.. by nature man is a political animal. Hence men have a desire for life together, even when they have no need to seek each other’s help. Nevertheless, common interest too is a factor in bringing them together, in so far as it contributes to the good life of each. The good life is indeed their chief end, both communally and individually; but they form and continue to maintain a political association for the sake of life itself. Perhaps we may say that there is an element of good even in mere living, provided that life is not excessively beset with troubles. Certainly most men, in their desire to keep alive, are prepared to face a great deal of suffering, as if finding in life itself a certain well-being and a natural sweetness. (Aristotle, Politics)
Mankind has tried the other two roads to peace - the road of political jealousy and the road of religious bigotry - and found them both equally misleading. Perhaps it will now try the third, the road of scientific truth, the only road on which the passenger is not deceived. Science does not, ostrich-like, bury its head amidst perils and difficulties. It tries to see everything exactly as everything is. (Professor Garrett P. Serviss).
Politics is derived from the Greek words 'Polis' which means community and 'Poli' meaning many. Politics can be defined as the laws, methods and practices of group which makes decisions (i.e. a government over a community).
The past two thousand years have confirmed the philosopher
Aristotles' famous assertion that 'Man is a political
According to Aristotle, an important constituent of happiness is friendship, the bond between the individual and the social aggregation, between man and the State. Man is essentially, or by nature, a social animal, that is to say, he cannot attain complete happiness except in social and political dependence on his fellow man. This is the starting point of political science and political philosophy. That the State is not absolute, as Plato taught, that there is no ideal State, but that our knowledge of political organization is to be acquired by studying and comparing different constitutions of States, that the best form of government is that which best suits the character of the people. These are some of the most characteristic of Aristotle's political doctrines. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911)
History has also confirmed that political systems have a tendency towards dictatorship and self interest, and these human instincts must be tempered with the truth, as Plato wrote;
The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands, while the many natures now content to follow either to the exclusion of the other are forcibly debarred from doing so. This is what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound; for it is not easy to see that there is no other road to happiness, either for society or the individual. (Plato, Republic)
Unfortunately, because of a failure of philosophy / metaphysics to understand what is ultimately true (i.e. to understand reality as the source of truth) we live in a time of postmodern relative cultural truths that leads to many conflicts and causes humanity great harm. This allows societies to be manipulated by our more primitive emotions (rather than reason / truth) as Julius Caesar observed (and which is very relevant to our modern world).
Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. (Julius Caesar)
In this webpage you will find some wonderful quotes on politics from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Caesar, Machiavelli, Hobbes, de Montaigne, Hume, Bismarck, Mussolini, Einstein, Lenin & Stalin. The central purpose of this page though, is to introduce a new metaphysical foundation for politics (see links on side of page). This is never an easy thing to do, as Machiavelli wrote;
There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. The innovator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old system and only lukewarm defenders by those who would gain by the new system. (Machiavelli, 1513)
Nonetheless, I have a great belief in the wisdom of philosophy, that ultimately truth has a unique power to change the world for the better, as David Hume so elegantly stated it;
And though the philosopher may live remote from business, the genius of philosophy, if carefully cultivated by several, must gradually diffuse itself throughout the whole society, and bestow a similar correctness on every art and calling. (David Hume, 1737)
PS - I have just finished writing a short essay on Politics, Market Economics, Truth and Utopia that you will hopefully find useful (I think it is important).
'And I think that you too would call it propaganda when
people are enticed into a change of opinion by promises of pleasure, or
terrified into it by threats?'
'Yes, propaganda and deceit always go together.' (Plato, Republic)
... Societies aren't made of sticks and stones, but of men whose individual characters, by turning the scale one way or another, determine the direction of the whole. (Plato, Republic)
(Joseph Stalin) Of course the old system is breaking down, decaying. That is true. But it is also true that new efforts are being made by other methods, by even means, to protect, to save this dying system. You draw a wrong conclusion from a correct postulate. You rightly state that the old world is breaking down. But you are wrong in thinking that it is breaking down of its own accord. No, the substitution of one social system for another is a complicated and long revolutionary process. It is not simply a spontaneous process, but a struggle; it is a process connected with the clash of classes. Capitalism is decaying, but it must not be compared simply with a tree which has decayed to such an extent that it must fall to the ground of its own accord. No; revolution, the substitution of one social system for another, has always been a struggle, a painful and a cruel struggle, a life and death struggle. And every time the people of the new world came into power they had to defend themselves against the attempts of the old world to restore the old order by force, these people of the new world always had to be on the alert, always had to be ready to repel the attacks of the old world upon the new system.
In speaking of the capitalists who strive only for profit,
only to get rich, I do not want to say that these are the most worthless
people capable of doing nothing else. Many of them undoubtedly possess
great organising talent, which I would not dream of denying. We Soviet
people learn a lot from the capitalists.
