This paper attempts to identify the authenticity of western political thought. The thought has been developed with the stream of time by a range of political philosophers. In this paper, it has been tried to find out the western political thought all the way through the realm of two major political philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. The journey starts from the recognition of these two pioneers and there theories. In the background of war overwhelmed Greece, where system was getting eventually worse day by day these pioneers thought to take Greece out of that situation to an extent where there will be peace and gratification all over the country. So they gave theories assuming an ideal state and rules to conduct the state. These theories are mainly under the western political philosophies of Aristotle and Plato. Besides, here is also attempted to find out the position of women in there political philosophies. Though both of the philosophers brought out their theories into light to run a state successfully and effectively but there are some similarities and dissimilarities among their thoughts. At the last part of the paper, it has been tried to evaluate the theories of these two great political philosophers. Despite the fact that they tried their best to make a peaceful and prosperous state in the place of war devastated Greece they almost disregarded the situation and circumstance of women in their theories which helped to lengthen the subordinate position of women in society for more than hundred of years.
Western political thought
Political thought is a wider term, which includes all aspects, which have been covered in the history of political ideas. It covers all sorts of statements, theories and evaluations on politics. “By political thought we understand the reflections on, or the exposition of political ideas.” Evolution of political thought and theory apprehended over the centuries in the west. It started from the political theories of the ancient Greeks with emphasis on Plato and Aristotle. It elaborates on the divine origin theory of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. During the renaissance, Machiavelli dismissed the divine origin of state and classical philosophy, drawing instead on historical examples to offer practical advice to rulers. In England, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke sought the basis for the state in a “social contract” among individuals who possessed “natural rights” in a prior “state of nature”. Hobbes argued that men must enter into a social contract and surrender their natural libraries to an absolute sovereign, whereas Locke concluded that the political state must have limited powers and the citizens retain the right to revolution. Later thinkers like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill invoked the utilitarian principle of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” and pleaded for political reforms that tended to be increasingly democratic and egalitarian.
As an academic discipline, Western political philosophy has its origins in ancient Greek society, when city-states were experimenting with various forms of political organization including monarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, and democracy. One of the first, extremely important classical works of political philosophy is Plato’s The Republic, which was followed by Aristotle’s Politics. Roman political philosophy was influenced by the Stoics, and the Roman statesman Cicero wrote on political philosophy.
Western political philosophy is a line of related philosophical thought, beginning in Ancient Greece, and including the predominant philosophical thinking of Europe and its former colonies up to the present day. The concept of philosophy itself originated in the West, derived from the ancient Greek word philosophia, literally, “the love of wisdom” (philein = “to love” + sophia = wisdom, in the sense of theoretical or cosmic insight)
Institutional basis of western political thought; ancient Greek social and political system:
To know about the background of western political thought we should know about the social and political condition of that time. We should also know about the situation, from where Plato and Aristotle started there political philosophies.
In ancient time Greece was formed by many city states. These city states had there own influence on Greek civilization. There were two city states which were most powerful and influential. If we want to understand the social and political situation of ancient Greece, we must have to know about the social and political institutions of those city states. The two city states were no other than Athens and Sparta.
Social institutions of Sparta:
Social institutions of Sparta were divided into three parts;
Helots were the most numerous in class, but they were at the bottom of social structure. They mainly were slaves. They were the peasant labor, almost exclusively agricultural, supplied the subsistence of the whole population. In rights, either civil or political, they had no share; their condition was that of abject slavery, from the burden from which they only relief seems to have come through their employment at times as light armed troops in the army.
The class called perioikoi constituted in a sense the middle class of the population. Their positions were above of helots. They enjoyed full civil rights and apparently a degree of local self government. Engaged to some extent in agriculture, they conducted practically all the operations of industry and commerce. But in political life of the state, in its general sense, they had no share whatever.
The Spartans were the political peoples of Sparta. This class representing historically the small band of dorians who conquered the home for themselves in the Peloponnesian war, was numerically an almost an insignificant element of population; but it never lost the absolute control which it originally assumed over all the affairs of public life. The Spartans, indeed, had no occupations but the training for and performance of public duties. His support was drawn from the land which the helot’s cultivated; trade and commerce were absolutely prohibited for him. All that remained were the political and military career.
Social institutions of Athens:
Social institutions of Athens were divided into three parts;
Slaves were at the lowest portion of social structure. They were one-third of whole population. Slaves were the people of lowest class of city states. They had no basic human rights. They were treated as like as animals without differentiate them between women and men
Metics were the people of business class. They were mainly foreigners. They came from various areas for conducting trade and commerce.
Citizens were the political people of highest class. They were aristocrats and also the ruling class of the city state.
Political institutions of Sparta:
Political institutions of Sparta were mainly were four parts. They are given in a chronological order,
I. Dual kingship
II. A senate of twenty-eight member
III. An assembly
IV. The ephors
Kings held the highest official positions in military and religious system. But there actual authority was not great.
