Greek Political Thought
Coursework: Greek Political Thought
PART ONE: PLATO’S “LAWS.”
1. The Athenian did not want a city too close to the sea. Explain how this relates to: A. His economic views about trade and wealth. B. His view of the navy, including its potential dangers to citizen
In Laws IV, Plato, using his trademark dialogues, states that although the city is close to the city it is far enough for its citizens to feel at ease and well-provided. Also, the eighty stadia provide the city with adequate protection and space for it not to depend exclusively on trade. However, such things are not of great abundance, and since the city does not provide it all, some trade is needed. Concerning the navy, Plato considers that it was better for the city giving many times seven youths instead of fighting against a fiercer enemy as it would have brought a worst outcome to the city. Hence, a city that can defend itself, yet does not seek war is better suited to prevail.
2. A. Explain how Plato viewed rich men about goodness. B. How many classes would exist and how would they be restricted to wealth?
Wealth is by no means a guarantee of happiness. Accordingly, the rich would be neither happier nor better than the poor as they are only expected to be so about their wealth. About the classes, Plato proposes that all men should go as equals to this colony he speaks of. Nevertheless, since that is not possible, he offers four classes on which no lack nor surplus of wealth exists. As a consequence of these restrictions, a man could only earn a fixed amount of income and anything that surpasses that, should belong to the state or the gods.
3. In what ways would this city be the envy of the Internal Revenue Service?
For a city as the one Plato proposes, there is a need for a useful and small government body that allows enough flexibility and usefulness for the city to thrive and work accordingly. Nevertheless, the degree of control proposed in Laws is quite draconian in its way of working. It appears that every single aspect of the city and its denizens is controlled, and if the city can find and prosecute its citizens for any reason they consider, that makes it close to the IRS audits on which a person’s assets are displayed to any discrepancies, as Plato’s city would.
4. A. What is the role of the state in marriage? Do you agree? B. What does he believe about slavery and the master-servant relationship?
The state has to guarantee its continuity. Accordingly, this can be done by rearranging the laws of marriage and allowing youth to see each other as a way to know each other and keep the city’s legislations and regulations. Forcing them to marry as something needed to bring children to the world is something that any modern citizen would object. Hence, if those marriages are only meant to exist for a biological convenience, they are hard to approve. On the relation between slaves and their masters, Plato considers that slaves should not be trusted, and they should not be treated as a freeman, as it would only make the matters worse for the master. Hence, their relation is complicated, and the slave is powerless in the hands of its master.
5. How does Plato view the private lives of citizens?
If a legislator allows the citizens to have a private life, it would be making a grave mistake, as it would make them leave its duties to the state in second place, instead of focusing on helping the city. Also, the philosopher thinks that it is possible that people would not behave in private as accurately as they do in public, causing a ruckus.
6. Describe his views of women.
Women must be regulated as a way to control what they do as neglecting them could hinder the city. Although that Plato considers them inferior to men in virtue and capacities, he saw women as second to men and needed of vigilance like cattle.
7. A. Why should one have children, according to Plato? B. How should people be treated who refuse to have kids?
Plato compares bearing children to a passage to immortality. To him, bearing children is like passing the torch of humanity to another generation and a way to perpetuate the ideals of the perfect city. As a consequence of this thought, Plato states that those who refuse to marry will receive a public punishment as well as a yearly penalty they would have to pay unless they want to be exiled.
8. A. How are youth to be educated and from what ages? B. How and why would Plato regulate music and poetry?
Children, regardless of their sex begin their education since they are three years old. Their initial education is focused on sports as a way to help them getting dexterity and nimbleness. At a young age, kids’ will is broken, so they do not go to their city and execute its orders. Regarding the issue of music and poetry, Plato considers those exercises are meant to improve the soul and should be regulated by the guardian of education, a man capable of teaching the youth the letters as well as the appropriate subjects to sing or recite about.