But if you mean people who are prepared to reconstruct the world, of course you will not be able to find them in the ranks of those who faithfully serve the cause of profit. ..The capitalist is riveted in profit and nothing can tear him away from it. (Joseph Stalin)
There is not, nor should there be, an irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the interests of an individual person and the interests of the collective. (Joseph Stalin, Interview by H. G. Wells, 1934, Penguin Book on Interviews)
How could politics be a science, if laws and forms of government had not a uniform influence upon society? Where would be the foundation of morals, if particular characters had no certain or determinate power to produce particular sentiments, and if these sentiments had no constant operation on actions? (David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, 1737)
It seems then, say I, that you leave politics entirely out of the question, and never suppose, that a wise magistrate can justly be jealous of certain tenets of philosophy, such as those of Epicurus, which, denying a divine existence, and consequently a providence and a future state, seem to loosen, in a great measure, the ties of morality, and may be supposed, for that reason, pernicious to the peace of civil society. (David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, 1737)
In ancient times, bodily strength and dexterity, being of greater use and importance in war, was also much more esteemed and valued, than at present. ... In short, the different ranks of men are, in a great measure, regulated by riches. (David Hume, 1737)
A man who has cured himself of all ridiculous prepossessions, and is fully, sincerely, and steadily convinced, from experience as well as philosophy, that the difference of fortune makes less difference in happiness than is vulgarly imagined; such a one does not measure out degrees of esteem according to the rent-rolls of his acquaintance. ... his internal sentiments are more regulated by the personal characters of men, than by the accidental and capricious favors of fortune. (David Hume, 1737)
Each practice has its advantages and disadvantages. Where birth is respected, unactive, spiritless minds remain in haughty indolence, and dream of nothing but pedigrees and genealogies: the generous and ambitious seek honour and authority, and reputation and favour. Where riches are the chief idol, corruption, venality, rapine prevail: arts, manufactures, commerce, agriculture flourish. The former prejudice, being favorable to military value, is more suited to monarchies. The latter, being the chief spur to industry, agrees better with a republican government. And we accordingly find that each of these forms of government, by varying the utility of those customs, has commonly a proportional effect on the sentiments of mankind. (David Hume, 1737)
Ever since men became capable of free speculation, their actions, in innumerable important respects, have depended upon their theories as to the world and human life, as to what is good and what is evil. This is true in the present day as at any former time. To understand an age or a nation, we must understand its philosophy, and to understand its philosophy we must ourselves be in some degree philosophers. There is here a reciprocal causation: the circumstances of men's lives do much to determine their philosophy, but, conversely, their philosophy does much to determine their circumstances. (Bertrand Russell p.14)
Modern definitions of truth, such as those as pragmatism and instrumentalism, which are practical rather than contemplative, are inspired by industrialisation as opposed to aristocracy. (Bertrand Russell)
Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. (Margaret Mead)
Yes, a dictator can be loved. Provided that the masses fear him at the same time. The crowd love strong men. The crowd is like a woman. (Benito Mussolini)
(Mussolini)The crowd doesn't have to know. It must believe. If we only give them faith that mountains can be moved, they will accept the illusion that mountains are moveable, and thus an illusion may become reality.
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
We should be similarly wary of accepting common opinions;
we should judge them by the ways of reason not by popular vote.
(Michel de Montaigne)
There is a huge gulf between the man who follows the conventions and laws of his country and the man who sets out to regiment them and to change them. (Michel de Montaigne)
Peoples nurtured on freedom and self-government judge any other form of polity to be deformed and unnatural. Those who are used to monarchy do the same . (Michel de Montaigne)
Constitutional parliamentary government is a very high order of regime, based on special and diffused knowledge, as well as on many judicious compromises- what you English call ‘give and take.’ To entrust it to the hands of ignorant men, theorists, visionaries, enthusiasts utterly unversed in political history and actualities, is sheer folly, or rather dangerous madness. The only thing for such people is strong authority, which of course should be just, high-minded, and, if possible, benevolent. On the other hand, unrestricted authority and its exercise harden officials, who are but men, after all. Too much red-tapism is noxious; but neither is it wise to set too narrow limits to the power and dignity of the State. (Prince Bismarck, 1890)
The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside. (Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind)
A big part of our problem is that politicians are elected for only a few years at a time. In that time, they have to provide benefits that can be seen quickly, like construction jobs, new factories and shopping malls. Since social and environmental problems take years to be revealed and just as long to be averted, different politicians will be around to take the credit or the blame when they become critical. So people elected into office find themselves naturally concentrating on short-term fixes, like helping a pulp-and-paper company open a new mill. They know they will be long gone by the time the effects of deforestation or dioxin contamination from that mill are felt by the public. (David Suzuki, Naked Ape to Superspecies)
(John Ralston Saul - The Unconscious Civilisation) There is a certain terrifying dignity to the big ideologies. With the stroke of an intellectual argument the planet is put in its place. Only the bravest or the most foolish of individuals would not become passive before such awe inspiring destinies.
I advocate world government because I am convinced that there is no other possible way of eliminating the most terrible danger in which man has ever found himself. The objective of avoiding total destruction must have priority over any other objective. (Albert Einstein, 1947)
Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them. (Albert Einstein)
Exchange Of Letters With Members Of The Russian
Any government is in itself an evil in so far as it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny. However, except for a small number of anarchists, every one of us is convinced that civilized society cannot exist without a government. In a healthy nation there is a kind of dynamic balance between the will of the people and the government, which prevents its degeneration into tyranny. It is obvious that the danger of such deterioration is more acute in a country in which the government has authority not only over the armed forces but also over all the channels of education and information as well as over the economic existence of every single citizen. I say this merely to indicate that socialism as such cannot be considered the solution to all social problems but merely as a framework within which such a solution is possible. (Albert Einstein, 1947)
My personal opinion is that those methods are in general preferable which respect existing traditions and habits so far as that is in any way compatible with the end in view. Nor do I believe that a sudden transference of economy into government management would be beneficial from the point of view of production; private enterprise should be left its sphere of activity, in so far as it has not already been eliminated by industry itself by the device of cartelization.