Senate of twenty-eight members was the most powerful political institutions. Senate was formed by twenty-eight old and wise but elite who were the live members of senate. Senate performed a variety of administrative function, mostly of a judicial character.
Assembly practically had no significance, meeting only on very rare occasions to register it’s approval of some especially important project. Another main duty of them was to elect the members and executive of senate.
Board of ephors was an annually elected board of five members. It was to be found the real center of system. The institution seems to have had it’s origin in a desire to set up a check on the authority of kings and senate. By a process, the ephors displaced all the other organs in the final determination and general policy.
Political institutions of Athens:
Political institutions of Athens were mainly were five parts. They are given in a chronological sequence,
I. Open meeting
III. Organization of administrators
IV. Council of ten generals
V. Court of popular juries
Open meeting was highest political institution of Athens. It was formed by all the male citizens of the city state.
Assembly was the most popular political institutions of Athens in that time. It was formed by all male citizen of the state who was of 20 years of age and above. 6000 male citizen were needed to fill the quorum. Duration of elected members was one year. Their main works was to in act and formulate law. It was also the most popular political institution.
Organization of administrators’ was the elite political institution. Athens was consisting of ten tribes. One member from each tribe represented in the Organization of administrators’. So there were total ten members from ten tribes. The selection process of selecting the representatives of each tribe was lottery. This was more or less powerless than assembly.
Council of ten generals was more or less similar to modern army. It was also a political institution. Function of this institute was to protect the citizens and sovereignty of the city state.
Court of popular juries was a political institution as well as a democratic institution. This institution was formed by 500 to 600 juries. They were selected from 6000 juries. Their function was to judge.
So, from the social and political institutions of these city states two great philosophers were influenced. In their assumed idea of ideal city state we see the reflection of these city states. So we can easily presume that in the background of the origin of western political thought there were a lot of influences of these two city states.
Life history of Plato
Plato may have traveled in Italy, Sicily, Egypt and Cyrene. Said to have returned to Athens at the age of forty, Plato founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western Civilization on a plot of land in the Grove of Hecademus or Academus. The Academy was “a large enclosure of ground which was once the property of a citizen at Athens named Academus… some, however, say that it received its name from an ancient hero”, and it operated until 529 AD, when it was closed by Justinian I of Byzantium, who saw it as a threat to the propagation of Christianity. Many intellectuals were schooled in the Academy, the most prominent one being Aristotle.
Political thoughts of Plato
Plato is considered to be the first real political philosopher of the Western world. He developed the Academy, a university of political science. Plato endeavored to teach political principles to rulers but was confronted continually with the failures of the human spirit brought about by the human condition. IN his famous book, The Republic, Plato argues that society requires a successful division of labor- differently skilled people (artisans, craftsmen, statesmen, etc.) performing their skilled labor to the best of their ability, under the leadership of philosopher-kings. Plato believed, as did Socrates that justice was the primary virtue and that justice is achieved by properly balancing wisdom, courage, and temperance. It is important to note that these attributes were possessed in sufficient quantity and balance only by philosophers. That is why only philosophers were competent to be kings. Yet, the great paradox of The Republic, is that philosophers are not interested in ruling- they are interested only the acquisition of more knowledge.
How to make philosophers desire to rule, without desiring the material gain that comes with ruling (power corrupts) can be achieved through proper education. It is significant that Plato attempted to implement his ideas throughout his life yet he nearly suffered the same fate as Socrates. He was arrested and imprisoned, almost lost his life for his beliefs, and was frustrated in his attempts to influence leaders of his day. Even some of his former students overthrew the tyrannical king and then became tyrants themselves.
The republic is in every respect Plato’s great work. Both the substances of his thought and the form in which it is expressed have fascinated all succeeding generations and have simulated endless imitations. The familiar name of the dialogue, however, gives somewhat erroneous idea of its true character. With this assumed idea of the city state which he called “ideal city state” he gave four political philosophies for the establishment. These are known as theories for conducting ideal city state. The theories are:
*Theory of Ideal State
*Theory of justice
They theories are discussed afterwards;
Theory of Ideal State:
Plato proceeds to formulate the conception of a state in which justice prevails, in order to discover by analogy the philosophic idea of justice in the individual man. All over, Plato wanted to make a city state with certain characteristics as,
There will be classified institutions.
City state will be based on labor specialization.
There will be no marriage or personal property for the ruling class.
Governance system will be based on communism.
Education would be compulsory for all.
There is no necessity of law; decision taken by the ruling class will be regarded as law.
There will be no democracy in the state.
The state will be conducted by the theory “knowledge is virtue” given by Socrates.
