into account. Each man’s justice helps to sustain the social institutions which keep him just, and ensure that his children resemble him. The polis is the means by which men, once just, remain so, and transmit their justice through the generations.”
Education immortalizes the polis. “And so, when each generation has educated others like
themselves to take their place as guardians of the state, they shall depart to
Education for the GOOD
Raised in state nurseries; allowed to grow as the body dictates; senses are to be stimulated towards accurate experiences; must not be subjected to fear; pleasure and pain are to be minimized.
Taught fairy tales, nursery rhymes, stories of the gods; emphasis on the virtuous gods; immoral stories omitted or censored; encouraged to play a great deal; punishment is not to be too disgraceful; self-will must be curbed; the spirit should not be destroyed; imitation is a chief means of learning at this stage.
The wildness of the child must be brought under control through music, play-manners, religion, dancing; an emphasis on gymnastics and military training; horsemanship and the use of small weapons must be learned; introductory studies in poetry, reading, writing, singing, numbers, geometry.
Mastering of the lyre and subjects undertaken previously; the creation of the proper moral spirit; begin to study the theory and practical application of arithmetic; memorize much poetry and learn countless religious hymns.
Strenuous military training; rigorous physical exercises; no intellectual education.
At age 20: (1) those suited for military service go to their assigned task; (2) those suited to be guardians continue studying for 10 years; these studies are to be largely mathematical (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy).
At age 30 the less brilliant go into lower civil offices; others continue on for 5 years; study of philosophy (dialectics and metaphysics)—pure knowledge and pure reality.
15 years of practical experience; philosophical pursuits; taking turns in office as a matter of public duty; their main task: to contemplate and think about the essence of the good life by which the state should be regulated.
In an important sense, all of western political philosophy is an appraisal of Plato.
Plato’s political theory is profoundly antagonistic towards “politics” and its attempt to manage conflict. For Plato, true political art avoids conflict by invoking a definite model which guarantees consensus. Order, beauty, stability, harmony must originate outside of the political order—they cannot arise within the public life of the polis.
Plato’s account provides a tantalizing prospect of absolute knowledge wedded to absolute power, what Arthur Melzer calls the “lawless rule of the wise.”
“Anxious for a free field for the higher wisdom, Plato will have no laws in the state of the Republic. The eternal Ideas matter more than laws; and those who have apprehended these Ideas must be free to stamp them at their discretion on the state . . . the impress of a timeless and eternally perfect Idea upon receptive matter.”
“The Good at which the Platonic polis aimed was in no way dependent on the community, nor was it in any real sense a matter for political decision.” There was no sharing of political power, except among the guardians. Plato’s deep distrust of political participation extends even to the rulers who do not actually deliberate about the Good, they simply “see” it. Reason serves the polis, not as deliberator, but as controller and orderer.
“In Plato’s scheme, there was no power to share; what was sharable was the Form of the Good written into the structure of the community. The results of this line of argument were two-fold: the idea of citizenship was severed from the idea of meaningful participation in the making of political decisions; and the idea of the political community, that is, a community that seeks to resolve its internal conflicts through political methods, is replaced by the idea of the virtuous community devoid of conflict and, therefore, devoid of ‘politics’. Plato did not deny that each member of the community, no matter how humble his contribution, had a right to share the benefits of the community; what he did deny was that his contribution could be erected into a claim to share in political decision-making.”
Plato overlooks a fundamental feature of the nature of political judgments: many political conflicts cannot be mediated by an appeal to the Truth. Furthermore, political judgments must also seek to express a sense of belonging for the various parties within the political community and thus cannot simply assert policy as “truth.” In spite of Plato’s antagonism, consensus crafted from conflict can positively build and express connectedness.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in Stageira which was
under the dominion of the king of Macedon. His father was a physician who
attended the family of the Macedonian king. At about the age of seventeen
Aristotle went to
In 343, Aristotle briefly served as a tutor to
Alexander, son of the Philip of Macedon. By 336, Aristotle was back in
“The theoretical sciences yield truths which are universal and necessary, truths that are deducible with logical necessity from self-evident principles.” These sciences are not interested in serving needs, but with the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. In addition to the major sciences listed in the paragraph immediately below, this group includes theology, astronomy, biology, botany, metereology.
e.g., Mathematics which studies number, magnitude, figure; physics which studies the principles of motion and rest, growth and decay; and metaphysics which studies the fundamental principles of being.
These sciences deal with things which are changeable and subject to human art. They involve “know-how” knowledge rather than theoretical knowledge. Productive knowledge does not tell the producer what to do with the product once it is produced. The determination of the proper end or use of things is the task of the practical sciences.
The practical sciences such as ethics and politics deal with initiating motives (arche) which arise from within man himself. The goal is to uncover those ends towards which man naturally strives and to bring about those ends through the proper type of action. The subject matter of these sciences includes a discussion of ends, means to those ends, and knowledge that guides action.
Aristotle’s ethic arises out of what nature reveals: human beings strive to actualize certain potentialities already implicit in them. The aim of ethics is to act in ways which achieve what is naturally implicit. Ethics seeks proper action and not knowledge per se.
Although there is no categorical definition of the Good (and thus no Form of the Good), the final end of all goods (e.g., pleasure, honour, wealth) is found in what they seek to actualize beyond themselves. Things are good, not because they derive from the Good, but because they aim at it.
“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”
“[W]e call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Now such a thing happiness [eudaimonia], above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for itself and never for the sake of something else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves . . . but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy.”
For Aristotle, eudaimonia which literally means “good spirit” indicates human flourishing, faring well, a harmonious and integrated realization of a being’s unique function. It is the good at which all human action (praxis) aims.
“Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end [goal] of action.”
“[T]he good and the ‘well’ is thought to reside in the function . . . we are seeking what is peculiar to man.”
“When something has an ergon (characteristic activity, function) . . . [its] . . . good is specified by it.”
F. Siegler’s formalization of Aristotle’s argument: (1) Man has a function; (2) The function of man is determined by what is peculiar to man; (3) What is peculiar to man is acting on reasons; (4) The function of man is acting on reasons.
“[H]uman good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue.“
“Moral virtue . . . is formed by habit.” (33)
“In a word, characteristics [hexis, trained abilities] develop from corresponding activities.” (34)
“We may thus conclude that virtue or excellence is a characteristic [as opposed to an emotion or a capacity] involving choice, and that it consists in observing the mean relative to us, a mean which is defined by a rational principle, such as a man of practical wisdom would use to determine it. It is the mean by reference to two vices: the one of excess and the other of deficiency.” (43)
(Scale of Goodness)
Vice of Deficiency -------------------------Vice of Excess
With regard to the related vices, virtue is a mean. With regard to goodness, it is an excellence.
“The virtues are precisely those qualities the possession of which will enable the individual to achieve eudaimonia and the lack of which will frustrate his movement toward that telos.”
“Political science, then, has developed in order to help humans live a good life in society. . . . it is a source of the practical wisdom that the statesman needs.“
Aristotle acquired 158 constitutions in the course of his political studies. He acknowledges the variability of constitutional arrangements and seeks to uncover what is good in a variety of political arrangements.
Nicomachean Ethics, VIII.1, 1155a, VIII.11, 1161a, Classics, 114-119.
“Friendship is the source of order in human relationships, the perfect community is one based upon true friendship. Justice, ultimately, is rooted in friendship or love and in the capacity of reason (nous) that enables humans to discover the good.”
“According to him [Aristotle], philia [friendship], taken most generally, is any relationship characterized by mutual liking . . . that is, by mutual well-wishing and well-doing out of concern for one another.”
Aristotle denied that the polis was merely conventional or customary. On the contrary, it is a naturally-growing thing (physis); the home of the fully-realized person. According to R. G. Collingwood [The Idea of Nature, 81], physis means “the essence of things which have a source of movement in themselves.”
The polis is “the satisfaction of an immanent impulse which drives men upwards, through various forms of society, into the final political form.”
The household is not an adequate model for the polis since it consists of unequal relations and the press of urgent necessities such as reproduction, food provision, and wealth acquisition. The life of polis, on the other hand, arises out of leisure (schole), equality, and mutual deliberative capacity.
“[T]he city, and only the city, is comprehensively concerned with the comprehensive human good.”
Even though persons and families may come together to form a polis out of need or self-interest, they end up living in it for the sake of the “good life.” A common understanding of justice emerges in their deliberations and binds them together (The Politics, 1252b, Classics, 121).
Regimes cannot be appraised simply in terms of how many rule—one, few, or many. They must be appraised in terms of the virtue of the ruling body. Does it rule for the common good or for its own benefit? (The Politics, 1279a-b, Classics, 140.)
“[E]ach the state must assign its awards in proportion to the contribution which each has made . . . in estimating the contribution of each we must look to the end of the state, and measure the contribution to that end.”
“[T]he Greeks believed, and Aristotle argues, that every institutional arrangement is a form of structural inequality, differentially rewarding certain traits of character, kinds of action, and values.”
By definition, a citizen participates in the deliberative and ruling activities of the polis (The Politics, 1275b, Classics, 137).
Aristotle criticizes democracy because it has substituted ‘absolute’ or ‘numerical’ equality for ‘proportionate’ equality and because it elevates freedom over all other ends.
Aristotle recognizes the various claims to justice and the various con-ceptions of justice which the one, few, and many legitimately make. He urges moderation in the face of these claims. “[T]he actualization of the best regime or the best possible regime, while indeed devoutly to be wished, is likely to come about through incremental change within the framework of existing laws and political ideas rather than through the promulgation of radical utopian schemes.”
“[I]t is preferable that law should rule rather than any single one of the citizens. . . . even if it be shown that certain persons ought to rule, these persons should be designated protectors of the law or its servants. . . . it is generally agreed that where the law is capable, its decisions should stand as authoritative (The Politics, III.16).”
The less authority a king has the more likely his kingship will endure (The Politics 1313a, Classics, 160).
“The term arche is the general term for rule . . . [It] originally signifies ‘beginning’ or ‘initiative’. . . If the essence of authority [in the archon, ruler] is thus initiative, the question will naturally arise whether the initiative needs confirmation, or some process of validation, before it can proceed on the way to achievement and consummation . . . It [kyrios] is a term familiar in the Christian liturgy in the sense of ‘Lord’; but the essential sense of the Greek root . . . is confirmation, ratification, and the general process of giving validity. . . .What, then, is the . . . to kyrion, which gives validity to the initiative of magistrates—or, it may be, of persons other than magistrates who, in the phrase of Aristotle, ‘introduce matters’? The answer of Aristotle is simple. Again and again he speaks of the deliberative body as being to kyrion. It is therefore the deliberative body which is the validity-giving organ . . . in any constitution.”
Aristotle reconnects political philosophy with physis [naturally-growing things]. Plato had disconnected physis and political philosophy by making the latter subservient to an independent moral realm and leaving the former as a passive recipient of imposed, external forms.
Since political rulership cannot be identified with any single model (such as that appropriate to the household) there is a range of legitimate polities, each of which can serve the citizens suitably and disintegrate into a lesser form.
Aristotle’s praise for the rule of law (as opposed to an unrestrained rulers—Plato) provided the basis for Constitutionalism such as that found in Aquinas, Locke, Burke, and Rousseau. Law is the highest authority; governments are servants of the law. The fundamental difference between the monarch and the tyrant is his relation to the law.