There are, however, two respects in which this economic freedom ought to be limited. In each branch of industry the number of working hours per week ought so to be reduced by law that unemployment is systematically abolished. At the same time minimum wages must be fixed in such a way that the purchasing power of the workers keeps pace with production.
Further, in those industries which have become monopolistic
in character through organisation on the part of the producers, prices
must be controlled by the state in order to keep the issue of capital within
reasonable bounds and prevent artificial strangling of production and consumption.
In this way it might perhaps be possible to establish a proper balance between production and consumption without too great a limitation of free enterprise and at the same time to stop the intolerable tyranny of the owners of the means of production (land and machinery) over the wage-earners, in the widest sense of the term. (Albert Einstein, 1934)
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evil. (Albert Einstein, 1949)
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organised political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights. (Albert Einstein, 1949)
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by a educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilised in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society. (Albert Einstein, 1949)
We find that Aristotle has no clear cut answer to the question ‘which is the best form of constitution?’ But finds plenty of warrant in the Politics for saying that the rule of one outstandingly good human, backed by just laws, is most desirable, if only it can be obtained. (Introduction, Politics)
The problems posed by ethical and political philosophy are not of a kind that can be solved once and for all and handed on to posterity as so much accomplished; and that the problems are still the same problems at the bottom, however much appearances and circumstances may have altered in twenty three centuries. How can humans live together? The world has grown smaller and more humans are forced to live together. The problem is larger, more acute and more complicated than it was when ancient philosophers first looked at it. How in particular can a top-dog and an under-dog be made to live together?’ (Introduction, Politics)
.. by nature man is a political animal. Hence man have a desire for life together, even when they have no need to seek each other’s help. Nevertheless, common interest too is a factor in bringing them together, in so far as it contributes to the good life of each. The good life is indeed their chief end, both communally and individually; but they form and continue to maintain a political association for the sake of life itself. Perhaps we may say that there is an element of good even in mere living, provided that life is not excessively beset with troubles. Certainly most men, in their desire to keep alive, are prepared to face a great deal of suffering, as if finding in life itself a certain well-being and a natural sweetness. (Aristotle, Politics)
The society that loses its grip on the past is in danger, for it produces men who know nothing but the present, and who are not aware that life had been, and could be, different from what it is. (Aristotle, Politics)
All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. (Aristotle)
For the real difference between humans and other animals is that humans alone have perception of good and evil, just and unjust, etc. It is the sharing of a common view in these matters that makes a household and a state. (Aristotle, Politics)
To leave the number of births unrestricted, as is done in most states, inevitably causes poverty among the citizens, and poverty produces crime and faction. (Aristotle, Politics)
Phronimos, ‘possessing practical wisdom’.
But the only virtue special to a ruler is practical wisdom; all the others must be possessed, so it seems, both by rulers and ruled. The virtue of a person being ruled is not practical wisdom but correct opinion; he is rather like a person who makes the pipes, while the ruler is the one who can play them. (Aristotle, Politics)
It is clear that those constitutions which aim at the common good are right, as being in accord with absolute justice; while those which aim only at the good of the rulers are wrong. (Aristotle, Politics)
The usual names for right constitutions are as follows:
(a) Monarchy, aiming at the common interest: kingship.
(b) Rule of more than one man but only a few: Aristocracy (so called either because the best men rule or because it aims at what is best for the state and all its members).
(c) Political control exercised by the mass of the populace in the common interest: Polity. This is the name common to all constitutions. It is reasonable to use this term, because, while it is possible for one man or a few to be outstanding in point if virtue, it is difficult for a larger number to reach a high standard in all forms of virtue – with the conspicuous exception of military virtue, which is found in a great many people. And that is why in this constitution the defensive elements is the most sovereign body, and those who share in the constitution are those who bear arms.
The corresponding deviations are: from kingship, tyranny; form aristocracy, oligarchy; from polity, democracy. For tyranny is monarchy for the benefit of the monarch, oligarchy for the benefit of the men of means, democracy for the benefit of the men without means. None of the three aims to be of profit to the common interest. (Aristotle, Politics)
A man who examines each subject from a philosophical standpoint cannot neglect them: he has to omit nothing, and state the truth about each topic. (Aristotle, Politics)
Thus it is thought that justice is equality; and so it is, but not for all persons, only for those that are equal. Inequality also is thought to be just; and so it is, but not for all, only for the unequal. We make bad mistakes if we neglect this ‘for whom’ when we are deciding what is just. The reason is that we are making judgements about ourselves, and people are generally bad judges where their own interests are involved. (Aristotle, Politics)
So we must lay it down that the association which is a state exists not for the purpose of living together but for the sake of noble actions. (Aristotle, Politics)
.. the mass of the people ought to be sovereign, rather than the best but few- is not without difficulty, but has perhaps some truth in it. (Aristotle, Politics)
But it is not at all certain that this superiority of the many over the sound few is possible in the case of every people and every large number. There are some whom it would be impossible: otherwise the theory would apply to wild animals- and yet some men are hardly any better than wild animals. (Aristotle, Politics)
To let them share in the highest offices is to take a risk; inevitably, their unjust standards will cause them to commit injustice, and their lack of judgement will lead them into error. On the other hand there is a risk in not giving them a share, and in their non participation, for when there are many who have no property and no honours they inevitably constitute a huge hostile element in the state. But it can still remain open to them to participate in deliberating and judging. (Aristotle, Politics)
.. nothing emerges so clearly as the fact that the laws, if rightly established, ought to be sovereign, and also that officials, whether individually or as a body, ought to have sovereign power to act in all those various matters about which the laws cannot possibly give detailed guidance; for it is never easy to frame general regulations covering every particular. We said ‘laws rightly established’, but we have not yet discovered what sort of laws these ought to be, so the old problem remains. For as constitutions vary, simultaneously and in like manner the laws too inevitably vary, and are sound or bad, just or unjust; but this much is clear, that the constitution must set the pattern for the laws. (Aristotle, Politics)
We begin by asking whether it is more expedient to be ruled by the best man or by the best laws. Those who believe that to be ruled by a king is expedient think that the laws enunciate only general principles and do not give day-to-day instructions on matter as they arise; and so, they argue, in any skill it is foolish to be guided always by written rules.