In the theory of ideal state Plato found a community arising must embrace three classes of people: producers of sustenance, to supply the physical wants of the population; warriors, to protect the laborers and insure a sufficient territory for the purpose of the state; and finally counselors and magistrates, to regulate the general welfare of the community
When each of these classes performs its own role appropriately and does not try to take over the function of any other class, Plato held, the entire city as a whole will operate smoothly, exhibiting the harmony that is genuine justice. Every member of the community must be assigned to the class for which he proves himself best fitted. Thus a perfect harmony and unity will characterized both the state and every person in it. In laying down this social and economic basis for his republic the philosopher manifests a high appreciation of the principle of specialization and division of labor which has received such marked attention in recent days. The guardian class, known as the philosopher kings with the support of their physical existence reduced to the absolute minimum of the concern to them, they are enabled to cultivate philosophy and rise to those heights of omniscience which afford an unerring insight into all human affairs. Hence their fitness to guide the state without other rule than the true wisdom in which they share.
Plato defined a philosopher firstly as its eponymous occupation – wisdom-lover. He then distinguishes between one who loves true knowledge as contrasting to simple sights or education by saying that a philosopher is the only man who has access to forms – the archetypal concept which lies behind all representations of the form. It is next and in support of the idea that philosophers are the best rulers that Plato fashions the Ship of state metaphor, one of his most often cited ideas (along with his allegory of the cave). “[A] true pilot must of necessity pay attention to the seasons, the heavens, the stars, the winds, and everything proper to the craft if he is really to rule a ship” (The Republic, 487e). Plato claims that the sailors ignore the philosopher’s “idle stargazing” because they have never encountered a true philosopher before.
Plato was aware of this and so proposed some rules which were given by Plato by the cause of conducting a state are;
The philosopher king must live in poverty, with any possessions they do have held in common this does seems to be the first serious proposal in political history for something like complete communism, and through it does only apply to the guardians. It does not seem like a bad idea even today to apply the politicians.
The guardians will ever have their families in common. Children will be raised in common and will not know who their real parents are. These children will also not be randomly selected.
After two fairly disconcerting proposals, Plato gets to one that is more congenial. The observation that wives and children will be held in common by the philosopher kings, which makes it seem as though women are going to be guardians alongside with the men.
The last rule for the philosopher kings, Plato realizes that even with his breeding program, there will be born to the guardians who do not belong there. That is especially likely when we apprehend that is not intelligence that distinguishes Plato’s philosopher kings but a dominance of a particular kind of interest. There will also be children born to the common people who belong among the philosopher kings. To sort them out plato found a universal system of education.
The ideal unity of a state Plato explains in his distinguished conversation on communism. As private property and family relationships materialize to be the chief sources of dissention in every community neither is to have recognition in the perfect state. Unity and harmony require that no individual should differ from any other in the feeling of pleasure or pain in respect to any third person or any object whatever. All must “rejoice and grieve alike at the same gains and at the same losses.”; “the words ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ must be pronounced by all simultaneously.” Private property, there fore, can have no existence in the ideal state, and, further, Plato works out an ingenious scheme through which children should know their own parents, or parents their own children. The discord-making devotion of fathers, and especially of mothers, to their own offspring is thus precluded at the outset. Indeed, the relations of the sexes in general are to be wholly served from the influence of individual emotions, and are to be the subject to the absolute control of the philosopher kings. Men and women are to be mated with sole reference to a harmonious balance of qualities in the young; and the elements of perfect character thus insured at birth are to be developed to maturity by a system of uniform public education.
Plato’s communism is, in its rationale, contrasting that formulated by Marx and other contemporary socialists. It is not premeditated to progress a customary of living. It does not be appropriate to the complete community; and it is more comprehensive where it does be appropriate because it extends to family over and above to the property. Plato’s communism has a political or moral to a certain extent than an economic end. The eugenic and the communistic aspects of family aspects of family life are interconnected but not indistinguishable. Plato sought after eugenic ends all the way through state control of breeding. But the idea of a community wives and children was devoted to the same end as that evolved in the communism of private property. Family implies and traditionally associated with the property required for its maintenance, and Plato feels that one can not be eliminated without the other. More, important, concern with marital relationships and with children would detract from the interest of the philosopher kings in the affairs of the state and the pursuit of knowledge.
In education Plato sees the only true way to the permanent stability of the state. The hope of molding the citizens to the system of the community by legislation must be ineffective. If the character of the people is sound, laws are unnecessary; if sound, laws are useless. Character can be fixed only by a training that begins with the earliest years and proceeds on lines suitable to the maturing of the mind until the climax of life. In the ideal state the function of the ruling class is practically limited to the conduct of such training. Physical and mental culture receives equal attention in the earlier years. After the age of twenty the latter gradually assumes the chief place, and after thirty those individuals who have shown the most capacity confine themselves to the pursuit of dialectic – the ultimate science. As the development of the training enable the rulers to determine the particular capacity of the novices, the latter are assigned to the respective class for which they are found to be fitted. The residuums of the exalted minds that are adapted to philosophy in its highest sense enter at fifty to the ruling class and assume there part in the administration.
