Political philosophy describes a significant study on issues of the state, liberty, politics, government, and justice and the enforcement of a legal code by the authority. Significantly, it depicts ethics that a group of individuals use and explains the way society must be structured and how a person’s within the community should act. It as well explains how individual rights within a nation should benefit the society instead of making persons suffer. This context provides several aspects of political philosophy.
Strauss (1989) reveals that political philosophy is a critical entity as it addresses vital elements within a government that aim at helping the citizens live a better life. It defines a government, explains why governments are necessary and what makes them legitimate. Besides, it outlines the rights and freedoms of individuals that a regime must protect. It explores the responsibilities of citizens to a legitimate administration, if any, and shows situations that may lead to the government being overthrown if need be. Consequently, these aspects render political philosophy a primary entity to a great and civilized future and one that maintains a quest for independence, increased globalization and civilization that would assist in handling emerging challenges.
Political philosophy in the Western region originated from Ancient Greece, a time the city-states practiced different kinds of political organization that included democracy, aristocracy, oligarchy, and tyranny (Strauss & Cropsey 2012, p.97). Here, political philosophy dates back to at least Plato. Europe came into a kind of political philosophy of golden age in the Age of Enlightenment. At this time, a significant conceptual distinction between State and government was outlined. A state was perceived as an entity of stable institutions via which power distribution and its legitimate use remain critical. The government was seen as a particular group of persons occupying a State’s institution. It is also responsible for creating laws for the citizens to abide.
The Enlightenment era that depicts modern philosophy led to vital queries by political philosophers; what right or why persons create states? And what is the paramount structure for a State? Indeed, these conceptual differences operate in political science (Baylis et al. 2017, p.47). Nonetheless, some political scientists, cultural anthropologist, historians, and philosophers argue that different legislative acts in a particular society happen outside of the state. There are also societies which aren’t organized into States which need to be considered as States too.
The first significant elaborate function of European political philosophy remains the Republic of Plato, a masterwork of insight and sentiment, significantly shown in the form of a dialogue and in a way intended for recitation. Plato further develops his ideas in his Statesman and Laws (Klosko 2006, p. 133). Plato and other philosophers like Athens sought to get remedies for rife political injustice and refuse. Undeniably, the Republic remains the new archetypal endeavor by a European theorist to moralize political life.
Klosko (2006) explains that Plato’s view of political philosophy marked an important moderation of stoicism and justice theory of the Roman era. It as well emphasized on the function of the State in the application of mercy as a moral example. Besides, Thomas Aquinas strictly dealt with the various law; eternal, natural, human and divine positive law (Sigmund 1988, p. 187). Political philosophy is thus descriptive and empirical which makes it a vital element of life and one with decisive results on political life for bad or good. Political philosophy is as well seen as a proper intellectual discipline that sets judgment of standards and describes constructive reasons for public power use.
Aristotle was also a political thinker who discourses on nature and society. He talks about nature and society and provides workable solutions to challenges around the world. In this view, political actions are classified as a subdivision of biology and that of ethics; in disparity to Plato’s view. Aristotle disapproved several of Plato’s perception as he considered them unfeasible. However, similar to Plato’s view, Aristotle approves balance and moderation and prefers city-states governing by the rule of law (Kraut 2002, p. 13). The two philosophers consider city-state as a natural kind of civilized life, political, social and profound platform for the realization of human capabilities. Aristotle demonstrates that the use of the rule of law is the appropriate way to enhance good life (Kraut 2002, p. 18). Such notions existed during the extra-European civilizations where individuals were ruled unjustly or justly through the arbitrary authority of semi-divine leaders. The principle also existed once other individuals were exceedingly organized under war leaders for depredation though valuing tribal custom and the tribal elders’ power. The people are the ministers of the laws and persons that abide by the law are believed to bid God. However, desire and passion deprave the thoughts of rulers, even though they are the most excellent. This principle contrast the lawful government from tyranny thrived the Middle Ages, and through subjecting the leader to law, it turned into the hypothetical authorization of contemporary constitutional government.