For the same reason, it is obvious that the constitution which goes by laws and written rules is not the best. On the other hand, rulers cannot do without that general principle in addition: it provides something which, being without personal feelings, is better than that which by its nature does feel. Every human soul must have feelings, whereas a law has none; but in compensations, one might say, a man will give sounder counsel than law in individual cases. (Aristotle, Politics)
Perhaps here we have a clue to the reason why royal rule used to exist formerly, namely the difficulty of finding enough men of outstanding virtue .. (Aristotle, Politics)
Then, when a large number of men of similar virtue became available, people no longer tolerated one-man rule but looked for something communal, and set up a constitution. But the good men did not remain good: they began to make money out of that which was the common property of all. And to some such development we may plausibly ascribe the origin of oligarchies, since men made wealth a thing of honour. The next change was to tyrannies, and from tyrannies to democracy. For the struggle to get rich at all costs tended to reduce numbers, and so increased the power of the multitude, who rose up and formed democracies. And now that there has been a further increase in the size of states, one might say that it is hard to avoid having a democratic constitution(Aristotle, Politics)
. .we would have to say that hereditary succession is harmful. You may say the king, having sovereign power, will not in that case hand over to his children. But it is hard to believe that: it is a difficult achievement, which expects too much virtue of human nature. (Aristotle, Politics)
.. for desire is like a wild beast, and anger perverts rulers and the very best of men. Hence law is intelligence without appetition. (Aristotle, Politics)
The right constitutions, three in number- kingship, aristocracy, and polity- and the deviations from these, likewise three in number – tyranny from kingship, oligarchy from aristocracy, democracy from polity. (Aristotle, Politics)
A democracy exists whenever those who are free and are not well-off, being in the majority, are in sovereign control of government, an oligarchy when control lies with the rich and better-born, these being few. (Aristotle, Politics)
... what we can be positive about is what we have just said,
namely that they must be given the right education, whatever that may be,
as the surest way to make them behave humanely to each other and the subjects
in their charge. (Plato)
... our purpose in founding our state was not to promote the happiness of a single class, but, so far as possible, of the whole community. Our idea was that we were most likely to justice in such a community, and so be able to decide the question we are trying to answer. We are therefore at the moment trying to construct what we think is a happy community by securing the happiness not of a select minority, but of a whole. (Plato)
... the community suffers nothing very terrible if its cobblers are bad and become degenerate and pretentious; but if the Guardians of its laws and constitution, who alone have the opportunity to bring it good government and prosperity, become a mere sham, then clearly it is completely ruined. (Plato)
Their military training will ensure success in war, but they must maintain unity by not allowing the state to grow to large, and by ensuring that the measures for promotion and demotion from one class to another are carried out. Above all they must maintain the educational system unchanged; for on education everything else depends, and it is an illusion to imagine that mere legislation without it can effect anything of consequence. (Plato)
'Both poverty and wealth, therefore, have a bad effect on the quality of the work and the workman himself.'
'Wealth and poverty,' I answered. 'One produces luxury and idleness and a passion for novelty, the other meanness and bad workmanship and revolution into the bargain.' (Plato)
If they are well brought up, and become reasonable men, they can easily see to all we have asked them to, and indeed a good many things we have omitted, such as the position of women, marriage, and the production of children, all of which ought so far as possible to be dealt with on the proverbial basis of "all things in common between friends".
'Yes, they can deal with all these problems.'
'And once we have given our community a good start,' I pointed out, ' the process will be cumulative. By maintaining a sound system of education you produce citizens of good character, and citizens of sound character, with the advantage of a good education, produce in turn children better than themselves and better able to produce still better children in their turn, as can be seen with animals.' (Plato)
The State which we have founded must possess the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, discipline and justice ... Justice is the principle which has in fact been followed throughout, the principle of one man one job, of 'minding one's own business', in the sense of doing the job for which one is naturally fitted and not interfering with other people. (Plato)
And the quality of good judgement is clearly a form of knowledge
and skill, as it is because of knowledge and not because of ignorance that
we judge well. (Plato)
So the state founded on natural principles is wise as a whole in virtue of the knowledge inherent in its smallest constituent class, which exercises authority over the rest. And the smallest class is the one which naturally possesses that form of knowledge which alone of all others deserves the title of wisdom. (Plato)
'Assume, then,' I said, 'that this was the sort of result we were doing our best to achieve in choosing our soldier-class, and in educating them physically and mentally. Our whole object was to steep them in the spirit of our laws like a dye, so that nature and nurture might combine to fix them indelibly their convictions about what is dangerous, and about all other topics, and prevent them being washed out by those most powerful solvents, pleasure, so much more effective than soap and chemicals, and pain and fear and desire, the most effective of all. This kind of ability to retain in all circumstances a judgement about danger which is correct by established standards is what I propose to call courage, unless you have any alternative to suggest.' (Plato)
'What the expression is intended to mean, I think, is that there is a better and a worse element in the character of each individual, and that when the naturally better element controls the worse then the man is said to be "master of himself", as a term of praise. But when (as a result of bad upbringing or bad company) one's better element is overpowered by the numerical superiority of one's worse impulses, then one is criticized for not being master of oneself and for lack of self control.'(Plato)
'And, what is more, the greatest variety of desires and pleasures and pains is generally to be found in children and women and slaves, and in the less reputable majority of so called free men.'