According to Plato, the whole process of education should be divided into two parts. As,
I. Primary education
II. Higher education
The table afterwards represents the chronological order of universal education which plato assumed to make ideal citizens for his ideal state.
Premising the unerring wisdom of those who have attended to true knowledge, the relations between the individual and society are so determined by the system as to preclude any of the discord that inheres in the ordinary political life.
Theory of justice:
Plato strongly argued that, justice is not a external thing it is innate in every human being. According to him there are three elements in every human being, as –
As these there elements in human life, political life of every society also have three classes;
a) The philosopher king
b) The warrior class
c) The peasants or the producing class
Upon the relation of this picture of an ideal community to Plato’s ethical dialogue it is unnecessary here to dwell. In brief, the metaphor is simple these three classes of the people symbolize the three faculties of the soul, – appetitive, spirited and rational, -and the presently man, like the ideal state, is found where the first two are in proper subordination to the third.
Plato originally was looking for justice, but justice does not appear in the list of virtues. Because justice applies to them all in the sense of their organizational reason should be in control with the help of spirit. The most important part of the theory is the existence of the philosopher king.
Justice is a social bond. This bond encompasses the society and binds every human of the society.
Justice specifies position for every human in the society.
In the theory Plato’s human and society have no contrast. “Every human is a smaller version of the state, human is world and society is broader world.”
Justice not only ensures a true citizen but also makes a true human being.
Justice is architectonic in nature.
Women’s position in political thoughts of 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.”
In his Republic, Plato argues that men and women should have similar roles in the ideal state (that women as well as men would be rulers, soldiers, and workers. `Man’ and “men and women:” we must be careful in attributing either a feminist or a sexist character to Plato’s views. Nonetheless, in many passages he speaks in an extremely disparaging manner about women. As one reads Plato’s works, one must critically examine what he says and consider whether or not he truly believes that they have the same nature (or natures), and whether or not he wishes to treat men and women “equally.”
In the theory of ideal state Plato wanted to make philosophers to run the state and as a certain characteristics he abolished the idea of family and private property. In his eye’s if a philosopher king marries a woman and creates a family, with her selfish nature, the women will always want to capture wealth for herself and her family, which will make a state diminishing. Here he showed a negative idea towards womankind. But in contrast, he opened a great way for women. Plato showed women are going to be guardians alongside with men. In his republic it is demonstrated that male and female guardians have same natures, and should therefore, be assigned the same tasks. Women have all the same parts of the soul and so all the same interests, virtues and personality types as men. Since children ill be raised in common, individual women will not be burden with the task of child rearing and will be free to take their places in their proper occupations alongside with men. If the warrior women are not as strong as the men, then they may not be at the fore front of the battle, but they should be at the battle. This equality even extends to athletics, which is some what shocking, since Greek athletes went naked. Words like gymnasium and gymnastics both derived from “gymnos” meaning naked. It is certainly seems that Plato’s faith in the potential abilities of the female sex had been strengthened since he had put into Socrates’ mouth the contorted arguments of book ⅴ of the republic. Plato knew from his early observations that there is no such fixed quality as female human nature. Female nature is in fact what different societies have made of it.
In his theory of communism Plato abolished the conception of private property and family, mainly for the ruling class. This means he is diminishing the great barrier for women to be a ruler. When the idea of family and private property will be abolished, everybody will live a same life and all offspring of either kings or common people will be brought in public then women easily will be able to join ruling class. On the other hand, he said philosopher kings can copulate with any women in the state whom they want to. This idea tends to ‘commoditization of women’. If half of the population is being commoditized then how true justice could be ensured?
In his education theory Plato has opened a plain way for all to education. Without dividing into any sections of citizens Plato made a universal education system confining compulsory education for all. As all children either male or female will be brought up in common, so everyone gets equal chance to education. A girl, alongside with boys can be educated as she can go to the education centers. It helped womankind to be empowered. As the rulers (philosopher king/queen) was selected from the educational process so everyone whoever was engaged to education had a clear chance to join the ruling class. So the education system was a great way for women to go and join to the ruling class as philosopher queens.
Lastly, in his theory of justice, when Plato divided the elements of humankind into three sections as three sections of social life Plato did not differed here as men and women of the elements. He shared the same truth for women as men. As we can see in his theories he never mentioned that the elements of life are for absolutely for men or for women. So, we can see justice could be assured under the ruling of a woman. Here also, Plato has a open field for empowerment of women.
Although Plato granted that men and women are different in height, strength, and similar qualities, he noted that these differences are not universal; that is, for example, although it may be true that most men are taller than most women, there are certainly some women who are taller than many men. What is more, he denied that there is any systematic difference between men and women with respect to the abilities relevant to guardianship—the capacity to understand reality and make reasonable judgments about it. (Republic 454d) Thus, Plato maintained that prospective guardians, both male and female, should receive the same education and be assigned to the same vital functions within the society.
