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- The Political Realism of Thucydides and Thomas Hobbes
- On Justice Power and Human Nature
- thucydides on justice, power and human nature chapter 1 summary
- State of nature
The Political Realism of Thucydides and Thomas Hobbes
Justice is one of the most important moral and political concepts. The word comes from the Latin jus , meaning right or law. But philosophers want to get beyond etymology and dictionary definitions to consider, for example, the nature of justice as both a moral virtue of character and a desirable quality of political society, as well as how it applies to ethical and social decision-making.
This article will focus on Western philosophical conceptions of justice. These will be the greatest theories of ancient Greece those of Plato and Aristotle and of medieval Christianity Augustine and Aquinas , two early modern ones Hobbes and Hume , two from more recent modern times Kant and Mill , and some contemporary ones Rawls and several successors.
Typically the article considers not only their theories of justice but also how philosophers apply their own theories to controversial social issues—for example, to civil disobedience, punishment, equal opportunity for women, slavery, war, property rights, and international relations. For Plato, justice is a virtue establishing rational order, with each part performing its appropriate role and not interfering with the proper functioning of other parts.
Aristotle says justice consists in what is lawful and fair, with fairness involving equitable distributions and the correction of what is inequitable.
For Augustine, the cardinal virtue of justice requires that we try to give all people their due; for Aquinas, justice is that rational mean between opposite sorts of injustice, involving proportional distributions and reciprocal transactions. Hobbes believed justice is an artificial virtue, necessary for civil society, a function of the voluntary agreements of the social contract; for Hume, justice essentially serves public utility by protecting property broadly understood.
Rawls analyzed justice in terms of maximum equal liberty regarding basic rights and duties for all members of society, with socio-economic inequalities requiring moral justification in terms of equal opportunity and beneficial results for all; and various post-Rawlsian philosophers develop alternative conceptions.
Western philosophers generally regard justice as the most fundamental of all virtues for ordering interpersonal relations and establishing and maintaining a stable political society.
By tracking the historical interplay of these theories, what will be advocated is a developing understanding of justice in terms of respecting persons as free, rational agents.
One may disagree about the nature, basis, and legitimate application of justice, but this is its core. As far back in ancient Greek literature as Homer, the concept of dikaion , used to describe a just person, was important.
From this emerged the general concept of dikaiosune , or justice, as a virtue that might be applied to a political society. The issue of what does and does not qualify as just could logically lead to controversy regarding the origin of justice, as well as that concerning its essence. In his trial, Socrates was at pains to dissociate himself from them, after his conviction refusing to save himself, as a typical Sophist would, by employing an act of civil disobedience to escape Dialogues, pp.
The brief answer is, their relativism and their skepticism. Gorgias Plato named dialogues after both of them is remembered for a striking three-part statement of skepticism, holding that nothing really exists, that, even if something did exist, we could not grasp it, and that, even if we could grasp something real, we could never express it to anyone else.
We can easily anticipate how readily Sophists would apply such relativism and skepticism to justice. But the most significant Sophist statement regarding justice arguably comes from Antiphon, who employs the characteristic distinction between custom nomos and nature physis with devastating effect. He claims that the laws of justice, matters of convention, should be obeyed when other people are observing us and may hold us accountable; but, otherwise, we should follow the demands of nature.
The laws of justice, extrinsically derived, presumably involve serving the good of others, the demands of nature, which are internal, serving self-interest. He even suggests that obeying the laws of justice often renders us helpless victims of those who do not First , pp.
If there is any such objective value as natural justice, then it is reasonable for us to attempt a rational understanding of it.
On the other hand, if justice is merely a construction of customary agreement, then such a quest is doomed to frustration and failure. With this as a backdrop, we should be able to see what motivated Plato and Aristotle to seek a strong alternative.
Secondly, Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, jumps into the discussion, espousing the familiar, traditional view that justice is all about giving people what is their due. But the problem with this bromide is that of determining who deserves what. Polemarchus may reflect the cultural influence of the Sophists, in specifying that it depends on whether people are our friends, deserving good from us, or foes, deserving harm.