'While the simple and moderate desires, guided by reason and judgement and reflection, you will find in a minority who have the advantages of natural gifts and good education.'
'This feature too you can see in our state, where the desires of the less reputable majority are controlled by the desires and the wisdom of the superior minority.' (Plato)
'Because, unlike courage and wisdom, which made our state brave and wise by being present in a particular part of it, discipline operates by being diffused throughout the whole of it. It produces a concord between its strongest and weakest and middle elements, whether you define them by the standard of good sense, or of strength, or of numbers or money or the like. And so we are quite justified in regarding discipline as this sort of natural harmony and agreement between higher and lower about which of them is to rule in state and individual.' (Plato)
'...that in our state one man was to do one job, and the
job he was naturally most suited for .. And further, we have often heard
and often said that justice consists of minding your own business and not
interfering with other people.' (Plato)
'Interference by the three classes with each other's jobs, and interchange of jobs between them, therefore, does the greatest harm to our state, and we are entirely justified in calling it the worst of evils.' (Plato)
Justice in the individual is now defined analogously to justice in the state. The individual is wise and brave in virtue of his reason and 'spirit' respectively: he is disciplined when 'spirit' and appetite are in proper subordination to reason. He is just in virtue of the harmony which exists when all three elements of the mind perform their proper function and so achieve their proper fulfillment; he is unjust when no such harmony exists. (Plato)
The principles are important. First, the interest of the state or society counts for everything, that of the individual for nothing. Second, the only difference between men and women is one of physical function- one begets, the other bears children. Apart from that, they both can and should perform the same functions (though men on a whole, perform them better) and should receive the same education to enable them to do so; for in this way society will get the best value from both. (Plato)
We must, if we are to be consistent, and if we're to have
a real pedigree herd, mate the best of our men with the best of our women
as often as possible, and the inferior men with the inferior women as seldom
as possible, and keep only the offspring of the best. (Plato)
And among the other honours and rewards our young men can win for distinguished service in war and in other activities, will be more frequent opportunities to sleep with a woman; this will give us a pretext for ensuring that most of our children are born of that parent. (Plato)
'Is there anything worse for a state than to be split and disunited? or anything better than cohesion and unity?' (Plato)
'Haven't you noticed how, in a trade like the potters', children serve a long apprenticeship, watching how things are done, before they take a hand in the work themselves?'
'Yes I have'
'Oughtn't the Guardians to take just as much care, when they are training their children, to let them see what their duties are and get used to them?'
'It would be absurd if they didn't'
'And besides, any animal fights better in the presence of its young.' (Plato)
The society we have described can never grow into a reality
or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states,
or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings
in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly
become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into
the same hands, while the many natures now content to follow either to
the exclusion of the other are forcibly debarred from doing so. This is
what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound;
for it is not easy to see that there is no other road to happiness, either
for society or the individual.
The philosopher is in love with truth, that is, not with the changing world of sensation, which is the object of opinion, but with the unchanging reality which is the object of knowledge. (Plato)
...there are some who are naturally fitted for philosophy and political leadership, while the rest should follow their lead and let philosophy alone. (Plato)
'...we shan't be unfair to our philosophers, but shall be
quite justified in compelling them to have some care and responsibility
for others. We shall tell them that philosophers in other states can reasonably
refuse to take part in the hard work of politics; for society produces
them quite involuntary and unintentionally, and it is only just that anything
that grows up on its own should feel it has nothing to repay for an unbringing
which it owes to no one. "But you," we shall say, "have
been bred to rule to your advantage and that of the whole community, like
king bees in a hive; you are better educated than the rest and better qualified
to combine the practice of philosophy and politics. You must therefore
each descend in turn and live with your fellows in the cave and get used
to seeing in the dark; once you get used to it you will see a thousand
times better than they do and will recognise the various shadows, because
you have seen the truth about things right and just and good. And so our
state and yours will be really awake, and not merely dreaming like most
societies today, with their shadow battles and their struggles for political
power, which they treat as some great prize. The truth is quite different:
the state whose rulers come to their duties with least enthusiasm is bound
to have the best and most tranquil government, and the state whose rulers
are eager to rule the worst.' (Plato)
'If you get, in public affairs, men who are so morally impoverished that they have nothing they can contribute themselves, but who hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from a political career, there can never be good government. They start fighting for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both them and society.'
'Is there any other life except that of true philosophy which looks down on political power?'