“[For Aristotle] political community presupposed differences in experience, function, interests, and points of view among citizens. It was composed of those who were naturally diverse and unequal but who were justly made equal in those respects and for those purposes germane to a common public life. Political participation enables these differences and diversities to appear to others and thereby become recognized, harmonized, and sustained.”
“The system of government implied in the genius of the Greek language and the terminology of Aristotle is
thus a system in which the ‘initiative’ of civic magistrates is combined with
‘validation’ by the civic organ of deliberation. These are terms in which we
must think of the government of the Greek polis.
They are also the terms in which we may think of the government of the Roman civitas in the early days of the
Republic. But the
“The assumption of Aristotle, as of Greek thought generally . . . is that of the small state or civic republic whose citizens know one another personally, and which can be addressed by a single herald and persuaded by a single orator when it is assembled in its ‘town meeting.’”
“[F]or the Cynic the only true social relation is that between wise men, and, as wisdom is universal in its nature, the relation has nothing to do with the local limits of earthly cities. All wise men everywhere form a single community, the city of the world, which is the only true state. To the wise man no local custom is foreign or strange, for he is a citizen of the world.”
“Epicurean and Cynic alike questioned the supposedly close connection between the virtue of the political association and the virtue of the individual, between the conditions of communal order and the discovery of the self. . . . If the gods had been truly concerned with man’s welfare, they would not have allowed the cities to disintegrate to a point where municipal life verged on the state of nature. If men could not trust in the divine agency of the gods, and if human perfection were no longer possible within the polis, the only conclusion seemed to be that man’s fate was solely a personal matter.”
“Men should not live their lives in so many civic republics, separated from one another by different systems of justice; they should reckon all as their fellow citizens, and there should be one life and one order (cosmos), as it were of one flock on a common pasture, feeding in common under one joint law.”
“[Hellenistic philosophies] reacted to the growth of large-scale, impersonal societies by projecting a picture of a society without any discernible limits at all. The decline of the polis as the nuclear center of human existence had apparently deprived political thought of its basic unit of analysis, one that it was unable to replace. . . .The megalopolis had displaced the polis, and in this new spatial dimension the old notion of the political association, as sustained by a friendship among familiars, appeared anachronistic. The concept of the political community had been overwhelmed by the sheer number and diversity of the participants.”
“If our intellectual part is common, the reason also, in respect of which we are rational beings, is common; if this is so, common also is the reason which commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so, there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow citizens; if this is so, we are members of some political community; if this is so, the world is in a manner a state.”
“This natural reason results in a natural law which, binding all rational beings together, includes all human society within its ambit. As this law has no beginning, so it knows no end, and it can never be altered or its operation suspended. Transcending all the national boundaries established by man, the true law (vera lex) is a universal canon, separating good and evil, impelling men toward rectitude, and recalling them from wrong.”
“The fundamental principle of the Stoic ethics and politics is the existence of a universal and world-wide law, which is one with reason both in nature and in human nature and which accordingly knits together in a common social bond every being which possesses reason, whether god or man. ‘Law is the ruler over all the acts both of gods and men. Law must be the director and governor and guide with respect to what is honorable and base, and therefore the standard of the just and unjust; for all beings that are social by nature, it directs what must be done and forbids what must not be done’ [These are the opening words to Chrysippus’s book, On Law]. Hence men and gods taken together form a single community. The world is their city.”
“This common law is ‘natural’ in the sense that it can be discovered by any rational mind, that it is not the willful and arbitrary positive command of the sovereign power. This is the necessary assumption, without which it is impossible for different peoples with their competing interests to live together in peace and freedom within one community.”
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature;
it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting . . . there will not
be different laws at
“[T]he appearance of a notion of higher and an older law, out of which the laws of particular states are fashioned and to which they must conform in order to be valid . . . this law is as old as the mind of God, existing long before there were states in the world. . . . no state can ever enact any binding law in derogation of this law of nature, a statement that no Greek of the fifth or fourth century B.C. could have dreamt of making, even supposing that he could have understood it.”
“[T]he Greeks thought of the law in a state only as one part or rather as one aspect of the whole polity itself, never as something outside or apart from the state to which that polity must conform . . . they thought of a law in terms of the state, not of the state in terms of law as the Romans and the medieval man invariably did.”
“[T]he presence of foreigners at
“Whatever any people itself has established as law for it, this is confined to it alone and is called the jus civile, as a kind of law peculiar to the state; whatever, on the other hand, natural reason has established among men, this is observed uniformly among all peoples and is called the jus gentium, as a kind of law which all races employ. And so the Roman people employ a law partly peculiar to themselves and partly common to all men.”
The Roman jurists came to equate the jus gentium of the law courts with the
universal law of the Stoic political theorists. This equation provided a basis
in law for the administrative needs of the burgeoning
“We must realize also that we are invested by nature with two characters as it were: one of these is universal, arising from the fact of our being all alike endowed with reason and with superiority which lifts us up above the brute. From this all morality and propriety are derived, and upon it depends the rational method of ascertaining our duty. The other character is to be assigned to individuals in particular.”
The Stoics and the Roman jurists were the first to develop a theory of the inherent and natural rights of the individual. These rights were typically derived from the individual’s possession of natural reason. States were obliged to respect these inherent rights. The Stoics were also the first to suggest that States receive their authorization from the consent of the individuals contained therein.
“Reason is the law for all men, not merely for the wise [pace the Cynics]. Despite differences of rank or position, race and nationality, even despite differences of natural endowment and moral character, there is a sense in which all men are equal. They are equal at least in the possession of a common humanity, a common affinity to the divine reason, and a common subjection to the eternal principles of right and justice. Thus interpreted the principle of natural law becomes a recognition of intrinsic worth in human personality, with the necessary implication of equality and universal brotherhood.”
“Perhaps, though, we should examine more thoroughly what are the natural principles of human fellowship and community. First is something that is seen in the fellowship of the entire human race. For its bonding consists of reason and speech, which reconcile men to one another, through teaching, learning, communicating, debating and making judgements, and unite them in a kind of natural fellowship. . . . The most widespread fellowship existing among men is that of all with all others. . . . There are indeed several degrees of fellowship among men. To move from one that is unlimited, next there is a closer one of the same race, tribe and tongue, through which men are bound strongly to one another. More intimate still is that of the same city, as citizens have many things that are shared with one another: the forum, temples, porticoes and roads, laws and legal rights, law-courts and political elections; and besides these acquaintances and companionship, and those business and commercial transactions that many of them make with many others. A tie narrower still is that of the fellowship between relations: moving from that vast fellowship of the human race we end up with a confined and limited one” (Book I, section 50, 51, 53).
“The rational faculty of man was conceived as producing
a common conception of law and order which possessed a universal validity. . .
. This common conception included, as its three great notes, the three values
“The Stoics had argued from an idea about the order of nature, that is the harmony of a rationally integrated universe, to a notion of an ideal society embracing all of creation. This produced a theory that rested upon a serious confusion of contexts, the one a context of natural objects, the other a context of human beings. . . . What the Stoics had done was to extract certain ideas previously connected with the political order and to transfer them to the natural order. Universal ‘citizenship’, natural ‘law’ and ‘justice’ were seriously claimed as attributes of this latter order, and men were exhorted to extend their allegiance to the cosmos as though it were a true society.”
“When we compare the political society in which
If universal reason and universal law are immediately available to all persons as rational beings, could not one man (an emperor or absolute sovereign) embody universal reason. If reason, justice, and law don’t depend on interpersonal deliberation, they can be discerned by reason operating solely within one individual.
“For how could the city of
“Even in the state of innocence men would have sought one another’s company and would have tended together toward the final goal of human existence.”
“The peace of all things is the tranquillity of order. Order is the distribution which allots all things equal and unequal, each to its own place.”
Whereas rulership is necessary prior to the fall and in heaven itself, dominion or coercive power is annexed to rulership only after the fall.
A harmony of right order—God ruling reason, reason ruling the appetites, and the soul ruling the body—”would have prevailed if man had persevered in the state of original justice. In that state men would have benefited from all the advantages of society without any of its inconveniences. They would not have been subjected against their will to other men and, instead of vying with one another for the possession of earthly goods, they would have shared all things equitably in perfect amity and freedom.”
In the fall, Adam lusted after coercive power and the desire to dominate others. The selfishness of Adam’s desire inevitably leads to polities which are more or less despotic. After the fall, it is necessary that rulership be despotic since it is necessary to maintain social peace and order. Because the fall affected both ruler and those ruled, coercion is a necessary element of post-lapsarian rulership.
“[G]overnment was seen as the secular corollary for supernatural grace, in that it provided an antidote in the secular domain to the evil propensities of fallen human nature. . . . Thus, whereas grace operates inwardly, moving the individual soul to spiritual regeneration by supernatural power—divine charity—government operates externally by human power—the secular sword—moving society to outward conformity to the norms of social justice and public order. . . . govern-ment was perceived as an instrument of coercion and punishment necessary for the maintenance of justice and order in the domain of corrupt human nature.”
Whereas classical political writers had insisted that the political order is more than coercion and power in that it alone can help man attain true virtue and his true nature, for Augustine, political society “is a punishment for sin. If it can be called natural at all, it is only in reference to man’s fallen nature. . . . it too is willed by God as a further means of checking his [man’s] insatiable lust to dominate. All rule is inseparable from coercion and is despotic to that degree. The whole of political society becomes punitive and remedial in nature and purpose. Its role is essentially a negative one, that of castigating wrongdoers and of restraining evil among men by the use of force.”
“But if we discard this definition of a people [“an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgement of right and by a community of interest”—Cicero, De Republica], and, assuming another, say that a people is an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love, then, in order to discover the character of any people, we have only to observe what they love. . . . it will be a superior people in proportion as it is bound together by higher interests, inferior in proportion as it is bound together by lower. According to this definition of ours, the Roman people is a people, and its weal is without doubt a commonwealth or republic.”
None of the classical political forms achieved justice in the sense of giving to each his due. “Where then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God and yields himself to demons? Is this to give every one his due?” In light of this failure, Augustine proposed a broader scope to the definition of justice as giving to each his due. True justice can only occur in commonwealths whose founder and governor is Christ. The true commonwealth is grounded in Christian righteousness and the love of God. It transcends every human and temporal city.
“But the fact is, true justice has no existence
save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ, if at least any choose
to call this a republic; and indeed we cannot deny that it is the people’s
weal. . . . we may at all events say that in this city is true justice; the
city of which Holy Scripture says, ‘Glorious things are said of thee, O city of
“Thus did my two wills—one old and the other new, one carnal, the other spiritual--contend within me; and by their discord they unstrung my soul. . . . While I was deliberating whether I would serve the Lord my God now, as I have long purposed to do, it was I who willed and it was also I who was unwilling. In either case, it was I. I neither willed with my whole will nor was I wholly unwilling. And so I was at war with myself and torn apart by myself.”
“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience.”
“[Friends] may mean those in the same house, such as a man’s wife or children or any other members of the household; or it can mean all those in the place where a man has his home, a city, for example, and a man’s friends are thus his fellow-citizens; or it can extend to the whole world, and include the nations with whom a man is joined by membership of the human society; or even to the whole universe, “heaven and earth” as we term it, and to those whom the philosophers call gods, whom they hold to be wise man’s friends—our more familiar name for them is ‘angels.’”
“The society of mortals spread abroad through the earth everywhere, and in the most diverse places, although bound together by a certain fellowship of our common nature, is yet for the most part divided against itself, and the strongest oppress the others.”