For all of the leaps Plato seems to have made in the direction of feminism, many of his writings suggest otherwise. Indeed women are seen, especially in the areas of reproduction and child-rearing, as having more of a connection and dependence of a bodily nature. Men, in this method of thought would be seen as being more connected to the soul and things of a spiritual nature. Plato embraced this idea as did many of his contemporaries. Plato went so far as to say that men and women have different types of souls and a female body may not necessarily contain a female soul., a woman who displays skills of a philosophical nature and cares not for things of the body will re-enter life as a man. The notion that life in a female body is punishment for cowardice is a hard one to swallow and begins to break down Plato’s heroism as a pioneer for feminists. It begins to seem as though Plato is saying that the ultimate goal for any person is manliness, but it is possible for a soul in a female body to achieve it. He suggests that “female” refers to someone who is connected to the world on a bodily level, and “male” is someone who has risen above to a higher philosophical level. In essence, anyone can be either female or male, depending on his or her nature.
Life history of Aristotle
Aristotle was born in Stageira in Chalcidice. His parents were Phaestis and Nicomachus, who became physician to King Amyntas of Macedon. Aristotle was educated as a member of the aristocracy. At about the age of eighteen, he went to Athens to continue his education at Plato’s Academy. Aristotle remained at the Academy for nearly twenty years, not leaving until after Plato’s death in 347 BC. He then traveled with Xenocrates to the court of Hermias of Atarneus in Asia Minor. While in Asia, Aristotle traveled with Theophrastus to the island of Lesbos, where together they researched the botany and zoology of the island. Aristotle married Hermias’ daughter (or niece) Pythias. She bore him a daughter, whom they named after his wife, Pythias. Soon after Hermias’ death, Aristotle was invited by Philip of Macedon to become tutor to Alexander the Great.
After spending several years tutoring the young Alexander, Aristotle returned to Athens. By 335 BC, he established his own school there, the Lyceum. Aristotle directed courses at the Lyceum for the next twelve years. While in Athens, his wife Pythias died. Aristotle soon became involved with Herpyllis of Stagira, who bore him a son whom he named after his father, Nicomachus.
It is during this time in Athens that Aristotle is thought to have composed many of his works. Although Aristotle wrote dialogues, only fragments of these have survived. The works that have survived are in treatise form and, for the most part, were not meant for widespread publication. These are generally thought to be lecture notes or texts used by his students. Among the most important are Physics, Metaphysics (or Ontology), Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, De Anima (On the Soul) and Poetics. These works, although connected in many fundamental ways, differ significantly in both style and substance.
Aristotle not only studied almost every subject possible at the time, but made significant contributions to most of them. In science, Aristotle studied anatomy, astronomy, economics, embryology, geography, geology, meteorology, physics, and zoology. In philosophy, Aristotle wrote on aesthetics, ethics, government, metaphysics, politics, psychology, rhetoric and theology. He also dealt with education, foreign customs, literature and poetry. His combined works practically constitute an encyclopedia of Greek knowledge. It has been remarked that Aristotle was likely the last person to know everything there was to be known in his own time.
Upon Alexander’s death in 323 BC, anti-Macedonian feelings in Athens once again flared. Eurymedon the hierophant denounced Aristotle, claiming he did not hold the gods in honor. Aristotle fled the city to his mother’s family estate in Chalcis, explaining, “I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy.” However, he died there of natural causes within the year. Aristotle left a will, which has been preserved, in which he asked to be buried next to his wife.
Aristotle’s political philosophy
Aristotle believed that political science was an imperfect expression of imperfect beings and he was always looking for ways to improve politics without demanding perfection. Likewise, government’s primary purpose is to promote virtue in its citizens through that form that will require practice and habit. Aristotle wrote, “A State exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only: if life only were the object, slaves and brute animals might form a state, but they cannot, for they have no share in happiness or in a life of free choice.”
Politics is the highest form of human expression, according to Aristotle and the state is the highest form of politics. Because the state is the culmination of debate and speech, and it is the end result of man’s highest expression of sociability, it is that which distinguishes man from the animals.
The distinctions between “good” and “bad” forms have largely to do with economics and class-struggle and the notion that tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy will always act in their own class interest rather than in the best interest of the whole society.
Aristotle’s is considered by many to mark the beginning of Western Traditional Political Philosophy partly because it is the first include the notion of plurality in politics. He also did not ignore the realities of life and of the human condition by insisting, as did Plato, that the “ideal” was the only reality.
The theories Aristotle gave for the conducting of ideal state are five in number. They are:
Ideal state theory
Forms of constitution
Theory of revolution
Rule of law
Ideal state theory:
In his ideal state theory Aristotle discussed about the ideal state, its theory and purpose. He said,
“State is a system which is originated through a natural process, which is called historical process. State originated due to maintaining/providing the basic needs, political rights and social needs. The state itself is neither a business institution nor a charitable organization for women.”