'None that I know of'
'And yet the only men to get power should be men who do not love it, otherwise we shall have rivals' quarrels.'
'That is certain'
'Who else, then, are we to compel to undertake the responsibilities of ruling, if it is not to be those who know most about good government and who yet value other things more highly than politics and its rewards?'
'There is no one else'
'You must realise, I suppose,' I went on, ' that there must be as many types of individual as of society? Societies aren't made of sticks and stones, but of men whose individual characters, by turning the scale one way or another, determine the direction of the whole.' (Plato)
Historian and statesman, born at Florence, 3 May, 1469; died there, 22
His family is said to have been descended from the old marquesses of Tuscany, and to have given Florence thirteen gonfaloniers of justice. His father, Bernardo, was a lawyer, and acted as treasurer of the Marches, but was far from wealthy. Of Nicolò's studies we only know that he was a pupil of Marcello Virgilio.
In 1498 he was elected secretary of the Lower Chancery of the Signory, and in later years he held the same post under the Ten. Thus it chanced that for fourteen years he had charge of the home and foreign correspondence of the republic, the registration of trials, the keeping of the minutes of the councils, and the drafting of agreements with other states. Moreover he was sent in various capacities to one or other locality within the State of Tuscany, and on twenty-three occasions he acted as legate on important embassies to foreign princes, e. g. to Catherine Sforza (1499), to France (1500, 1510, 1511), to the emperor (1507, 1509), to Rome (1503, 1506), to Cæsar Borgia (1502), to Gian Paolo Baglione at Perugia, to the Petrucci at Siena, and to Piombino.
On these embassies he gave evidence of wonderful keenness of observation and insight into the hidden thoughts of the men he was dealing with, rather than of any great diplomatic skill. After the defeat of France in Italy (1512) the Medici once more obtained control of Florence; the secretary was dismissed and exiled for one year from the city. On the discovery of the Capponi and Boscoli plot against Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, Machiavelli was accused as an accomplice, and tortured, but he was set free when the cardinal became Pope Leo X.
Thereupon he retired to some property he had at Strada near San Casciano, where he gave himself up to the study of the classics, especially Livy, and to the writing of his political and literary histories. Both Leo X and Clement VII sought his advice in political matters, and he was often employed on particular missions affecting matters of state, as, for in stance, when he was sent to Francesco Guiccardini, the papal leader in the Romagna and general of the army of the League, concerning the fortification of Florence. He made vain efforts to secure a public post under the Medici, being ready even to sacrifice his political opinions for the purpose. He returned home after the sack of Rome (12 May, 1527) when the power of the Medici had been once more overthrown, but his old political party turned against him as one who fawned on tyrants. He died soon afterwards.
Machiavelli's writings consist of the following works:
Historical: "Storie Fiorentine", which goes from the fall of the Empire to 1492, dedicated to Clement VII, at whose request it had been written. "Descrizione del modo tenuto dal duca Valentino nello ammazzare Vitellozzo Vitelli, etc."; "Vita di Castruccio Cas- tracane"; "Discorsi sopra laprima deca di Tito Livio"; "Descrizione della peste di Firenze dell' anno 1527"; to this group belong also his letters from his embassies as well as his minor writings concerning the affairs of Pisa, Lucca, France, Germany.
Political: "Il Principe", "Discorso sopra il Riformare lo Stato di Firenze"; "Dell'arte della guerra", and other military works.
Literary: "Dialogo sulle lingue"; fIve comedies: "Mandragola"; "Clizia"; a comedy in prose; "The Andria" of Terence, a translation; a comedy in verse; "I Decennati" (a metrical history of the years 1495-1504); "Dell' Asino d'oro", writings on moral subjects; "La serenata"; "Canti Carnas cialesehi"; a novel, "Belfagor", etc.
Machiavelli's character as a man and a writer has been widely discussed, and on both heads his merits and demerits have been exaggerated, but in such a way that his demerits have preponderated to the detriment of his memory. Machiavellism has become synonymous with treachery, intrigue, subterfuge, and tyranny. It has been even said that "Old Nick", the popular name of the Devil among Anglo-Saxon races, derives its origin from that of Nicolò Machiavelli. This dubious fame he has won by his book the "Principe", and the theories therein exploited were further elaborated in his "Discorsi sopra Livio".
To understand the "Principe" right it must be borne in mind that the work is not a treatise on foreign politics. It aims solely at examining how a kingdom may be best built up and established; nor is it a mere abstract discussion, but it is carried on in the light of an ideal long held by Machiavelli, that a United Italy was possible and in the last chapter of the work he exhorts the Medici of Florence (Giuliano and Lorenzo) to its realization. His aim was to point out the best way for bringing it about; he did not deal with abstract principles and arguments, but collected examples from classical antiquity and from recent events, especially from the career of Cæsar Borgia.
So that the "Principe" is a political tract with a definite aim and intended for a particular locality. To gain the end in view results are to be the only criteria of the methods employed, and even the teachings of the moral law must give way to secure the end in view. Good faith, clemency, and moderation are not cast overboard, but he teaches that the interests of the state are above all individual virtues. These virtues may be useful, and when they are a prince ought to exercise them, but more often in dealing with an opponent they are a hindrance, not in themselves, but by reason of the crookedness of others.