“This race we have distributed into two parts, the one consisting of those who live according to man, the other of those who live according to God. And these we also mystically call the two cities, or the two communities of men, of which the one is predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil.”
“Both the city of God and the earthly city extend beyond the borders of individual cities and neither one is to be identified with any particular city or kingdom. . . . What establishes a person as a member of one or the other of these two cities is not the race or nation that he might claim as his own but the end that he pursues and to which he ultimately subordinates all of his actions.”
“In truth, these two cities are entangled together in this world, and intermixed until the last judgment affect their separation.”
“[T]he heavenly and the earthly . . . [cities] . . . are mingled together from the beginning down to the end. Of these, the earthly one has made to herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter, or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly, and is a pilgrim on the earth, does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God, of whom she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end.”
“When Augustine distinguished between the ‘two loves’ which characterize the ‘two cities,’ the love of God and the love of self, and when he pictured the world as a commingling of the two cities, he does recognize that the commingling is due, not to the fact that two types of people dwell together but because the conflict between love and self-love is in every soul.”
“The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of the peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away. Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it.”
“This does not mean that the city of
As with the Stoics and the Cynics, Augustine holds that there are communities of fellowship which are universal in scope. For Augustine, even the earthly city with its deep divisions, competing lusts, and unabashed sinfulness is still a city. In addition, Augustine emphasizes that these universal communities are extended in time across the whole of human (and angelic) existence and into the indefinite future.
Augustine’s City of
“To the extent to which . . . [dual citizenship] . . . removes from the jurisdiction of the city and reserves for a higher authority an essential part of man’s life, it represents a departure from the classical tradition, but insofar as it claims to provide the solution, sought in vain by the pagan philosophers, to the problem of human living, it may be viewed as a prolongation and fulfillment of that tradition.”
Throughout the Middle Ages [ca. 500—1300], political and ecclesiastic thinkers are left to wrestle with the implications of Augustine’s claim that the secular and sacred are radically distinct realms. Typically, the latter is given priority.
The thirteenth century was a time of increasing
intellectual and social unrest in
The early medieval understanding of the king and bishop as christomimetes (lit. impersonators of Christ) slowly gave rise to more imperialist concepts of kingship and Papacy. Whereas throughout much of the early middle ages kings and church officials were understood to be imitators of the humble and suffering Christ, increasingly they described themselves as ruling in the power of God the Father.
This transformation in the understanding of rulership
was deeply influenced by the infusion of Roman legal concepts into the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries. The legal codes of the late
In the ninth century, the Eucharistic elements—bread
and wine—were understood as incorporated into the mystical body (corpus mysticum) of Christ during the
Eucharist. By the twelfth century the mystical aspect of the corpus mysticum receded and the real
presence of Christ was emphasized by the
“The gifts of grace are added to nature in such a way that they do not destroy but rather perfect nature. Thus the light of faith which is infused in us by grace does not destroy the natural light of reason divinely given to us. And although the natural light of the human mind is insufficient to manifest what is manifested through faith, nonetheless it is impossible that what has been divinely given us by faith should be contrary to what is given us by nature.”
“There was, Thomas [Aquinas] said, a double ordering of things (duplex ordo in rebus), one was the natural, the other the supra-natural. . . .The inflexible contrast between nature and grace gave way to a more flexible and realistic dualism, a dualism consisting of nature and supernature.” What issues from grace does not cancel what was is given in nature; it completes it.
Example: “The state itself was for him [Aquinas], as for Aristotle, something in accordance with nature, something good in itself and needed by man in order to fulfil his nature.”
“[T]he city has as its purpose the promotion of the good life or virtue among its citizens.”
Public order only comes into existence when individuals are arranged so that their common efforts may reach the end appropriate to human life. A governing power is necessary to establish and maintain this public order. “[T]here must exist something which impels toward the particular good of each individual. Wherefore also in all things that are ordained toward one end, one thing is found to rule the rest.”
The relation of ruler to ruled is not the result of the Fall. Prior to the fall the political association would have been oriented to another end, coercion would have been absent, protection would not have been needed and transgressions would not have needed correction since all men would have desired the real good.
Although Aquinas affirms in some places that the supreme ruler is the representative or viceregent of the whole people (multitudo), he shifts his language to refer to the supreme ruler as a guardian of the community and finally he speaks of public law as a “dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community.” And not only is the supreme ruler the fount of public law, he is its chief judicial or interpretive figure as well.
“Throughout the Middle Ages there had been two competing theories of authority. The ascending theory of authority, associated at the beginning with the Germanic tribes, is that authority is located in the political community, and then, through consultation and election, the community chooses a leader whom it would then also have the authority to depose. The descending theory was that authority was from God but is delegated to rulers through various means. The latter theory was the orthodox position of both the Emperor and the Church.”
“[Law is] an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, 90, 4)
“[L]aw denotes a kind of plan directing acts toward an end” (S. T., I-II, 93, 3).
“[T]he proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given good.“ (S.T., I-II, 92, 1).
“[I]t is evident that all things partake of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they desire their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends” (S.T., I-II, 91, 2).
Eternal law refers to the God-infused direction, inclination, and ordering of all beings toward the realization of their good and the Good of the whole.
“Wherefore, it [a rational creature] has a share of the eternal reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law” (S. T., I-II, 91, 2).
Because humans can perceive the purposive order in nature via reason, natural law is possible. Its precepts descend naturally (reasonably) from an awareness of what is good for human persons.
e.g., self-preservation, sexual intercourse, the education of offspring, the desire to know the truth, the desire to live in society
“Hence this is the first precept of [natural] law, that good is to be done and ensued, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this” (S. T., I-II, 94, 2).
“[A]ll those things to which man has a natural inclination are naturally apprehended by reason as being good” (S. T., I-II, 94, 2).
“[E]very human law has just so much of the nature of law as it is derived from the law of nature” (S. T., I-II, 95, 2).
“The general principles of the natural law cannot be applied to all men in the same way, on account of the great variety of human affairs, and hence arises the diversity of positive laws among various people” (S. T., I-II, 95, 2).
“The purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue, not suddenly, but gradually” (S. T., I-II, 96, 2).
“Besides the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a divine law” (S. T., I-II, 91, 4). “[T]here is need for certain additional principles” (S. T., I-II, 91, 4).
The divine law directs the “inward movements of virtue” and not merely outward conformance with the human or natural laws.
“But to his supernatural end man needs to be directed in a yet higher way. Hence the additional law given by God, whereby man shares more perfectly in the eternal law” (S. T., I-II, 91, 4).
For Aquinas, the final end of human life is not to live in accordance with virtue, but by means of a virtuous life to participate in the divine life. And since human laws cannot direct men to this ultimate end, guidance must issue from the divine law.
“In the Pope the secular power is joined to the spiritual. He holds the apex of both powers, spiritual and secular, by the will of Him who is Priest and King unto eternity, King of Kings.”
“[Regarding the authority exercised by rulers, by bishops, archbishops, etc. over their subjects] [A]ll of them have received it from the Pope and with it the conditions and limitations of its use.”
For Aquinas, Christ has only one vicar, the Pope, and
the Pope is the head of the
“Human excellence is no longer defined or circumscribed by the conditions of the political life. . . . By sharing in that [natural] law he finds himself, along with all other intelligent beings, a member of a universal community or cosmopolis ruled by divine providence and whose justice is vastly superior to any human regime.”
Aquinas’s emphasis on natural law reconfigures the classical Greek concern with man’s completeness and fulfillment by insisting on a willing and grateful compliance with a divinely authorized and unconditionally binding law.
Within a generation Dante [1265-1321] argues that man’s double nature—intellect and soul—demands two separate systems of authority or kingdoms. The terrestrial emperor was to actualize the intellectual and philosophic perfection of the humana civilitas (human race) and the pope the spiritual perfection of the same. Each should lead to respective paradises: the terrestrial and the heavenly.
Thus I say that the temporal realm does not owe its existence to the spiritual realm, nor its power (which is its authority), and not even its function in an absolute sense . . . the authority of the temporal monarch flows down into him without any intermediary from the Fountainhead of universal authority; this Fountainhead, though one in the citadel of its own simplicity of nature, flows into many streams from the abundance of his goodness.
Many of the emerging theories of the nation state will appeal to a similar notion, namely, that political authority is derived immediately from a single definitive source: God, natural law, or the people. Political authority will increasingly insist that it is independent of the all-encompassing plentitudo potestatis of the Church.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) grew up during the
golden age of Florentine culture and influence. In the centuries prior to
As Machiavelli matured he observed the city and its
decline into political chaos and servitude to foreign powers. During his mature
years there was incessant conflict between the major Italian cities—
For the fourteen years leading up to the downfall of the Florentine republic in 1512, Machiavelli served as a diplomat on its behalf. During his many diplomatic missions he visited many centres of political authority.
Machiavelli was an intense Florentine patriot. Nevertheless,
he saw the need for a strong Italian state capable of imposing its authority on
a deeply divided
A major difficulty in interpreting Machiavelli arises from his astounding discontinuities with the thought of his day (and western thought as a whole).
1. He does not mention natural law.
2. His political theory and advice is not obviously related to an underlying systematic philosophy.
3. He does not rely on Christian theological concepts—God, sin, grace, redemption.
4. There is no trace of a teleology or purpose inherent in nature.
5. There is no proposed ideal political order.
6. Religion is simply an instrument of social unity and public policy.
7. He openly praises political partisanship.
8. He denies that there is such a thing as a self-sufficient or ideal city.
9. He claims that good effects do not always come from good causes. In fact, one cannot be good in order to arrive at a good end.
2. Cautionary tales: Beware of tyrants!
3. A continuation of the “mirror for princes” genre
4. Anti-Christian polemics
5. Defenses of pagan principles
6. The anguishes of a humanist lamenting political necessities
7. Pleas from a passionate patriot
8. Morally-neutral political science
9. Astute observations of the political environment
10. A theory of the centralized state
A slavish worship of
12. A realism which avoids utopian fantasies
13. Diatribes of a demonic madman
Superior men seek after the glory of creating and maintaining strong and well-governed social wholes.
Power, magnificence, pride, austerity, pursuit of glory, vigour, discipline, public spiritedness, shrewdness, in short, of all of the antiqua virtus of the Roman republic and early empire make states great (288, 305).
All human activities and excellencies require an imposed social order which creates security, stability and protection (284). “[L]aw is not a derivation from reason or nature but a human tool and creation.”
“For Machiavelli, conflict and force, fear and necessity explain our political beginnings. ‘Morality’ develops from the necessities of the political order, not from God’s commands or from the structure of human nature.”
“For Machiavelli there is just one beginning—necessity. Every human institution begins without an inheritance from God or nature. God did not give us a perfect beginning, as the Bible says, and nature did not provide us with a potentiality for politics, as Aristotle says. We began bare, unprotected, insecure, and justly fearful. Having nothing to remind us of the good from which we have fallen, or to which we might aspire, we must set our sights on what is necessary to us. . . . Politics cannot bring respite from the primitive necessities in order to aim at the good life, Machiavelli thinks, because those necessities are too powerful to be suppressed by civilization. They are too powerful because they are in motion.”
“In order to cure degenerate populations of their diseases, these founders of new States or Churches may be compelled to have recourse to ruthless measures, force and fraud, guile, cruelty, treachery, the slaughter of the innocent, surgical measures that are needed to restore a decayed body to a condition of health” (288).
“A prince, therefore, should have no other object or thought, nor acquire skill in anything, except war, its organization, and its discipline.”