If the first inadequate theory of justice was too simplistic, this second one was downright dangerous. The third, and final, inadequate account presented here is that of the Sophist Thrasymachus. Thrasymachus cannot mean physically stronger, for then inferior humans would be superior to finer folks like them.
He clarifies his idea that he is referring to politically powerful people in leadership positions. But, next, even the strongest leaders are sometimes mistaken about what is to their own advantage, raising the question of whether people ought to do what leaders suppose is to their own advantage or only what actually is so. Had Thrasymachus phrased this in terms of what serves the interest of society itself, the same appearance versus reality distinction would apply.
But, beyond this, Socrates rejects the exploitation model of leadership, which sees political superiors as properly exploiting inferiors Thrasymachus uses the example of a shepherd fattening up and protecting his flock of sheep for his own selfish gain , substituting a service model in its place his example is of the good medical doctor, who practices his craft primarily for the welfare of patients.
Thus, by the end of the first book, it looks as if Socrates has trounced all three of these inadequate views of justice, although he himself claims to be dissatisfied because we have only shown what justice is not, with no persuasive account of its actual nature ibid. Likewise, in Gorgias , Plato has Callicles espouse the view that, whatever conventions might seem to dictate, natural justice dictates that superior people should rule over and derive greater benefits than inferior people, that society artificially levels people because of a bias in favor of equality.
Socrates is then made to criticize this theory by analyzing what sort of superiority would be relevant and then arguing that Callicles is erroneously advocating in justice, a false value, rather than the genuine one of true justice Gorgias , pp. Glaucon reminds us that there are three different sorts of goods—intrinsic ones, such as joy, merely instrumental ones, such as money-making, and ones that are both instrumentally and intrinsically valuable, such as health—in order to ask which type of good is justice.
Socrates responds that justice belongs in the third category, rendering it the richest sort of good. In that case, Glaucon protests, Socrates has failed to prove his point. If his debate with Thrasymachus accomplished anything at all, it nevertheless did not establish any intrinsic value in justice. In defending justice against this Sophist critique, Plato has Socrates construct his own positive theory. This is set up by means of an analogy comparing justice, on the large scale, as it applies to society, and on a smaller scale, as it applies to an individual soul.
Thus justice is seen as an essential virtue of both a good political state and a good personal character. The strategy hinges on the idea that the state is like the individual writ large—each comprising three main parts such that it is crucial how they are interrelated—and that analyzing justice on the large scale will facilitate our doing so on the smaller one. In Book IV, after cobbling together his blueprint of the ideal republic, Socrates asks Glaucon where justice is to be found, but they agree they will have to search for it together.
If they can properly identify the other three of those four, whatever remains that is essential to a completely good society must be justice. Wisdom is held to be prudent judgment among leaders; courage is the quality in defenders or protectors whereby they remain steadfast in their convictions and commitments in the face of fear; and temperance or moderation is the virtue to be found in all three classes of citizens, but especially in the producers, allowing them all to agree harmoniously that the leaders should lead and everyone else follow.
Now we move from this macro-level of political society to the psychological micro-level of an individual soul, pressing the analogy mentioned above. A good soul is wise, in having good judgment whereby reason rules; it is courageous in that its spirited part is ready, willing, and able to fight for its convictions in the face of fear; and it is temperate or moderate, harmoniously integrated because all of its parts, especially its dangerous appetitive desires, agree that it should be always under the command of reason.
And, again, what is left that is essential is justice, whereby each part of the soul does the work intended by nature, none of them interfering with the functioning of any other parts. We are also told in passing that, corresponding to these four pivotal virtues of the moral life, there are four pivotal vices, foolishness, cowardice, self-indulgence, and injustice.
The answer is that, of course, we can because justice is the health of the soul. Now let us quickly see how Plato applies this theory of justice to a particular social issue, before briefly considering the theory critically. In a remarkably progressive passage in Book V of his Republic , Plato argues for equal opportunity for women. He holds that, even though women tend to be physically weaker than men, this should not prove an insuperable barrier to their being educated for the same socio-political functions as men, including those of the top echelons of leadership responsibility.