Whosoever would prevail against the treachery, crime, and cruelty of others, must himself be beforehand in misleading and deceiving his opponent and even in getting rid of him, as Cæsar Borgia had done. While on the other hand Gian Paolo Baglione made a mistake, by omitting to imprison or put to death Julius II, in 1506, on the occasion of his unprotected entry to Perugia (Discorsi sopra Livio, I, xxvii).
Again, a prince must keep clear of crime not only when it is hurtful to his interests but when it is useless. He should try to win the love of his subjects, by simulating virtue if he does not possess it; he ought to encourage trade so that his people, busied in getting rich, may have no time for politics; he ought to show concern for religion, because it is a potent means for keeping his people submissive and obedient. Such is the general teaching of the "Principe", which has been often refuted. As a theory Machiavellism may per haps be called an innovation; but as a practice it is as old as political society. It was a most immoral work, in that it cuts politics adrift from all morality, and it was rightly put on the Index in 1559.
It is worth noting that the "Principe" with its glorification of absolutism is totally opposed to its author's ideas of democracy, which led to his ruin. To explain the difficulty it is not necessary to claim that the book is a satire, nor that it is evidence of how easily the writer could change his political views provided he could stand well with the Medici. Much as Machiavelli loved liberty and Florence he dreamed of a "larger Italy" of the Italians. As a practical man he saw that his dream could be realized only through a prince of character and energy who would walk in the steps of Cæsar Borgia, and he conceded that the individual good must give way to the general well-being.
As a historian Machiavelli is an excellent source when he deals with what happened under his eyes at the various embassies; but it should be remembered that he gives everything a more or less unconscious twist to bring it into conformity with his generalizations. This is more marked even in his accounts of what he had heard or read, and serves to explain the discrepancies in the letters he wrote during his embassies to Cæsar Borgia, the "Descrizione", etc., the ideal picture he drew of affairs in Germany, and his life of Castruccio Castracane, which is rather an historical romance modelled on the character of Agathocles in Plutarch.
He knew nothing of historical criticism, yet he showed how events in history move in obedience to certain general laws; and this is his great merit as an historian. His natural bent was politics, but in his dealings with military matters he showed such skill as would amaze us even if we did not know he had never been a soldier. He recognized that to be strong a state must have its standing army, and he upholds this not only in the "Principe" and the "Discorsi" but in his various military writings. The broad and stable laws of military tactics he lays down in masterly fashion; yet it is curious to note that he lays no great stress on firearms.
His style is always clear and crisp and his reasoning close and orderly. What poetry he has left gives no proof of poetic talent; rather, the comedies are clever and successful as compositions and only too often bear undisguised traces of the moral laxity of the author (this is shown also in his letters to his friends) and of the age in which he lived. His "Mandragola" and "Clizia" are nothing more or less than pochades and lose no opportunity of scoring against religion.
Machiavelli did not disguise his dislike for Christianity which by exalting humility, meekness, and patience had, he said, weakened the social and patriotic instincts of mankind. Hence, he mocked at Savonarola though he was the saviour of democracy, and he had a special dislike for the Holy See as a temporal power, as he saw in it the greatest obstacle to Italian unity; to use his own expression, it was too weak to control the whole peninsula, but too strong to allow of any other state bringing about unity. This explains why he has no words of praise for Julius II and his Italian policy. It was merely as an opportunist that he courted the favour of Leo X and Clement VII. On the other hand, when death came his way he remembered that he was a Christian and he died a Christian death, though his life, habits, and ideals had been pagan, and himself a typical representative of the Italian Renaissance.
Catholic Encyclopedia: Nicolo Machiavelli, 1911
Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679) saw Society as a giant machine
(perpetually in motion), thus the title of his great work, The
Leviathan, which is founded on Mechanics (the Motion of Bodies
In Leviathan, Hobbes argues that the natural state of man (without any civil government) is war,
'... the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. ... The condition of man ... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.' (Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651)
According to Hobbes, man in the state of nature seeks nothing but his own selfish pleasure, but such individualism naturally leads to a war in which every man's hand is against his neighbour. In pure self-interest and for self-preservation men entered into a compact by which they agreed to surrender part of their natural freedom to an absolute ruler in order to preserve the rest. The State determines what is just and unjust, right and wrong; and the strong arm of the law provides the ultimate sanction for right conduct. (Catholic Encyclopedia: Obligation, 1911)
Thus Thomas Hobbes supports an absolute monarchy, where power resides in the king or queen, as this absolute power to create and enforce laws was necessary for justice and the formation of a moral society.
Hell is Truth Seen Too Late (Thomas Hobbes)
For by Art is created that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth or State which is but an Artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Soveraignty is an Artifical Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body .. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
For the laws of Nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we woud be done to) of themselves, without the terror of some power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
...in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good, and evil, in the conversation, and society of mankind. Good, and evil, are names that signify our appetites, and aversions; which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men, are different. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
Corporations are may lesser commonwealths in the bowels of a greater, like worms in the entrails of a natural man. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
Intemperance is naturally punished with diseases; rashness, with mischance; injustice; with violence of enemies; pride, with ruin; cowardice, with oppression; and rebellion, with slaughter. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
Aristotle in his first book of Politiques affirmes as a foundation of the whole politicall science, that some men by nature are made worthy to command, others only to serve. (Thomas Hobbes, Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society, 1651 [Rudiments], iii. 13. 46.)
They that live under the government of Democracy, attribute all the inconvenience to that forme of Commonwealth. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ii. xviii. 94.)
In a Democracy, look how many Demagogs [that is] how many powerful Orators there are with the people. (Thomas Hobbes, Rudiments, x. 6. 153.)