9. A. As a legislator, how does the Athenian regard you and your possessions? B. Explain how beggars should be treated.
The Athenian philosopher regards material possessions as communal assets available for everyone. He intends to mimic Spartans in the way they share everything and remain as a well-ordained society. Hence, material properties exist, but they cannot be regarded as items of a sole person. Instead, they are part of the city and usable by anyone. On the issue of homelessness and beggars, they should not exist, as every person in the city has a role and a series of assets that allow them to live without any material need.
10. Give the Whitehead quote about Europe and Plato:
“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato” (Whitehead 39
PART TWO: ARISTOTLE’S “POLITICS.”
11. What type of animal is the man?
The man is by nature a political animal. This means that men need states to survive. Without them, they turn into tribeless and heartless individuals. Men need a place that controls their actions unless they want their animal side to the surface.
12. Explain which has the priority—the state or family—and why?
To the Stagirian, the state takes priority to the rest of the institutions because it is the first and foremost form of political association. Picture the state as the arm; the family as the hand and the individuals as the fingers. Individuals on their own would lack the necessary framework to live and thrive. Families without a state would be clans, which would result in primitive forms of association.
13. A. How does Aristotle view property? B. Contrast the two sorts of wealth-getting.
The Greek philosopher sees property as a part of the household (the state), and acquiring property is a part of managing that household. Therefore, a property is part of the state and is intertwined with it. Also, Aristotle considers two forms of wealth-getting. The first being occupations such as huntsman or fisherman; occupations related to attaining the sufficient amount of wealth to survive. Conversely, trading, an occupation pegged to the desire of attaining wealth regardless of their number.
14. Give the views of Aristotle on: A. Slavery B. Women
To Aristotle, women lack authority, and while they have moral virtues, those virtues are only related to fulfilling their duties and not related to any moral authority. Hence, courage in a woman is represented as obedience. On the other hand, slaves lack deliberative qualities and are a property. Their lack of will makes them unsuitable for anything different than serving.
15. What objections does he have to the views of Plato?
However, despite that similarity, both philosophers disagree on the issue of material propertiy and the citizens’ duties to the city. On one hand, Plato considers that the servants to the city should not receive any material possesion or payment from their services. Instead of owning private property, they will receive a fixed wage that leaves no surplus and no lack either. In essence, Plato links riches with earthly vices of the human sort and considers that guardians should not mingle with it as a way to keep them holy and apart from the rest of the citizens.
16. There are three true or perfect forms of government. The first is the monarchy. List the other two.
The second perfect form of government is called aristocracy, and the third receives the generic name of the constitution.
17. List the perversions of each of the three forms.
The corruption of the monarchy is the tyranny; the perversion of the aristocracy is the oligarchy, and the third is the democracy, which is the perversion of the constitutional government.
18. A. In Section I, how do democracies and oligarchies have faulty views of justice? B. What is the safest of the imperfect forms of govt. and why?
In the beginning, the fault of democracy is that it supposes that all men want to be equal to the others in any respect, which is not the case in ancient Greece. Oligarchy continues the inequality with the notion of men as unequal in all respects. This means that men are dissimilar if they do not share things such as wealth or a social position. Nevertheless, democracy is the safest form of all the imperfect forms of government as it the form less likely to stir up a revolution.
19. A. What is the basis of a democratic state? B. What is the best material for the democratic state?
To Aristotle, education is the best way for constitutions to adapt and improve. Without education, laws regardless of how democratic or oligarchic are not going to work properly unless youth are correctly prepared to understand them. Subsequently, for a democratic state to thrive, it needs to have passed through different forms of government, as many times cities who used to have oligarchic or tyrannical governments resort to democracy as a way to restore balance and well-being.
20. A. What is the role of happiness in government? B. Contrast his views to those of Plato on the part of the sea.
Aristotle sees happiness as a virtue of the platonic sort. To him, the individual happiness and the state’s satisfaction are pegged and are the same. The more virtuous and happy its citizens, the more worthy the city is. To Plato, the sea represents well-being and happiness, but it is a different sort. To the Athenian, the sea is a harbinger of good things and virtue. To Aristotle, these virtues are not encased in places, but in the citizens.
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