“A prudent man should always follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been outstanding.”
“A prince, therefore, need not necessarily have all the good qualities I mentioned above, but he should certainly appear to have them.”
“So, as a prince is forced to know how to act like a beast, he should learn from the fox and the lion; because the lion is defenceless against traps and a fox is defenceless against wolves. Therefore one must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves.”
“[A] prudent ruler cannot, and should not, honour his word when it places him at a disadvantage.”
“[M]en must be either pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small injuries but not for grievous ones. So any injury a prince does a man should be of such a kind that there is no fear of revenge.”
Machiavelli has been praised (or condemned) for the fact that he is the first to articulate the view that politics can be emancipated from “anything above it.” Machiavelli does not, however, free politics from ethical considerations per se, but only from ethical theories which are independent of the necessities of political preservation. Christian or Platonic political philosophies, for instance, are hopelessly alien from political realities and, for that reason, downright dangerous.
The ideals of Christianity—charity, mercy, self-sacrifice, love of God, forgiveness of enemies, contempt for the goods of this world, faith in the life hereafter—are incommensurate with terrestrial realities.
“Machiavelli is convinced that what are commonly thought of as the central Christian virtues, whatever their intrinsic value, are insuperable obstacles to the building of the kind of society that he wishes to see; a society which, moreover, he assumes that it is natural for all normal men to want—the kind of community that, in his view, satisfies men’s permanent desires and interests” (290).
Machiavelli does not deny the goodness of Christian ideals. He does affirm, however, that these ideals discourage men in their quest for a strong society on earth (290-91). If all men were good, Christian ideals would be best (295).
“The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous. Therefore if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must learn how not to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need. . . . some of the things that appear to be virtues will, if he practises them, ruin him, and some of the things that appear to be wicked will bring him security and prosperity.”
The attempt to combine these two great value systems is politically and spiritually disastrous. “One can save one’s soul, or one can found or maintain or serve a great and glorious State; but not always both at once” (294).
“[I]n politics, whether an action is evil or not can only be decided in the light of what it is meant to achieve and whether it successfully achieves it.”
Rather than Machiavelli’s ethic being divorced from larger considerations, the ultimate political end or good sought (after all, Machiavelli loved his native city more than his own life) gives rise to the ethics espoused by Machiavelli.
“Machiavelli’s cardinal achievement is . . . his uncovering of an insoluble dilemma, the planting of a permanent question mark in the path of posterity. It stems from his de facto recognition that ends equally ultimate, equally sacred, may contradict each other, that entire systems of value may come into collision without possibility of rational arbitration, and that this happens not merely in exceptional circumstances, as a result of abnormality or accident . . . but (this surely was new) as part of the normal human situation (320).
If Berlin’s interpretation (summarized in the quotation immediately above) is correct, Machiavelli shatters the entire edifice of western political and ethical thinking which had uniformly assumed that there is a single unifying political and ethical principle which underlies all human variations and disagreements (cf. Aristotle and Aquinas and their claim that all things seek after the good, or, if they seek lesser goods, these goods can be gathered up into that good).
Machiavelli gives up Plato’s and Aristotle’s notion that a single good can be uncovered within various political settings. Reason cannot uniquely determine one set of ultimate values. But given an ultimate end, instrumental reason is immediately necessary. Given the end loved—in Machiavelli’s case, the glory of patria—this type of reason is indispensable.
Machiavelli seeks to liberate the realm of politics
from all normative entanglements including natural law, custom, hereditary
kingship, Christian ethics, and classical soul-crafting—the perfection of the
human person through political activity, in short, from all metaphysical, moral,
and religious foundations. Disengagement from these forms of normative control
was a necessary element in Machiavelli’s nationalism. In order for
Note the Augustinianism of Machiavelli. In particular, notice that something like Augustine’s two wills/two loves operates here. What is most loved, rather than that which is metaphysically ultimate, is what guides the prince. As it turns out, Machiavelli finds himself a lover of the city of man. His devotion parallels that of Augustine for God.
For Machiavelli, like Augustine, the object of this love cannot be rationally deduced from what is. The good must first be loved before instrumental reason can bring this state of affairs into existence or maintain it. In the end, it is true for both Machiavelli and Augustine that one should love intently and then do what one wishes.
In his travels to the European Continent, Thomas
Hobbes (1588-1679) encountered and was greatly impressed by analytic geometry
and Galileo’s science. He returned to
Hobbes’s life was often disrupted by factionalism and the threat of civil war. His Leviathan  was published during a tumultuous period in English history which included the execution of Charles I and the rise of Oliver Cromwell. It was a period of intense debate regarding governmental form and jurisdiction.
Jean Bodin (1530-1596), a French jurist, lived
during a chaotic time in
In Bodin’s judgment, a commonweal can only exist if there is a single, unified source of power (sovereignty). Sovereignty itself must have the following features in order to guarantee the viability of the commonweal:
a. It must be the most high, absolute and perpetual power (10)
b. It cannot be limited in power, mandate or time (85)
c. It must be the greatest power to command—it issues laws without consent (98)
d. It must be indivisible, incommunicable and reside in one person alone (250)
e. It cannot be bound by the laws of its predecessors, the positive laws of the kingdom or even laws which the sovereign himself has previously issued
f. It cannot be bound by outside allegiances, alliances or oaths.
Bodin’s political theory derives the political order from the order implicit in the uncontestable will of the sovereign. Political order is guaranteed by the absolute freedom (no entanglements) of the sovereign and his ability to impose conformity with his will: He gives laws and receives none. In Bodin’s sovereign we have an example of what it means, politically, to have absolutely free will.
“By the mid-17th century,
“God’s right to Reign and to punish those who break his laws is from irresistable power alone.”
“We are bound to obey God’s will, Hobbes insists, not because it is comprehensible to us, not because we have entered a covenant with him and not because it conforms to rules we would adopt ourselves were there no God. We are bound to God because he ‘hath a right to rule and punish those who break his laws, from his sole irresistible power’.”
“[T]here is no reason (or logos) inherent in nature and guiding her . . . Hobbes’s society is founded not upon reason (or logos) but upon will. And the will is simply a reflection of human appetites.”
“Nature, thus, is characterized by endless motion without direction or completion and by the absence of a teleological order.”
Hobbes’s philosophical method imitates the deductive method of geometry and the resolutive-compositive method of Galileo. He rejects Aristotle’s characterization of the state in terms of the implicit good which it actualizes and the character of the ruler(s).
“For a thing is best known from its constituents. As in an automatic Clock or other fairly complex device, one cannot get to know the function of each part and wheel unless one takes it apart, and examines separately the material, shape and motion of the parts, so in investigating the right of a commonwealth and the duties of its citizens, there is a need, not indeed to take the commonwealth apart, but to view it as taken apart, i.e. to understand correctly what human nature is like, and in what features it is suitable and in what unsuitable to construct a commonwealth, and how men who want to grow together must be connected.”
“[Y]ou can take society apart in imagination, or hypothetically . . . These imagined or hypothetical forces had to be ones which would be self-evident to any reasonable inquirer who would take the trouble to look into himself. If they were, they met the requirement—they would be the self-evident simple propositions which, once granted, could be shown to lead inexorably to the complex propositions Hobbes needed for his political science.”
Hobbes believed that human behaviour could be understood as the compounded motions of the passions within the individual. These passions push the individual from behind, so to speak—they don’t lure him toward the good as in Aristotle.
“In accordance with the synthetic or geometrical mode of proceeding . . . [Hobbes] . . . would begin with the laws of physics in general, from them deduce the passions, the causes of the behavior of individual men, and from the passions deduce the laws of social and political life.”
Hobbes identified several passions which were fundamental: (1) self-preservation, which implies the continuing quest for power and the fear of violent death; (2) the desire for peace or comfort; and (3) hope. These passions interact with those of the surrounding individuals to produce the need and desire to enter civil society.
“The Natural Law therefore (to define it) is the Dictate of right reason about what should be done or not done for the longest possible preservation of life.” Hobbes is using the traditional term “natural law” is a new sense. In a footnote to the 1647 edition of De Cive, Hobbes indicates that right reasoning means that each individual is drawing the right inferences which will further his or her preservation. He explicitly denies that the individual has access to some external “Reason.” To add to the confusion, Hobbes uses “Laws of Nature” as an equivalence for “Natural Law.”
“[B]y necessity of nature, we all desire to avoid that greatest enemy of nature, death. This being so, it is natural for us to act to preserve ourselves, with the result that no such actions can be stigmatised as contrary to right. . . . It follows that the fundamental dictate of reason, and hence the first law of nature, must be quaerere pacem, to seek peace as the only means of preserving ourselves from death.”
“The first law of nature (the foundation) is: to seek peace when it can be had: when it cannot, to look for aid in war. . . . The first of the Natural Laws derived from this fundamental natural law is that the right of all men to all things must not be held on to; certain rights must be transferred or abandoned. . . . The second of the derivative laws is: Stand by your agreements, or keep faith. . . . The third precept of natural law is: if someone has conferred a benefit on you, relying on your good faith, do not let him lose on it”“
“The laws of nature specify an optimum set of actions designed to bring about peace, the optimum condition for self-preservation.”
“By referring to the keeping of promises as a ‘law of nature,’ he is not invoking the sanctions of the older natural law tradition. Hobbes provides the same grounds for obeying this ‘law of nature’ as he provided for the others: self-preservation.”
In order to justify the civil state, it is necessary that Hobbes demonstrate that individuals in the state of nature would be motivated to enter it. This purpose-built political arrangement must be explicable in terms of the passions of those who are about to enter it.
“The state of nature is simply the condition where we are forced into contact with each other in the absence of a superior authority that can lay down and enforce rules to govern our behavior toward each other.”
Hobbes characterizes life in the State of
This State of
“For these words of Good, Evill, and Contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person who useth them: There being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common Rule of Good and Evill, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves.”
“One must recognize that good and evil are names imposed on things to signify desire for or aversion from the things so named. . . . Men are therefore in a state of war so long as they judge good and evil by the different measures which their changing desires from time to time dictate.”
“Unless we can find a scientific method of overcoming the problems raised by the technique of rhetorical redescription, and thus of stablising the language of moral appraisal, we shall find ourselves condemned to discovering at first hand how quickly political anarchy follows from anarchy in the use of evaluative terms.”
The State of
“To lay downe a mans Right to any thing, is to
devest himselfe of the
This passage shows that the covenant of individual
with individual in the State of
At the moment of making the covenant every one would say to everyone else: “I Authorise and give up my Right of Governing my self, to this Man, or to this Assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy Right to him, and Authorise all his Actions in like manner.”
“This submission of the Wills of each individual to the will of a single man or Council takes place when each and every individual person obliges himself by means of a Covenant with each and every other individual person not to resist the will of that man or Council to whom he submits himself.”
Note that the covenant is between the individuals and not between “the people” and their sovereign. For Hobbes, there is no such thing as “the people” which exists prior to the covenant of each with each.
The Covenant does not confer any new right, but
rather permits one person to remain in the State of
“As soon as such a sovereign is chosen, the commonwealth is duly instituted in the form of a single body united by virtue of having acquired a soul or anima to act on its behalf.”
“The exercise of power required nothing more than the clearing of a path among the private motions infesting political space. The purpose of the covenant, therefore, was to elicit from the members an acknowledgement of the sovereign’s right of way. By the terms of the agreement, the individuals agreed to will not to act, thereby clearing the way for the will of one ‘artificial person’.”