While the body has a gender, it is the soul that is virtuous or vicious. Despite their different roles in procreation, child-bearing, giving birth, and nursing babies, there is no reason, in principle, why a woman should not be as intelligent and virtuous—including as just—as men, if properly trained.
As much as possible, men and women should share the workload in common Republic , pp. Nevertheless, many of us today are sympathetic to this application of justice in support of a view that would not become popular for another two millennia. The negative part of it—his critique of inadequate views of justice—is a masterful series of arguments against attempts to reduce justice to a couple of simplistic rules Cephalus , to treating people merely in accord with how we feel about them Polemarchus , and to the power-politics mentality of exploiting them for our own selfish purposes Thrasymachus.
Thus, in refuting them, Plato, in effect, is refuting the Sophists. However, after the big buildup, the positive part—what he himself maintains justice is—turns out to be a letdown. His conception of justice reduces it to order. While some objective sense of order is relevant to justice, this does not adequately capture the idea of respecting all persons, individually and collectively, as free rational agents. But do they? What, for example, of the Christian virtue of love or the secular virtue of benevolence?
Finally, the argument from analogy, showing that justice must be intrinsically, and not merely instrumentally, valuable because it is like the combination good of health proves, on critical consideration, to fail. Nevertheless, one cannot help hoping that a more cogent theory might yet be developed. After working with Plato at his Academy for a couple of decades, Aristotle was understandably most influenced by his teacher, also adopting, for example, a virtue theory of ethics.
Book V of his great Nicomachean Ethics deals in considerable depth with the moral and political virtue of justice. It begins vacuously enough with the circular claim that it is the condition that renders us just agents inclined to desire and practice justice.
But his analysis soon becomes more illuminating when he specifies it in terms of what is lawful and fair. In general, citizens should obey such law in order to be just. The problem is that civil law can itself be unjust in the sense of being unfair to some, so that we need to consider special justice as a function of fairness. If a member of a community has been unfairly benefited or burdened with more or less than is deserved in the way of social distributions, then corrective justice can be required, as, for example, by a court of law.
Notice that Aristotle is no more an egalitarian than Plato was—while a sort of social reciprocity may be needed, it must be of a proportional sort rather than equal.
Like all moral virtues, for Aristotle, justice is a rational mean between bad extremes. But, since individuals tend to be selfishly biased, the law should be a product of reason rather than of particular rulers.
Aristotle is prepared to distinguish between what is naturally just and unjust, on the one hand, such as whom one may legitimately kill, and what is merely conventionally just or unjust, on the other, such as a particular system of taxation for some particular society. But the Sophists are wrong to suggest that all political justice is the artificial result of legal convention and to discount all universal natural justice ibid.
Rhetoric , pp. What is allegedly at stake here is our developing a moral virtue that is essential to the well-being of society, as well as to the flourishing of any human being. A decent person might selfishly benefit from being a stickler regarding following the law exactly but decide to take less or give more for the sake of the common good.
In this way, decency can correct the limitations of the law and represents a higher form of justice Nicomachean , pp. In his Politics , Aristotle further considers political justice and its relation to equality. Justice rather requires inequality for people who are unequal. But, then, oligarchy is also intrinsically unjust insofar as it involves treating equals as unequal because of some contingent disparity, of birth, wealth, etc. Rather, those in a just political society who contribute the most to the common good will receive a larger share, because they thus exhibit more political virtue, than those who are inferior in that respect; it would be simply wrong, from the perspective of political justice, for them to receive equal shares.
Thus political justice must be viewed as a function of the common good of a community. But inferiors have a vested interest in thinking that those who are equal in some respect should be equal in all respects, while superiors are biased, in the opposite direction, to imagine that those who are unequal in some way should be unequal in all ways.
Thus, for instance, those who are equally citizens are not necessarily equal in political virtue, and those who are financially richer are not necessarily morally or mentally superior. All he can suggest, for example in some of his comments on the desirable aristocratic government, is that it must involve moral and intellectual virtue Politics , pp.
Let us now consider how Aristotle applies his own theory of justice to the social problem of alleged superiors and inferiors, before attempting a brief critique of that theory. While Plato accepted slavery as a legitimate social institution but argued for equal opportunity for women, in his Politics , Aristotle accepts sexual inequality while actively defending slavery.