He cited some characteristics of a ideal state, as:
A state is created through a natural process
The state is a natural institution/ natural creation
State is established to fulfill the political and economic needs.
The state is a self-sufficient unit
People of the state would be recognized as a social and political animal.
Forms of constitution:
According to Aristotle a state means a constitution. Without a constitution the state is like without a base. He chosen two methods of constitutions to differentiate the characteristics of a state,
1. Quality of the rulers. → Natural & Perverted.
2. Quantity of the rulers. → One, Few & Many.
Mainly in two divisions he converse about six forms of constitutions. They are
1) Monarchy: ruled by the virtuous man is the best of natural constitutions.
2) Aristocracy: ruled by the virtuous few is the second best of the natural constitution.
3) Polity: governed by the people and for the people is the poorest form of the natural constitution.
4) Democracy: it is the mob rule is the best of the worst/perverted constitution.
5) Oligarchy: ruled by few selfish wealthy is the worse of the perverted constitution.
6) Tyranny: ruled by the selfish man is the worst of the bad/perverted constitution.
From these six categories of government, Plato has chosen polity as the best form of government/constitution.
Theory of revolution:
In his politics, Aristotle has defined revolution as,
“Without changing the existing political system if any political party or any political group tries to capture the existing political power or change the political system is revolution.”
Causes of revolution:
Aristotle has stated two main causes of revolution.
General cause :
The general causes of revolution are,
Mental condition/ cause related to equality or inequality purpose. As,
Absolute equality occurs when any group who are not in power that the group who are in power are misusing all power and resources.
Proportionate equality is a kind of revolution lead by mass people.
If any group want to achieve or capture the profit or the wealth of the state or show any kind of tendency to do these types of work.
If anarchy of a ruling class reaches the highest limit.
If any leader wants to escapes from the punishment then s/he could lead a revolution.
According to theory of Marx, if there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor people then revolution will took place. As, French revolution.
If the state power is exercised unequally.
Chaos or conflict between/among different groups.
Particular cause occurs according to the forms of constitution. Aristotle showed the causes as,
1) In monarchy, when king becomes tyrannical then revolution occurs. Example: Nepal.
2) In aristocracy, if the rich people captures resource.
3) In polity, no revolution occurs.
4) In democracy, if ruling party misuses the power.
5) In oligarchy, revolution is mandatory because the state is ruled by few mighty people.
6) In tyranny, if ruler becomes dictator and shows dictatorship.
Aristotle’s theory of slavery is found in Book I, Chapters iii through vii of the Politics. In his slavery theory, Aristotle divided people into two classes: as,
According to Aristotle, slavery system or slavery theory is the natural system of a society. The people regarding master who have wisdom and slave who are related with productive work. Master group can not do the simple works that are done by slave. Slave system will remain up on their ability and quality. By nature, Subordination is right because it corresponds to the way things have been made. Aristotle also reckons that slavery is natural because some people are by nature destined to be slaves. Not only from legal form but also from moral way of sight Aristotle has stated slavery system as a legal idea. According to him, the difference between master and slave is not only a legal difference but also normal and moral differences. This theory is a mixture of order and obedience. Aristotle’s theory of slavery holds that some people are naturally slaves and others are naturally masters. Thus he says:
But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?
There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.
As to him, slavery system is based on two principles. Firstly, the definition he has given full implementation of the definition is needed. To establish a virtuous life is the main and first duty of a citizen. If the have to do this duty, they need a full leisure period out from the physical work. But this leisure can only be obtained by slavery system. so slavery system makes the objective base of moral life.
Secondly, slaves are only instruments of action not the instruments of production. Slaves are needed to keep masters free from all physical work so that they could practice moral values. But without being the instrument of action, if slavery system becomes instruments of production then slavery system loses its moral base. In the basis of rationality domestic slavery is legal, but industrial slavery is illegal. Because the main objective of industrial slaves is to in crease production of masters, not giving them time to rest and to practice moral values.
Rule of law:
Constitutional rule in the state is closely connected; also; with the question whether it is better to be ruled by the best man or the best law, since a government which consults the good of it’s subject is also government in accordance with law. As Plato made government by law and government by good rulers’ alternatives. Even the wisest ruler can’t dispense with law because the law has an impersonal quality which no man, however good, can attain. The law is “reason unaffected by desire.” Aristotle says that in the making of law the collective wisdom of a people is superior to that of even the wisest law giver. He illustrates this by the assertion that popular taste in the arts is reliable in the long run, while experts make the notorious blunders at the moment. To some what the same effect is his marked preference for customary as compared with written law.