The government it self, or the administration of its affairs, are better committed to one, then many. (Thomas Hobbes, Rudiments, x. 16. 163.)
The most part are too busie in getting food, and the rest too negligent to understand. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, i. xv. 79.)
To be seduced by Orators, as a Monarch by Flatterers. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ii. xix. 96.)
Reason is the Soul of the Law. (Thomas Hobbes, Dialogue ... Common Laws.)
Ambition, and Covetousnesse are Passions that are perpetually incumbent, and pressing. (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ii. xxvii. 155.)
‘If a man has ideas in his head, let him come to me, and we will talk things over. But when Mazzini wrote that letter, he was guided more by feelings than by his reason.’
‘I am not clear whether you regard Napoleon as a model
or a warning.’
He sat back in his chair, looked rather gloomy, and said in a restrained tone:
‘As a warning. I have never taken Napoleon as an exemplar, for in no respect am I comparable to him. His activities were of a different kind from mine. He put a term to a revolution, whereas I have begun one. The record of his life has made me aware of errors which are by no means easy to avoid.’ Mussolini ticked them off his fingers. ‘Nepotism. A contest with the papacy. A lack of understanding of finance and economic life. He saw nothing more than that after his victories there was a rise in securities.’
‘Does history give any record of a usurper who was
Mussolini, after a pause, even hesitatingly, he rejoined:
‘Julius Caesar, perhaps. The assassination of Caesar was a misfortune for mankind.’ He added softly, ‘I love Caesar. He was unique in that he combined the will of the warrior with the genius of the sage. At the bottom he was a philosopher who saw everything sub specie eternitatis. It is true that he had a passion for fame, but his ambition did not cut him of from human kind.’
‘After all, then, a dictator can be loved?’
‘Yes,’ answered Mussolini with renewed decisiveness. ‘Provided that the masses fear him at the same time. The crowd love strong men. The crowd is like a woman.’
‘I often read Byron and Leopardi. Then, when I have
had enough of human beings, I go for a voyage. If I could do whatever I
liked, I should always be at sea. When this is impossible, I content myself
with animals. Their mental life approximates to that of a man, and yet
they don’t want to get anything out of him; horses, dogs, and my
favourite the cat! Or else I watch wild animals. They embody the elemental
forces of nature!
Q: ‘Should a ruler be inspired rather with contempt for mankind than with kindly feelings?’
He regarded me with the inscrutable expression which is so common to him, and said softly:
‘More sympathy, more compassion; much more compassion.’
Q: ‘Again and again, in exceedingly well-turned phrases, you have declared an increase in your own personality to be your aim in life, saying, “I want to make my existence a masterpiece!”, or, “I want to make my life dramatically effective.” Sometimes you have quoted Nietzsche’s motto, ‘Live dangerously’ How then, can a man with so proud a nature write: “My chief aim is to promote the public interest?” Is there not a contradiction here?’
He was unmoved.
‘I see no contradiction. It is perfectly logical. The interest of the community is a dramatic affair. By serving it, therefore, I multiply my own life.’
I was ataken back and could find no effective repartee, but I quoted to him his own words: “I have always had an altruistic outlook on life.”
“Unquestionably,” he said. “No one can cut himself adrift from mankind. Three you have something concrete- the humanity of the race from whose loins I sprang.”
Globalisation as Interconnected Ecology of both Political States and Physical Reality.
Hobbes, Thomas - 'Hell is Truth Seen too Late.' On the True Foundations of Thomas Hobbes 'Leviathan' as Cosmic Leviathan. On the Interconnected Motion of all things in the Universe.
Politics, Market Economics, Truth and Utopia - An important essay on the current problems of politics dominated by market economics and postmodern relativism (of no absolute truths). The solution to these problems - to found society on truth and reality (utopia).
Marx, Karl & Engels, Frederick - Motion (of Workers and Capital) as the Philosophical Foundations of Marx and Engels 'Das Capital'.
Philosophy: Economics - Controlling the Evolution of Market Economics for the Benefit of both Humanity and Nature (and thus survival). Truth, Reality and Nature (Wave Structure of Matter) as Market Economic Forces. Globalisation as Ecology of Economics.
Philosophy: Education - Plato, Michel de Montaigne, Albert Einstein and Jean Jacques Rousseau on Philosophy of Education, both for the Individual and their Responsibility to Society. On True Knowledge of Reality as Necessary for Education of Critical Thinking.
Aristotle - On Philosopher Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics (Motion). (Aristotle was one of the greatest of the famous philosophers and should be read by all people interested in philosophy and wisdom.)
Aurelius, Marcus - Famous Stoic Roman Emperor & his Meditations on our Interconnected Existence in the Universe & how we are to live. We should not say - I am an Athenian or I am a Roman but I am a Citizen of the Universe.
Cicero - WSM explains Famous Roman Philosopher Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 'As a philosopher, I have a right to ask for a rational explanation of religious faith.'
Hobbes, Thomas - 'Hell is Truth Seen too Late.' On the True Foundations of Thomas Hobbes 'Leviathan' as Cosmic Leviathan. On the Interconnected Motion of all things in the Universe.
Plato - On Plato's Republic - Plato appreciated that all Truth comes from Reality and this Truth was profoundly important to the future of Humanity. 'Till Philosophers are Kings, or Kings are Philosophers there is no Hope for Humanity'
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