The newly-instituted Sovereign exhibits the features which Jean Bodin thought necessary for the existence of a Commonwealth: He is absolute, a giver of laws, a receiver of none, and his power is perpetual, indivisible, and unrestrained.
Hobbes’s Sovereign is simply an individual (any
will do) from the State of
The covenantal agreement extinguishes all claims to differential power, e.g., titles, dignities, and acclaim. Henceforth the Sovereign alone will distribute such honours (and as such, sources of power) at his discretion. After the institution of the Sovereign, there are no longer any independent and potentially-conflicting centres of authority, e.g., church, custom, common law, nobles, private scriptural interpretations, other kings, popes, etc.
“Absolute sovereignty corresponded to the ambition
of kings eager to free themselves from the
“Before there was any government, just and unjust had no being. Legitimate kings therefore make the things they command just by commanding them, and those which they forbid, unjust, by forbidding them.” 
“[T]he sovereign thereby created may, in the name of them all, allocate such names as just and unjust, good and evil, and cause men, by threat of punishment, to conduct themselves toward each other in accordance with the civil laws (and moral principles) thereby created.”
“For law is the declared will of the Sovereign.”
“Justice becomes identical to obedience to law, law being understood as the sovereign’s command or will. That is the core of the doctrine of sovereignty. The natural law tradition had defined law as rational command to indicate that the essence and obligation of law comes not from the command or authority as such, but from the intrinsic justice of what is commanded.”
For Hobbes, the sovereign’s absolute authority extends to the church and all religious matters. The sovereign alone is able to determine and authorize the canon of Scripture (Leviathan, 415); he alone is able to authoritatively interpret the Scriptures (On the Citizen, xvii.18, 219); he alone provides the unity of the church—without his authorization it cannot even assemble (Leviathan, 498); and he alone authorizes the election or appointment of church officials (Leviathan, 568). “From this consolidation of the Right Polique, and Ecclesiastique in Christian Soveraigns, it is evident, they have all manner of Power over their Subjects, that can be given to man, for the government of mens external actions, both in Policy, and Religion” (Leviathan, 575).
Hobbes has built into his conception of the
individual (in the State of
By using Bodin’s criteria of sovereignty, Hobbes is able to characterize the individual person in ways which release him/her from all feudal or constitutive bonds. The individual-as-sovereign is by definition free of all external and internal obligations. Her will is arbitrary within her realm. She is, in Hobbes’ telling phrase, a “Mortall god.”
“Whatever the context, natural, pre-existing community was giving way [in the early 17th century] to an atomism of adjustable forces; political thought now found man as naked and alone in the political world as physics was finding him in the physical. Henceforth it would be calculation, artificial arrangement, which would seek to replace the lost harmony.”
John Locke (1632-1704) came from a middle-class English family. His father, a small landowner and attorney, served as a captain in the parliamentary army. Locke’s life spanned the turmoil surrounding the execution of Charles I, the rise of Oliver Cromwell, and the reestablishment of the Stuart monarchy and the peaceful ascension of William of Orange to the English throne. The latter gave Locke hope that the fundamental upheavals of the recent past could be averted.
On several occasions Locke had to flee
Locke’s Two Treatises of Government were published in 1690, the same year he published his monumental Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
In the State of
“The state of nature . . . is a state of equality and a state of freedom. That is to say: men confront each other in their shared status as creatures of God without intrinsic authority over each other and without the right to restrict the (natural) law-abiding behaviour of others. . . . The reason why men are equal is their shared position in a normative order, the order of creation.”
In the State of
In the State of
Property exists in the State of
In Locke’s view, God originally “donated” the earth to mankind as a whole. The earth was not owned by anyone (cf. Hobbes where everyone has a right to everything). Man possesses a natural (God-given) title to his own person and to the labour which issues from his body.
As man intermingles his labour with the soil, its produce, and its bounty, he acquires title to “property” by virtue of his labouring to give it value. (This is Locke’s famous labour theory of value.) Technically speaking, property, which for Locke includes life, liberty, and estate, is an extension of the ownership of one’s own body. Through labour, the body expands to encompass a larger territory—which simultaneously delimits the freedom of others with respect to these goods.
“Property . . . is the external manifestation of freedom, its expression and its very concrete existence for others. . . . Every man, being equal to every other, manifests his liberty by the domination, the ownership of his property.”
Property is covered by the absolute right to self-defence, a right, which for Locke, can be derived from God’s original intent for human preservation. Property must be defended since it is part of the body and one is morally obligated to defend oneself against attack. Furthermore, property is protected by the owner’s inability to improperly dispose of his body (suicide). These (revised) natural law maxims (derivable from God’s originating purpose for his creation) give property the status of an absolute for Locke.
Self- and property-preservation is precarious in
the State of
This compact enables individuals to leave the State
“They are thereby presently incorporated and made one body politic wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.”
Locke’s calls this pre-governmental, instituted
body, civil society.
Civil society is logically (and temporally) prior to the institution of
government. Civil society provides a stabilizing counterpoise in that the
collapse of a government does not mean a reversion to the State of
Once the populus is constituted as a majority-will-based corporation, it remains for that body to specify what institutions will govern as its “trustees.” Regardless of what governmental institutions are chosen by the civil society, they will protect, in trust, the property and well-being of its members. The governmental agencies of the populus—legislative, judicial, executive and federative (international relations)—are limited in their scope because they are instituted to facilitate the preservation of individual property—life, liberty and possessions.
“The processes of the law, the actions of your deputy, must in fact serve the ends for which power was entrusted. Men consent to government for certain reasons, to fulfill particular purposes.”
“[Four normative conditions characterize legitimate government] . . . Political power is not absolute or arbitrary in that those who rule must base their right to rule on the consent of the people; political power must be exercised only for the sake of the preservation of the society and its members; political power must be exercised by known, standing laws; and no member of the society can be exempt from subjection to its laws.”
Genuine freedom for Locke is impossible when one is subject to the arbitrary will of another human being. (This view of freedom as freedom from the arbitrary will of another had traditionally been applied to entire cities/nations vis-a-vis their relations with foreign powers rather than as between individuals as in Locke.)
Consenting to the will of the majority is consenting only to oneself. The individual is both sovereign and subject when he follows the commands of the will of the majority. The will of the majority will not interfere with the liberty of the individual and her property since civil society was constituted on the condition that it protect those very things. Since only those powers which were resident in the individual can be “handed over” and since no person has the power or a right to harm herself or her property, the body politic can do her no harm.
Freedom is not freedom from law (pace Hobbes), but only having to obey those laws which originate in my will—which includes my will of the majority. Freedom is characterized by its relation to the free exercise of my will and is even compatible with restraints insofar as they too are derived from the free (consenting) acts of my will. Even laws which command my obedience can be self-willed.
In Locke, we have a response to the post-feudal
dilemma of how one can be both subject and sovereign. In Locke, the will of the
individual issues in two wills; one, the private will of the State of
The bifurcated self preserves the self-ownership of will, but at the cost of postulating two very different sources of will, wills which can and do contradict each other. Hobbes’s axiom that there can only be sovereigns and subjects is true within the self for Locke. Each individual is now a miniature kingdom of wills wherein one commands and the other obeys.
J. J. Rousseau was born in
Rousseau’s Social Contract has deeply influenced the practice, justification, and rhetoric of the modern state. Most contemporary theories of popular sovereignty have their proximate source in Rousseau. The Social Contract is also a source of liberal democratic efforts to extend participation in political affairs as far as possible. Authoritarian elites have used Rousseau to justify their exploitative power in the name of “forcing people to be free.” Nationalists have used Rousseau as a justification for the moral independence of the State since it is the incarnation of the general will and, as such, the very embodiment of right. Proponents of the bureaucratic state have also appealed to Rousseau’s endorsement of the moral superiority of governing by impersonal rules.
Like most modern political thinkers, Rousseau rejects the notion that man “is directed by nature toward an end.”
Rousseau is also critical of previous state of nature theorists who, in attempting to ground political right in pre-political natural right, had imported characteristics from civil society. Hobbes, for instance, assumed that man’s natural self-preservation would lead to conflict, largely because “he improperly included in Savage man’s care for his preservation the need to satisfy a multitude of passions that are the product of Society.”
In Rousseau’s view, “savage” man lived an isolated, self-sufficient, and therefore, nonmoral, life. He had only sporadic contact with others. Therefore, he would not develop the passions which Hobbes believed were natural to man, e.g., envy, distrust, unlimited acquisitiveness. All of these passions require society and social interaction. Rousseau also believed that savage man would be very limited in his reasoning abilities.
“Contrary to Locke, Rousseau finds no property right inherent in the state of nature, and no conflict could derive from this source that would lead to the need for government. Locke is further criticized for his depiction of family life in the original state. The true state of nature has only individuals existing in nature and therefore, it has no such social institutions as property or family.”
Savage man is isolated and can only focus on what is known to him. He is not concerned about death; he is idle by nature; he is generally without foresight and is therefore not acquisitive or wealth seeking. His mental capacities are undeveloped since he is without speech/language which only arises from social interaction. His (un)social condition isolates him from the vices which emerge in civil society. “[N]othing must be so calm as his soul and nothing so limited as his mind.”
Savage man is not dominated by reason or calculation. Rather, he is animated by both a benign form of self-preservation and pity, the latter of which “inspires in us a natural repugnance to seeing any sentient Being, and especially any being like ourselves, perish or suffer.”
Savage man’s movement from the state of nature towards civil society is prompted by what Allan Bloom calls “unforeseeable accidents,” namely, he is gradually forced into the closer contact with other men. He soon develops a moral consciousness of his obligations to those around him. He develops his mental capacities through the use of speech. He begins to practice vengeance and to experience the limitations thrust on him by the rise of private property claims. With the advent of property, he becomes conscious of inequality as the rich set themselves against the poor in an emerging state of war.
“The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, to whom it occurred to say this is mine, and found people sufficiently simple to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.”
Rousseau indicates that the rich seek to enter into a contract with the poor to help them (the rich) safeguard their property. This contract is entirely in the interests of the rich. It creates a morally degrading dependence in both parties. Subsequent positive law serves the needs of those in power and is experienced as an alien domination and source of violent passions.
What is missing in modern civil societies (those founded on the self-serving contract of the rich with the poor) is the public spiritedness and concern for virtue which characterized ancient republics. If social man is to overcome his socially-inculcated self-interestedness the political association must be a tutor in virtue. Since social man can no longer simply revert to his savage existence, the development of virtue will necessitate the use of collective force.
For Rousseau, the modern problem, at its most fundamental level was the problem of dependency on other wills. Dependence on other wills must be eliminated if virtuous citizenship is to be possible.
“There are two sorts of dependence: dependence on things, which is from nature; dependence on men, which is from society. Dependence on things, since it has no morality, is in no way detrimental to freedom and engenders no vices. Dependence on men since it is without order, engenders all the vices, and by it, master and slave are mutually corrupted. If there is any means of remedying this ill in society, it is to substitute law for men and to arm the general wills with a real strength superior to the action of every particular will. If the laws of nations could, like those of nature, have an inflexibility that no human force could ever conquer, dependence on men would then become dependence on things again; in the republic all of the advantages of the natural state would be united with those of the civil state, and freedom which keeps man exempt from vices would be joined to morality which raises him to virtue” (emphasis added).
“Where shall we find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and the property of each associate, and in which every person, while uniting himself with all, shall obey only himself, and remain as free as before.”