The real purpose of a state ought to improve the moral improvement of its citizen, because it ought to be a moral association of men living together to achieve the best possible life. This is the meaning of a state; Aristotle’s ultimate effort at a definition turns upon his conviction that the state alone in “self-sufficient,” in the sense that it alone provides all the condition wit6hin which the highest type of moral development can take place. This being true, it is necessary to take account of the conditions of human nature which make it true. Law must be admitted to include real wisdom and the accumulation of such wisdom in social custom must be allowed for. And the moral requirements which make law necessary must be incorporated as part of the moral ideals of the state. True political rule must therefore include the factors of subordination to the law and of its subjects. These become factors not of a second-best state but of the ideal state itself.
Aside from physical conditions of the good life, the most important force in molding citizen is, for Aristotle, a compulsory system of education in his general theory of education Aristotle differs from Plato, in allowing greater weight to the formation of good habits. Thus he places habit between nature and reason among three things which make men virtuous. Such a change was necessary in view of the importance which custom must have in a state subject to law.
Position of women in Aristotle’s political philosophy
Aristotle thought in dualities. He considered action superior to inaction, form (the inner design or structure of any object) superior to matter, completion to incompletion, and possession to deprivation. In each of these dualities, he associated the male principle with the superior quality and the female with the inferior. “the male principle in nature,” he argued, “is associated with active, formative and perfected characteristics, while the female is passive, material and deprived, desiring the male in order to become complete.” men are always identified with virile qualities, such as judgment, courage, and stamina; women with their opposites – irrationality, cowardice, and weakness.
Aristotle wrote, “A State exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only: if life only were the object, slaves and brute animals might form a state, but they cannot, for they have no share in happiness or in a life of free choice.”
Aristotle actually means by the claim that women are impotent males with respect to procreation is that women are the ‘opposite’ of men, which means that women are deprived of full humanity as they are biologically determined to have ‘impotent minds’
In the works of Aristotle we see women as incomplete males. In his works we can divide to discuss women related matter in five pieces; as:
*Functional theory of Aristotle
*Reproduction power/ capacity
*Beneficial and benefactor relationship
*Function of the family.
Functional theory of Aristotle
From the whole work of Aristotle we can see, who have wisdom and have the capacity to do something they be in the higher position of the society. People who capture an advanced situation in the society have a great soul with great moral values. But he stated that women have no wisdom after all. Although, they are totally dependent on their male counterparts so they can not take part in any important functions of matters.
As there is always a hierarchical relationship in the society, in the words of Plato, there should be a hierarchical system alike in the society. As slaves are the subordinate part of the society, like that women are the submissive ingredient of a family. He showed the hierarchical situation in the family life also. He compared women with the slave class of people.
Reproduction power/ capacity
Aristotle’s biological claim that women are ‘impotent males’ attaches to his argument about how human reproduction occurs: the male semen is the catalyst that imbues the non-causative matter held in the female womb with logos, so that the female matter and male semen both contribute to the formation of the embryo. His theory accounts for why human females are not capable of virgin birth, and also for why it is that human children are typically born with physiological features and psychological capacities inherited from both parents – no matter the sex of the children themselves. As the female womb does not produce semen – against the beliefs of some of the persons against whom Aristotle is arguing – it is not the female who is potent with respect to procreation, but the male, and in this sense, the female reproductive principle is a ‘privation’ of the male reproductive principle, as it is not as powerful as the male’s: no women can inseminate a male and make him pregnant. In this sense, says Aristotle, due their respective roles in procreation, women are the ‘contrary’ of men. Aristotle has taken this reproduction capability so negatively that he not only have said them impotent males but also showed it as a cause why they have to stay in home.
Beneficial and benefactor relationship
In the social sections there are mainly two groups beneficial and benefactors. Beneficial are those who support any other parson or groups. On the other benefactor is/ are those who are supported by any group of people. According to Aristotle, in the society women are the beneficial to men and men are the benefactors. The relation was as like as slaves and their masters. Women serve men like slaves.
Function of the family
According to Aristotle the main work for women is to care of the family. They are to work in the family, rear up the child and take care of the males. In a word, there main duty is to do the household activities. That is why women are inferior to men.
Aristotle gives the classical definition of political rule as the kind of rule appropriate for free and equal persons. This concept of political rule is complicated; however, by the fact that, even in what Aristotle calls a free and equal association, the ruler is separated from the ruled by his possession of the virtue of prudence. Though Aristotle characterizes the proper relation between men and women as a free and equal one, he distinguishes the male/female political relation from the more general political relation by saying that men are naturally more fit to rule than women. We are interested in whether Aristotle excludes women from political rule because he thinks that women lack the potential for the virtue of prudence.
Evaluation of women’s situation in theories of Aristotle and Plato
“Aristotle lived in a society in which the citizens had free time to enjoy the pursuits of leisure because they had slaves to take care of their states and to do menial work. It was a society in which women occupied an inferior position. Plato, in projecting the institutions of an ideal state, proposed that all political offices, except that of military leader, should be open to women, because he regarded men and women as essentially equal; but Aristotle accepted the more conventional view of his day concerning the inferiority of women.”