On Justice Power and Human Nature
Plato was highly dissatisfied with the prevailing degenerating conditions in Athens. The Athenian democracy was on the verge of ruin and was ultimately responsible for Socrates's death. The amateur meddlesomeness and excessive individualism became main targets of Plato's attack. This attack came in the form of the construction of an ideal society in which justice reigned supreme, since Plato believed justice to be the remedy for curing these evils. After criticizing the conventional theories of justice presented differently by Cephalus, Polymarchus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon, Plato gives us his own theory of justice according to which, individually, justice is a 'human virtue' that makes a person self-consistent and good; socially, justice is a social consciousness that makes a society internally harmonious and good. According to Plato, justice is a sort of specialization. Plato in his philosophy gives very important place to the idea of justice.
The Realist school of thought in International Relations has claimed both Thucydides and Thomas Hobbes as two of their intellectual forefathers and in doing so has suggested that the core beliefs and views of these two political thinkers can be classified as Realism. This essay will set out to identify and discuss the main principles of political realism in order to, then, be able to compare and contrast the assumptions of Thucydides and Hobbes about these issues. This will be done through a brief recourse to the core realist principles and then the discussion will move on to compare the views of Hobbes and Thucydides on the topics of the international system; the state and the individual in international relations and finally the causes and justifications of war. Political Realism sees international relations mainly as a struggle of self-interested, sovereign states that are involved in a game of power-politics within a permanent state of anarchy. The international system, according to this school of thought, is a moral- and value-free environment in which the state is seen as a rational and unitary actor that finds itself in constant conflict with the other states of the system due to the lack of an overarching world government. Stemming from their pessimistic view on human nature, the only way to achieve security in the international system, according to political realism, is by creating a Balance of Power among the most powerful states of the system. In the writings of Thucydides, many of these core realist assumptions can be found.
Political realism believes that politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. In order to improve society it is first necessary to understand the laws by which society lives. The operation of these laws being impervious to our preferences, men will challenge them only at the risk of failure. Realism, believing as it does in the objectivity of the laws of politics, must also believe in the possibility of developing a rational theory that reflects, however imperfectly and one-sidedly, these objective laws. It believes also, then, in the possibility of distinguishing in politics between truth and opinion-between what is true objectively and rationally, supported by evidence and illuminated by reason, and what is only a subjective judgment, divorced from the facts as they are and informed by prejudice and wishful thinking. Human nature, in which the laws of politics have their roots, has not changed since the classical philosophies of China, India, and Greece endeavored to discover these laws.
biblebelieverspentecostal.org: On Justice, Power, and Human Nature: Selections from The History of the Peloponnesian War (Hackett Classics) (): Thucydides.
thucydides on justice, power and human nature chapter 1 summary
State of nature , in political theory, the real or hypothetical condition of human beings before or without political association. Many social-contract theorists, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke , relied on this notion to examine the limits and justification of political authority or even, as in the case of Jean-Jacques Rousseau , the legitimacy of human society itself. Visions of the state of nature differ sharply between theorists, although most associate it with the absence of state sovereignty. What Hobbes calls the first law of nature , for instance, is.
Unlimited access to the largest selection of audiobooks and textbooks aligned to school curriculum on the only app specifically designed for struggling readers, like students dealing with dyslexia, blindness or other learning differences. Designed for students with little or no background in ancient Greek language and culture, this collection of extracts for The History of the Peloponnesian War includes those passages that shed most light on Thucydides' political theory -- famous as well as important but lesser known pieces frequently overlooked by nonspecialists. Newly translated into spare, vigorous English, and situated within a connective narrative framework, Woodruff's selections will be of special interest to instructors in political theory and Greek civilisation. Add to Bookshelf. What's an Audio Format Audio format refers to the way an audiobook is recorded.
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State of nature
In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth cf.
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. Woodruff Published Art. Designed for students with little or no background in ancient Greek language and culture, this collection of extracts from The History of the Peloponnesian War includes those passages that shed most light on Thucydides' political theory--famous as well as important but lesser-known pieces frequently overlooked by nonspecialists. Save to Library. Create Alert.
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