In Rousseau’s view, the reign of impersonal law was the solution to the problem of dependency on others provided that the law was not the expression of the will of another. If law was the expression of the general will of each individual, it could command and not violate freedom (recall Locke). As a resident of this post-social state of nature, she would flourish. The reign of law simultaneously guarantees political stability and virtuous action.
Rousseau (like Locke) discovers within the individual two distinct wills. The first, volunte particuliere, is that will which regards only particular (self-regarding) interests. The other, volunte generale, is inclined towards impartiality and equality. These two “forms” of will are in constant and unavoidable opposition to each other.
“Amour propre [vanity] and Amour de soi-meme [benign self-love], two very different passions in their nature and their effects, should not be confused. Self-love is a natural sentiment which inclines every animal to attend to its self-preservation and which, guided in man by reason and modified by pity, produces humanity and virtue. Amour propre is only a relative sentiment, factitious, and born in society, which inclines every individual to set greater store by himself than by anyone else, inspires men with all the evils they do one another, and is the genuine source of honor.”
“Rousseau, instead of opposing love of self to love of others, opposes two kinds of self-love, a good and a bad form. . . . Rousseau is emphasizing the original unity of self-love which is lost in relations with other men.”
In using a formal distinction between general and particular wills, Rousseau stands in a long line of French theological writers. This lineage can be traced to Pascal [1623-62] who lived and wrote a century prior to Rousseau. The distinction was first deployed in Pascal as an attempt to distinguish God’s (general) will that all men be saved prior to the fall from His (particular) will that only some be saved after the fall.
As this distinction moved from theology to political theory, the general became associated with what is good per se and the particular with what is bad per se. Under the growing influence of modern science and its (alleged) general laws, it was easy to understand God’s providence in terms of his rule by general, and not partial, laws. Human virtue was also widely understood in French theology as praiseworthy when it focused on the general and self-serving when it looked to the particular.
“[W]hat held together the tradition of French moral and political thought from Pascal to Rousseau, unifies it, and distinguishes it from either English or German practical thought, is the notion that generalite is good, particularite bad—that, if one is just, one will embrace the general good of the body, to which one will subordinate egoism and self-love.”
The instability of conventional civil society arises from the fact that the general will of the individual is unable to consistently subdue the particular will of the individual, the latter of which is self-centred and self-regarding. The social compact permits the general wills of its collected individuals to acquire sufficient power to rule over their particular wills. The artifice of the Commonwealth empowers each individual so that her general will can rule over her particular will. She will thus grow in virtue and still retain her primordial freedom.
Contrary to the generally-accepted legal maxim that one cannot obligate or bind one’s own will, Rousseau argues that the general will can bind the particular will without subjecting the individual to outside domination. The social compact institutionalizes the dominance of the general will (of each individual) over the particular will (of the same individual).
As in Locke, colonization by others is theoretically eliminated from the Commonwealth. All laws within the Commonwealth are my laws (issuing only from my general will). Since they are my laws I am not under subjection to another, and I cannot be treated unjustly (since no one can treat himself unjustly—as per the medieval legal maxim).
“This is . . . the great problem of statecraft: to find a form of government that puts law above man.”
“When the entire people determines for the whole people . . . the affair on which they enact is general, as is the will that enacts. It is this act that I call a ‘law’.”
“If, therefore, we exclude from the social compact all that is not essential, we shall find it reduced to the following terms: Each of us places in common his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will; and as one body we all receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole. From that moment, instead of as many separate persons as there are contracting parties, this act of association produces a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as there are votes in the assembly, which from this act receives its unity, its common self, its life, and its will.”
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
“As long as we submit ourselves to this Law, we are not the less free for it: On the contrary, it is that Law itself which renders us free, because it liberates us from the tyranny of our Passions. In obeying this Law, we are elevated above all worldly things, above all goods & evils, above prosperity & adversity, above grandeur, riches, pleasures of the senses, above promises & threats, above corrupt maxims and the bad examples of men. There is not one of these things, which can harness us; we are free, we are independent in all these respects.”
Prior to Rousseau, reformed (Calvinistic) political thinkers emphasized the freedom of religious communities to order their own affairs and regulate the lives of their members apart from dependence on externally-imposed religious laws. Communal freedom demanded strict internal laws and dependence on the law of God. But it also demanded absolute independence from other (non-local) wills. Although Rousseau transposed this communal freedom into the freedom of the individual, he retained the reformed law-dependent account of freedom and the moral tutelage provided by the law.
In Rousseau, the general will of the individual retains the moral purity of the sovereign will (cf. Hobbes). It is, by virtue of its formal generality/universality, the very essence of right. The particular will, on the other hand, is identified as the source of the envies, strivings, and selfish pursuits.
The general will is general in that it cannot be “directed towards a private object.” It is not (formally) possible for the general will to notice or favour particular individuals. It must act on its body (the entire society) via general laws which do not and cannot refer to particular interests. It treats itself as a unified individual in all its legal promulgations.
The generality of the judgments of the general will assure a convergence of justice, equality, and self-interest (as expressions of the general will of the individual). The laws of the general will are impartial, non-self (particular)-regarding, and for the good of all. They are therefore just and express the very nature of morality (= non self-regard) itself.
The sovereign general will “by its nature, is always everything it ought to be.” When it acts upon itself it is incapable of harming itself and can literally do no wrong. Herein “the political requirements of preservation and of virtue therefore coincide perfectly.”
“Like Hobbes, Rousseau replaces the nonexistent natural law with a theory of sovereignty. The traditional definition of law as just or rational command is replaced by the voluntaristic one of pure command or will (whence the term General Will) . . . The natural law, which is neither publicly known nor enforced, is wholly replaced by duly enacted positive law, which is both.”
The enormous impact of Rousseau’s project is difficult to overestimate. For instance, he gave Kant the strategy he needed to adjudicate the mutually discordant moral claims made by individuals. Kant received from Rousseau the notion that there is a form of (general) will that is by definition moral and which can serve as a formal criterion of right conduct. Kant’s categorical imperative can be traced directly to Rousseau. Further, Romanticism appealed to Rousseau’s understanding of savage man as a self-sufficient being uncorrupted by societal influences.
Rousseau’s suggestion that the moral republic could actually force its citizens to be free enabled a justification for the Reign of Terror which followed the overthrow of the French monarch in 1790. The notorious Committee of Public Safety made the following assertion: “You must entirely refashion a people whom you wish to make free, destroy its prejudices, alter its habits, limit its necessities, root up its vices, purify its desires.”
At bottom, all interpersonal relations are dispensed with, all constitutive forms of community are relegated to the past, and nothing but the formal properties (generality versus particularity) of acts of willing are left. Even Rousseau’s political community is fundamentally nothing but abstract relations within the individual herself.
“For Rousseau, the locus of freedom is also within the will. Listen to the Augustinian echo within this political formula: ‘For the impulse of appetite alone is slavery, and obedience to the law one has prescribed for oneself freedom.’ Freedom remains bound up with the will, and freedom of will remains tied to obedience, even though the agent to be obeyed has now changed. Rousseau, like Augustine, gives primacy to the will—a concept that remains crucial and problematic from Augustine through Rousseau and beyond. He also, like Augustine, inevitably seeks a supplement through which to heal it. But he shifts the locus of the supplement from obedience to the will of a god to obedience to oneself, an obedience to oneself made possible only by a new form of political organization.”
“But, Rousseau’s form of political association, which provides a non-personal unity and, thus, a prospective solution to the tensions in social existence, transforms the meaning of the political. The private and the public are united. When the voice of God inheres in the will of the people, there is no need for the give and take of public discourse. . . . A public space has been traditionally thought necessary precisely because ultimate goals, such as truth, perfect justice, perfect unity, are not attainable through political action, only improvements upon past and present injustices or approximate solutions to ongoing problems are conceived of as possible. In other words, something less than a complete solution must be sought for a discourse to remain truly political.”
Those theories which have their roots in Rousseau have fundamentally de-peopled the world and rendered a world in which all substantive moral and political relations reside within the self. The self is the all-in-all, subject and sovereign rolled into one. Such is state of modernity.
(1748-1832) was highly critical of English public institutions. He applied a
strongly rationalistic method to government in an attempt to advance socially-progressive
improvements and establish a great moral and legal science akin to
Following Hume, he set forth ‘utility’ as the normative standard by which pubic policy and social felicity should be measured. For Bentham, the measure of right and wrong was simply the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.”
Like Hobbes, he believed that pleasure and pain play a critical role in the moral psychology of the individual:
Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.
Bentham believed that he had uncovered a purely quantitative (scientific) method of adjudicating political and legal quandaries. He held that a numerical value could be assigned to the six dimensions of pleasure (i.e., intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, and purity). The summation of these values would give the person or legislator a way in which she could determine which action would produce the most pleasure and thus, by definition, the good.
Bentham was highly critical of previous political philosophers who tried to justify political arrangements in terms of states of nature, pre-existing rights, or fictitious social contracts. For him, it is simply the fact that people are in a habit of obeying a certain ruler or group of rulers that produces a political society:
When a number of persons . . . are supposed to be in the habit of paying obedience to a person, or an assemblage of persons, of a known and certain description . . . such persons altogether are said to be in a state of political SOCIETY.
Born in 1806, John Stuart Mill was raised by his
father, James Mill, an austere, demanding, unsentimental, and doctrinaire
disciple of Jeremy Bentham. John Stuart was an intellectual prodigy: he was
reading Greek by the age of three, Latin at eight, and mastered many other
subjects shortly thereafter. His daily study regime began at 6:00 a.m. and
ended at 9:00 p.m. When his education was complete at the age of 14, he went
off to stay with friends of his father in
When he returned to
During the long period of recovery (some five years) he expanded his acquaintances and read more broadly. He discovered the romantic poetry of Tennyson, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. He gradually found that he could share “states of feeling” with other human beings.
By the mid-nineteenth century, a new series of problems were emerging in representative democracies. Alexis d’Tocqueville (ca. 1830) discovered that within the American “experiment” several ominous trends were emerging. He was concerned about the dominance of public opinion and the rising tide of mediocrity. He also worried about the “tyranny of the majority.”
Mill’s On Liberty (1859) was designed to elaborate a social principle
that would protect representative democracies from the stupefying forces of
conformity, a slavish subservience to public opinion, as well as the danger of
the abuse of dissenting minorities. Mill also believed that attempts to limit
the power of government by Bills of Rights (as in
Mill argues that a new principle is needed to protect the liberty of the individual from these emergent dangers: “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”
“Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
“It is proper to state that I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right, as a thing independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being.”
“[T]here is a sphere of action in which society, as distinguished from the individual, has, if any, only an indirect interest; comprehending all that portion of a person’s life and conduct which affects only himself, or if it also affects others, only with their free, voluntary, and undeceived consent and participation.”
This zone of personal liberty includes: (1) liberty of thought, feeling, conscience, and opinion; (2) liberty of tastes and pursuits, framing life plans; (3) freedom of the like-minded to associate.
Some critics have (not implausibly) argued that Mill is not only interested in protecting the individual from the encroachments of society, but he also takes a particular type of individuality as an intrinsic value, that is, apart from any social utility which may issue from it. In other words, Mill would hold to this ideal even if it could not be shown to be productive of the larger good (pleasure).
For instance, note the title of chapter 3, in On Liberty: “Of individuality, As One of the Elements of Well-Being.” Mill also speaks highly of the romantic conception of the self when he praises “individual spontaneity” non-imitation, “determining according to his own judgments and feelings” “personal impulses and preferences.”