Cicero lived during the political confusion times (1st century) when the old republic organizations were collapsing facing military dictators. Importantly, his Cicero’s De republica as well as De legibus (Laws) assume dialogue form and depict the classical perception of purpose to render human life improved through our effort and thinking. Cicero termed the republic as an organization governed by law (Powell 1995, p. 47). Cicero agreed with Plato’s view that regime was guided by a corporate natural law which mirrored the cosmic order. Cicero articulates the pre-Christian Stoic challenge to advocate public control, evident in the demanding civic responsibility idea revealed by rulers Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian in the 2nd century.
St. Augustine had differing perceptions from Plato and Aristotle view on political philosophy since the typical amenities, and healthy life interests seemed insignificant, and the Christian church alone practiced a spiritual power which sanctioned the government. This ideology would then dictate medieval contemplation (Strauss & Cropsey 2012, p.43). And with the refuse of civilization in the West, the church became a vast repository of learning and the remnants of the early civilized life (Kraut & Skultety 2005, p.48).
Sparta referred to the citizens as equals (Strauss 1989, p.6). The political discussion had no much debate on slavery and inexistence of slave rendered an individual free although not automatically a citizen. Slavery was considered to be a context within politics. Women were excluded from active citizenship that resulted in female-dominated politics. Nonetheless, a regime must understand what citizenship and virtue within a system require to address the political and ethical queries.
Justice is a foundation of equal citizenship that was believed to be an obligation for the individual government to be satisfactory to gods. Once justice becomes a basis for political life, it allows its participants to prosper and to remain happy (Costa 2004, p.1002). Justice relied on treating the citizens equally, but the political concern was on how to handle equals reasonably. The oligarchical government valued elite and wealthy landowners as full equals while the democratic government governments considered the majority as political equals of the elite (Castoriadis 1983, p. 89). The Epicureans thought of the society as one established in justice although justice arose from the utility.
The Italian Renaissance depicts the European times that last between 14th -17th century. It marked the evolution from the medieval times to modernity. The Italian Renaissance ideas and plans endured and stretched in the European countries since they helped solve disputes as well as foreign invasions (Strauss 1989, p.12). It made achievements in exploration, sculpture, philosophy, music, painting, literature, science and architecture.
Political philosophers led to the creation of the modern political system which smashed governmental, legislative powers and introduced “checks and balances” that avert the democratic republican regime from dictatorship or oligarchy (Strauss & Cropsey 2012, p.79). The emergence of modernity and the modern social imaginary was in line with such different concepts. Baylis et al. (2017) assert that modern political philosophy is fundamental to improved ecological civilization central to creating an ecological civilization and a global environmental development. Its unique outlook into life matters and the real world renders it one of the suitable approaches for us to reflect on human survival in the current times. Political philosophy has also encouraged politics founded in the dedication to moral cultivation, and the general good did not necessarily challenge claims of rival forms of monotheistic religions (Gaus & D’Agostino 2012, p.113).
The political rule has stretched from mere domination by some persons over others to apparition of shared thought amid equals for good life. The perception of the city and the political agreement founded in justice remained a general ground across ancient political philosophy spectrum. However, political philosophy ideologies keep evolving.
Baylis, J., Smith, S. and Owens, P. eds., 2017. The globalization of world politics: an introduction to international relations. Oxford University Press.
Castoriadis, C., 1983. The Greek polis and the creation of democracy. Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 9(2), pp.79-115.
Costa, P., 2004. Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries. La società degli individui. Fascicolo 21, 2004, (21), pp.1000-1004.
Gaus, G.F. and D’Agostino, F. eds., 2012. The Routledge companion to social and political philosophy. Routledge.
Klosko, G., 2006. The development of Plato’s political theory. Oxford University Press.
Kraut, R. and Skultety, S. eds., 2005. Aristotle’s Politics: critical essays. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Kraut, R., 2002. Aristotle: political philosophy. Oxford University Press on Demand.
Sigmund, P., 1988. Thomas Aquinas, Politics and Ethics.
Strauss, L. and Cropsey, J. eds., 2012. History of political philosophy. University of Chicago Press. Powell, J., 1995. Cicero the philosopher: twelve papers.
Strauss, L., 1989. An introduction to political philosophy: Ten essays. Wayne State University Press.