Charles Taylor suggests that Mill combined an austere, disengaged rationalism (his utilitarianism) with an expressivistic (romantic) conception of human growth and fulfillment. This attempt at synthesis makes sense not only in light of Mill’s personal history but the attempt of many Victorians to transcend lives “run more and more by the canons of instrumental reason.”
More than a few scholars have concluded that in the end Mill’s utilitarianism with its singular commitment to the greatest happiness is not consistent with any absolute value (i.e., romantic individualism) which must veto any utilitarian calculus which refuses to treat its values as ends in themselves.
Some have taken exception to Mill’s distinction between the private sphere and the public. Can these spheres be meaningfully disconnected to enable truly self-only-regarding privacy?
Mill does not hesitate to deploy the vocabulary of the Sovereign when speaking of the individual. The individual, within her “sphere” of sovereignty is “arbitrary.” She can do whatever she pleases. In the larger society, she is to be afforded maximal liberty of expression. She knows her own interests best and can be relied on to execute them to the fullest. She is an unreconstructed Hobbesian sovereign within her realm. She cannot be governed by past promises she has made, nor can she be held to her own stated plans. Her sovereignty resides in the unity of her will at this present moment. Within her properly demarcated sphere, she is autonomous, giving laws to herself alone and receiving none.
Only the opposition of another will (individual or State) restrains her will. Society has the rather minimalist task of simply enforcing her sovereign jurisdiction and erecting a perimeter of legal safeguards around it.
She is free, but she inhabits a world of contrary wills, not actual persons. Neither friend nor foe constitutes her. She is a kingdom unto herself, splendidly regal, but alone.
Karl Marx was the second
child of a middle-class Jewish family in
As the purported discoverer of the true inner logic of human history, Marx considered his thought to be the culmination of all previous philosophy and, in particular, the German tradition running from Kant through Hegel and Feuerbach.
Marx was enamoured with the grand Hegelian vision. Hegel had argued that history manifests the increasing presence of geist or Reason in human culture, religion, etc. This gradual manifestation is most clearly seen in the sweeping dialectic process and progress of human thought and activity (thesis, antithesis, and synthesis). “It is as if Reason or Mind comes to its own self-realization and completion in history.”
Feuerbach’s critique of Hegel was critical in Marx’s development. For Feuerbach, God was not the manifestation of the geist but the after-effect of man’s alienation from himself. The “God illusion” emerges from deep human sources: a conflict within man himself. According to Feuerbach, Hegel had it exactly backwards: history does not show the progressive manifestation of Reason or God but the progressive manifestation and ultimately self-conscious realization of the mundane alienation of human persons. Marx himself would later say that “the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked [by Feuerbach] in its sacred form.”
For Marx, the proper analytic starting point for understanding the nature of social relations and the evolution of society is the pervasive mode of production in a given society and the relations of the various groups to the means of production (property, factories, capital, etc.). This mode of production determines a definite mode of life in all of its facets.
For Marx, history is not driven by ideas, ideals, or illusions; it is “driven by the actual labouring activity whereby humans produce goods for their needs.”
“[Marx believed that] mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice-versa, as had hitherto been the case.”
“The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society—the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definitive forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.”
“The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life process of definite individuals.”
In the modern, capitalistic world, the history-shaping economic dialectic is driven by the conflict between the capitalist (bourgeois) class and their workers (proletarians). The antagonistic demands for increased capital, on the part of the money-class, and subsistence living, on the part of the workers, creates the very conditions that will overwhelm the economic system and usher in a new era. The inner logic of the capitalist system produces a destabilizing, dehumanizing, and intolerable alienation which will only be overcome by its destruction.
In Marx’s view, private property is the dynamic engine of the capitalistic system; it is only when it is overcome or overthrown that human beings can be released from the alienation intrinsic to capitalism.
"The positive transcendence of private property as the appropriation of human life is, therefore, the positive transcendence of all estrangement—that is to say, the return of man from religion, family, state, etc., to his human, i.e., social mode of existence."
For Marx, the triumph of the money-class over the proletariat is not simply economic: it is a wholesale domination. Those who possess economic power, (i.e., the capitalists) also create an ideology which “justifies” their economic position, practices, and results. They successfully create religions (which contrary to Feuerbach are not just projections of generic human ideals, but the projected interests of a particular class), educational systems, arts, legal systems, and political lackeys who will do their bidding. All of these cultural institutions are extensions of the interests of a particular, but ultimately doomed, class.
“We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process.”
Contrary to John Locke and Adam Smith, civil society is not a self-governing, benign mechanism which providentially and naturally harmonizes and coordinates discordant interests; it is a fraud, a “collective, systematic misperception, or false consciousness.” It is the ideology of capitalism which attempts to simply pass itself off as “an object governed by immutable laws.”
Marx believed the deterministic logic of capitalism would eventually expose the ideology of capitalism for what it truly is. Those suffering under it would not seek to critique it but overturn it. Capitalist expansion would, ironically, create a corresponding awareness or consciousness among its own workers that they are class with common interests and a common enemy. This growing awareness of their common lot would create a “class-for-itself” consciousness which, when it inevitably rose to full self-consciousness, would overwhelm the false consciousness foisted on them by the capitalists. In Marx’s view, this would eventually lead to outright revolution and the overthrow of private property.
“Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature through and for man. It is, therefore, the return of man himself as a social, i.e., really human, being, a complete and conscious return which assimilates all the wealth of previous development.”
Proletariat are revolutionary, universal (interests are the interests of the whole) class
Proletariat and substitute proletariat (peasants & intelligentsia included)
Gradual economic revolution supported by politics, historical and philosophical theory
Violent, cataclysmic, political revolution to implement economic change
Withering away of the capitalist state followed by worker self-administration, perhaps first in the form of a democratic worker state, followed by the disappearance of a separate state
First stage of post-capitalist life: Socialism: the dictatorship of the proletariat (“democracy of the majority”). Economic principles: (1) He who does not work shall not eat; (2) For an equal quantity of labour an equal quantity of products
Second stage of post-capitalist life: Communism. Economic principle: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
The emergence of western society from feudalism called for new ways of conceiving a person’s relation to her fellows. Theological concepts were pressed into renewed service. The concept of the individual as sovereign provided the means whereby the social world could be grounded so that it would no longer require organic relations between men or transpersonal sources of authority.
One of the results of this project has been a fundamentally bifurcated self, a self that in itself embodies all of the essential features and conflicts of modern political life. This bifurcated self is now distanced from its attributes, aims, beliefs, relations, and “roles.” The identification of the self with the sovereign individual has radically isolated it from those features previously believed to be constitutive. The conceptual demands of Bodin’s theory of sovereignty have pushed the logic of sovereignty to its most radical conclusion: the self is not constituted by anything, not itself nor its most intimate relations.
All attributes of this modern self are self-chosen and self-willed. All social institutions which issue from this self are constructed, that is, fabricated out of collected individual will. In all cases, the self, in its radical isolation, stands above the reach of all determinations and passes judgment on all things. In Hobbes’s apt phrase, it “gives laws to all and receives none in return.” This is the self Alone, in extremis, “mimicking the self-sufficient God [it] has rejected.” At its best, this self can join others only for the sake of self-protection, but even then, it remains a citizen of nowhere, embodying a deficient form of friendship based solely on mutual advantage.
Can this self properly be called an individual, i.e., sovereign? Does the self stand above its attributes as sovereign? Are its boundaries fixed in advance of contact with other persons? Is the will the central faculty in grounding moral relations and associations? Are we not deeply constituted by the attachments we “discover”? Do these discovered attachments penetrate to our very core and thus pre-empt any meaningful claim to sovereignty?
Socialis est vita sanctorum [“the life of the saints is lived together with other men”] A community of concrete others who are mutually co-determining each other’s lives offers a much better model for political theory or ecclesiology, for that matter, than what has been delivered to us through the Enlightenment tradition. This life together is not only the hope which enriches our lives in this world, but, as Augustine suggests, it will be our eternal state as well.
Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960), 29.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 32.
Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? , excerpted in Aeon J. Skoble and Tibor R. Machan, ed., Political Philosophy: Essential Selections (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999), 434.
John H. Hallowell and Jene M. Porter, Political Philosophy: The Search for Humanity and Order (Scarborough, ON: Prentice Hall Canada, 1997), xi.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 8.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 2-3.
Michael Oakeshott, “Introduction to Leviathan, in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, rev. ed. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991), 224, 291.
A. O. Lovejoy, “Reflections on the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 1(January 1940): 4.
Lovejoy, “Reflections on the History of Ideas,” 5.
For a helpful discussion of this new methodology see Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism, 101-09.
This section title is taken from Wolin, Politics and Vision, 28.
Much of the material in this section is taken from W. T. Jones, The Classical Mind, vol. 1, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970), 40ff.
Thucydides [ca. 460—400 B.C.], History of the Peloponnesian War, I.87, reprinted in Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed., Great Books of the Western Tradition (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), 6:371.
The character, Callicles, in Plato’s dialogue, Gorgias, articulates this view with great passion.
See Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, V.89, 105, 506-07.
Jones, The Classical Mind, 55.
David Bolotin, “Thucydides,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 15.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 40.
Jones, The Classical Mind, 72-73.
See Leo Strauss, “Plato,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 42.
J. S. Wilson, “The Argument of Republic IV,” The Philosophical Quarterly 26:103 (April 1976): 113.
Ernest Barker, “Introduction,” to The Politics of Aristotle (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), l-li.
See Wolin, Politics and Vision, 43-44.
Arthur Melzer, “Rousseau’s Moral Realism,” American Political Science Review 77 (September 1983): 634.
Ernest Barker, “Introduction,” The Politics of Aristotle, trans. Ernest Barker (London: Clarendon Press, 1946), liv-lv.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 51.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 57.
See Wolin, Politics and Vision, 62.
Martin Ostwald, Introduction to Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980), xiv-xvii.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 67.
T. A. Sinclair, Introduction to Aristotle, The Politics, trans. T. A. Sinclair (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1979), 10.
J. L. Ackrill suggests that Aristotle is making two points about eudaimonia, namely, that “you cannot say of eudemonia that you seek it for the sake of something else” and “you cannot say you would prefer eudemonia plus something extra.” See Ackrill’s “Aristotle on Eudemonia,” Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), 22. I am indebted to Dustin Resch for this citation.
Thomas Nagel, “Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” in Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, 8.
Cited in An Introduction to Ethics, ed. Robert Dewey and Robert Hurlbutt (New York: Macmillan, 1977), 296.
The material in this section is taken from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by Ostwald.
A. MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 139.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 70.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 71-72.
John M. Cooper, “Aristotle on Friendship,” in Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, 302.
Ernest Barker, “Introduction,” to The Politics of Aristotle, trans. Ernest Barker (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), xlix.
Barker, “Introduction,” xlix.
Carnes Lord, “Aristotle,” in Strauss and Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy, 134.
For a discussion of this point see Bernard Yack, “Community and Conflict in Aristotle’s Political Philosophy,” The Review of Politics 47 (January 1985), 97. See also Lord, “Aristotle,” 136.
Barker, “Introduction,” liii.
J. Peter Euben, “Political Equality and the Greek Polis,” in Michael J. Gargas McGrath, ed. Liberalism and the Modern Polity (New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. , 1978), 209.
Lord, “Aristotle,” 143.
Aristotle, The Politics, trans. T. A. Sinclair (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1979), 143-45.
Barker, “Introduction,” lxvii-lxviii.
J. Peter Euben, “Political Equality and the Greek Polis,” 215.
Barker, “Introduction,” lxviii.
The Hellenistic age is typically taken
to extend from the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. until the Roman conquest of
Barker, “Introduction,” xlvii.
George H. Sabine and Stanley Barney Smith, “Introduction” to Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the Commonwealth [51 B.C.], trans. George H. Sabine and Stanley B. Smith (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Pub. , 1976), 18.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 79.
Zeno [founder of Stoicism], cited in Ernest Barker, “Introduction,” lix-lx.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 94, 77.
Marcus Aurelius [A.D. 121-180], Meditations, IV, 4, cited in Wolin, Politics and Vision, 80.
Sabine and Smith, “Introduction,” 48.
Sabine and Smith, “Introduction,” 22.
Walter Lippmann, Essays in the Public Philosophy (New York: The New American Library, 1955), 83.
Marcus Tullius Cicero [106-43 B.C.], De Re Publica, [The Republic], III.xxii, trans. C. W. Keyes (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), 33-34, 211.
Charles H. McIlwain, Constitutionalism Ancient and Modern (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1940), 39-40.
McIlwain, Constitutionalism Ancient and Modern, 39.
Sabine and Smith, “Introduction,” 36-7.
Gaius [A. D. 110-180, Roman jurist], cited in Charles H. McIlwain, The Growth of Political Thought in the West (New York: Macmillan, 1932), 122.
Cicero, De Officiis, [On Moral Duty], trans. W. Miller (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), 107, 109.
Sabine and Smith, “Introduction,” 31.
Ernest Barker, Traditions of Civility: Eight Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948), 10.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 81.
Sabine and Smith, “Introduction,” 38.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.5, trans. Marcus Dods, Rev. George Wilson, and Rev. J. J. Smith (New York: Random House, 1950), 680. Subsequent citations from The City of God are from this source unless otherwise noted.
Ernest L. Fortin, “Augustine,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 180.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.13, 690.
Fortin, “Augustine,” 182.
Brendan Bradshaw, “Transalpine
Fortin, “Augustine,” 183.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.24, 706.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.21, 699.
For further discussion of this point see Wolin, Politics and Vision, 126.
Augustine, The City of God, ii.21, 706.
Augustine, “The Confessions of St. Augustine” [viii.5], trans. Albert C. Outler, in Augustine: Confessions and Enchiridion, vol. 7, The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), 10.
Augustine, The City of God, xiv.28, 477.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.3, ed. David Knowles (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972), 851.
Augustine, The City of God, xviii.2, 610.
Augustine, The City of God, xv.1, 478.
Fortin, “Augustine,” 195.
Augustine, The City of God, i.35, 38.
Augustine, The City of God, xviii.54, 668.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian Realism and Political Problems (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953), 138.
Augustine, The City of God, xix.17, 695-96.
Fortin, “Augustine,” 196-7.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 125-26.
Fortin, “Augustine,” 184.
Fortin, “Augustine,” 197.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 183.
For a further discussion of this transition see Joel L. From, “The Unbroken History of Sovereignty: Rights, Autonomy and the Bifurcated Self” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1990), 1-25.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 132.
Thomas Aquinas, “Exposition of Boethius’s One the Trinity,” Summa Theologiae, I, 2, 3, trans. The Fathers of the
Walter Ullmann, Medieval Political Thought (England: Penguin Books, 1975), 182-83.
T. Sinclair, “Introduction,” in Aristotle, The Politics, ed. T. Sinclair (Middlesex: Penguin, 1979), 12.
Ernest L. Fortin, “St. Thomas Aquinas,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 256.
T. Aquinas, On Kingship, para. 8-9, cited in Dino Bigongiari, “Introduction” to The Political Ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas, ed. Dino Bigongiari (New York: Hafner Press, 1953), ix.
On several occasions in their chapter on Aquinas, Hallowell and Porter misrepresent Augustine’s view of the pre-lapsarian political order. We argued earlier that Augustine believed that a prelapsarian political order was necessary. It is not the case, as Hallowell and Porter suggest, that for Augustine “political order was the consequence of sin.” Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 194.
Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, 90, 3.
For a discussion of this transition in Aquinas see Bigongiari, “Introduction,” xv-xvi.
Citations from Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae in this section are from
the translation by Fathers
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 177.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 197.
T. Aquinas, [Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard], II, 44 expositio textus, cited in Bigongiari, “Introduction,” xxxiv.
Bigongiari, “Introduction,” xxxv.
Fortin, “St. Thomas Aquinas,” 257-8.
Dante, Monarchy, III.iv.20, trans. Prue Shaw (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 72 and III.xvi.15, 93.
Unless otherwise noted, the material in section A. is taken from George Bull, “Introduction,” to Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. George Bull (Middlesex: Penguin, 1961), 9-26. The map distributed in class is taken from Chrisopher Hibbert, The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici (London: The Folio Society, 1998).
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1958), 2:96.
Civilization of the Renaissance in
Civilization of the Renaissance in
In section B. your
instructor is deeply indebted to Isaiah
This distinctive is suggested by Wolin, Politics and Vision, 211.
Henry C. Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 96-97.
Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue, 91.
Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue, 86, 96-97.
From this point on, page numbers in
parentheses refer to
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 252.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 252.
Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue, 55, 88.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. George Bull (Middlesex: Penguin, 1961), 87.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 49.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 100.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 99.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 99-100.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 37-38.
Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue, 176.
Machiavelli, The Prince, 91-92.
George Bull, “Introduction,” to Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. George Bull (Middlesex: Penguin, 1961), 24.
Letter to Francesco Vettorie, 16 April 1527, no. 225, ed. and trans. Allan Gilbert, The Letters of Machiavelli: A Selection of His Letters (New York: Capricorn, 1961).
The numbers within parentheses refer to page numbers in Jean Bodin, The Six Bookes of a Commonweale , trans. Richard Knolles (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962).
Barry Shain, The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 63.
Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen , xv.5, trans. and ed. Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 173.
William Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 25.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 334.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 334.
Hobbes, On the Citizen, Preface, 10.
C. B. MacPherson, “Introduction” to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. C. B. MacPherson (Middlesex: Penguin, 1968), 27.
Laurence Berns, “Thomas Hobbes, “ in History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed., ed. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 397.
Hobbes, On the Citizen ii.1, 33.
Quentin Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 320-21.
Hobbes, On the Citizen, ii.2,3; iii.1,8, 34, 43, 47.
Noel Malcolm, “Hobbes and Spinoza,” The
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 314.
Alan Ryan, “Hobbes’s Political Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, ed. Tom Sorell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 217-18.
Hobbes, Leviathan, 161.
Hobbes, Leviathan, 120.
Hobbes, On the Citizen, iii.31, 55.
Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, 318.
Hobbes, Leviathan, 66.
Hobbes, On the Citizen, ii.4, 34.
Hobbes, Leviathan, 227.
Thomas Hobbes, De Cive: The Latin Version, v.7, vol. 2, ed. Howard Warrender (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1983), 133.
Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, 312-13.
Wolin, Politics and Vision, 283.
Raymond Aron, cited in Jean Bethke
Elshtain, “Bonhoeffer and the
Hobbes, De Cive, cited in Man and Citizen (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972), 245-46.
J. W. N. Watkins, Hobbes’s System of Ideas: A Study in the Political Significance of Philosophical Theories (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1975), 160-62.
Hobbes, On the Citizen, vi.15 (note to 1647 ed.), 85.
Arthur M. Melzer, “Rousseau’s Moral Realism: Replacing Natural Law with the General Will,” American Political Science Review 77(September 1983): 636.
James Daly, Cosmic Harmony and Political Thinking in Stuart England (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1979), 37.
John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, II.4, ed. Thomas P. Peardon (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952), 4.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, XI.135, 77.
John Dunn, The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the ‘Two Treatises of Government’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 106-07.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, V.27, 17.
Raymond Polin, “John Locke’s Conception of Freedom,” in John W. Yolton, ed., John Locke, Problems and Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 6.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, VIII.95, 55.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, III.21,14; VII.87, 49.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, VIII.106, 60.
The chief end of the constituted populus is the preservation of property. See Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, IV.124, 71.
Ruth W. Grant, John Locke’s Liberalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 82.
Grant, John Locke’s Liberalism, 88-89.
Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, II.4, 4.
Allan Bloom, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 562.
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men I.35 , in The Discourses and other early political writings, trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 151.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 433.
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, 212.
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, 127.
Allan Bloom, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” 564-5.
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, 161.
Rousseau, Emile, or On Education, trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979), 85.
Rousseau, The Social Contract, ed. Charles Frankel (New York: Hafner Press, 1947), 14-15.
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, 218.
Allan Bloom, “Introduction,” to Emile, or On Education, 483-84, n. 17.
The final phrase of this sentence is adapted from the English poet, Alexander Pope. Pope’s Essay on Man was known to Rousseau and admired by him. See Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle I, in Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. W. K. Wimsatt, Jr. (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965), 133.
Patrick Riley, The General Will Before Rousseau: The Transformation of the Divine into the Civic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 251.
Rousseau, Letter to Mirabeau, July 26, 1767, cited in Arthur Melzer, “Rousseau’s Moral Realism: Replacing Natural Law with the General Will” American Political Science Review 77 (September 1983): 634.
Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. II, Chapter 6, 33-34.
Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. I, Chapter 6, 15-16.
Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian  in Luther’s Works, 55 vols. (Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1955-76), XXXI, 344.
Turrettin, Sermon sur la loy de la Liberte , cited in Pamel A. Mason, “The Communion of Citizens: Calvinist Themes in Rousseau’s Theory of the State,” Polity (Fall 1993): 46.
Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. II, Chapter 6, 33.
Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. I, Chapter 7, 17.
Metzer, “Rousseau’s Moral Realism, 638.
Melzer, “Rousseau’s Moral Realism, 645.
Cited in Robert Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (New York: Basic Books, 1966), 40.
William Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 182.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 480.
Jeremy Bentham, A Fragment of Government, ed. J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), Preface, 3.
Bentham, A Fragment on Government . . . , ed. Wilfrid Harrison (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), ch. 1, para. 1.
Bentham, A Fragment, ed. Burns, ch. 1, para. 10.
The material in this subsection is derived from: John H. Hallowell and Jene M. Porter, Political Philosophy: The Search for Humanity and Order (Scarborough: Prentice Hall, Canada, 1997), 502-10.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 458.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 562.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 566-67.
Marx, The German Ideology, in Porter, Classics, 558.
Hallowell and Porter, Political Philosophy, 571.
Friedrich Engels, ”Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx, in Porter, Classics, 546.
Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, in Porter, Classics, 587.
Karl Marx, The German Ideology, in Porter, Classics, 562.
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, n.p.
Marx, The German Ideology, 563.
Robert Paul Wolff, Understanding Rawls: A Reconstruction and Critique of A Theory of Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 124.
Karl Marx, Third Manuscript: Private Property and Communism, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts in Porter, Classics,555.
This table adapted from Galen Johnson, Class notes, Marxism 53,
Translated: “To be in the company of men.” Augustine, when questioned about eternal life, suggested that the Roman view of life as lived “in the company of men” would persist into the next world. Some type of political life would exist under conditions of sinlessness (as it had prior to the fall). Indeed, sanctity itself could be summed up in one sentence, Socialis est vita sanctorum, “Even the life of the saints is lived together with other men.” See Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (NY: The Viking Press, 1954), 73.
This phrase is taken from Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), 71.