Plato was the father of the “Utopian” idea in which several features were essential. He broke down the human soul in three parts; Desire, spiritual and rational. Plato addresses the three features as being key to the establishment of the perfect society. If every person counterweights with the whole of society and these features than society can understand each other and progress and work towards the advancement of the society.
Aristotle takes the same concept but more clearly defines it and takes it to the next level that goes beyond the perfect state and allows its applications to influence the whole system rather that purely serve as its basis. Aristotle has a perfect society but is not as nearly exaggerated as that of a utopia. Aristotle takes a more lenient attitude in his philosophy in general, in which its application is easier to real life. Aristotle sees only two parts to the human soul; the philosophical/ theoretical and the rational. Superficially one may derive from this that the human soul is far deeper than that of Plato’s partitions. In fact Aristotle regards human individual more than Plato does. Aristotle believes that each and every human has the philosophical/ theoretical dimension to him or her but the distinguishing feature is the ability to be rational. Plato uses the analogy of golden, silver and iron souls to distinguish the differences.
The scales on which both philosophers regard the human soul on are consequently determinate to the whole political structure and system more so in Plato’s utopia. To be able to recognize the difference of perspectives, looking at what qualifies one to become a ruler is essential. Plato claims that the pre-determined level of a soul is the definite feature of the ruler. The king must be of a golden soul who also happens to be a philosopher. Aristotle takes the latter part of this interpretation and applies it to the rational part of the human soul and defines it as being the determinate factor unique characteristic that qualifies to be the leader. The soul classification of Plato creates a blatant hierarchical system that I personally see as a huge flaw to Plato’s utopia and therefore more agree with Aristotle’s view that all citizens are free and that the leader can only be if here were rational.
Plato’s attitude to women was ambivalent. In some of his writings he advocated a fairer deal for women. In his idealized Republic he foresees an upper-class of ‘guardians’ among whom the chattel status of women is abolished (i.e. she is no longer owned by her husband) and in which women were to receive equal education to men.
On the other hand, he ascribed the inferior status of women clearly to degeneration from perfect human nature. “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’
This downward progress may continue through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfillment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man” (Plato, Timaeus 90e).
Aristotle proposes that the whole of the society in general should determine who is the leader, more like a democracy but with smaller terms and more watchdog councils set up but in a structure where all rational people have a turn to benefit society. On the contrary Plato sees that only the one philosopher king can rule, which in reality causes severe complications and more room for error as iron soul and silver soul have no say in society and only serve as the wheels for the progress of society, as oppose to Aristotle who believes all free men are born equal opening the possibility for interaction and understanding, giving the potential of all people of becoming good citizens. Both philosophers express the modern terms of nature of nurture but with a political significance. Plato believes that the predetermined soul level is the humans nature which one cannot escape and is part of no matter what, and Aristotle believe that our nature is equal in all of us and the nurture is the next significant factor that can lead to the ability of rationalism.
Aristotle’s main thrust was to explain the nature of things from they are seen to be. From the subject and low status of women he deduced their inferiority by nature. The reason for women’s inferiority lies in a defect. “Women are defective by nature” because they cannot reproduce semen which contains a full human being. When a man and a woman have intercourse, the man supplies the substance of a human being (the soul, i.e. the form), the woman only the nourishment (the matter).
Since it was a fundamental principle for him that, of the two factors or components in every being, ‘form’ is superior to ‘matter’, sexual reproduction was considered beneficial, because it demanded that the one who gives the ‘form’ (the male) be separate from the one who supplies the ‘matter’ (the female). Thus the ‘lower’ is not mingled with the ‘higher’ in the same individual. Aristotle subscribed to what Caroline Whitbeck has called the ‘flower pot theory’ of human generation. The female, since she is deficient in natural heat, is unable to ‘cook’ her menstrual fluid to the point of refinement, at which it would become semen (i.e. ‘seed’). Therefore her only contribution to the embryo is its matter, and a ‘field’ in which it can grow. Her inability to produce semen is her deficiency: Aristotle concludes,
‘A woman is as it were an infertile male’ (Generation of Animals, I, 728a).
‘A male is male in virtue of a particular ability, and a female in virtue of a particular inability’ (Generation of Animals, I, 82f).
According to Aristotle, man rightly takes charge over woman, because he commands superior intelligence. This will also profit the women who depend on him. He compares this to the relationship between human beings and tame animals.
‘It is the best for all tame animals to be ruled by human beings. For this is how they are kept alive. In the same way, the relationship between the male and the female is by nature such that the male is higher, the female lower, that the male rules and the female is ruled.’
What we should notice in Aristotle’s text is the phrase: by nature. Subordination is right because it corresponds to the way things have been made. Aristotle also reckons that slavery is natural because some people are by nature destined to be slaves.
Aristotle then proceeds to describe a slave’s position and it is truly terrifying. A slave is no more than ‘a tool of his master’. Together with the wife and the ox, a male or female slave is a householder’s indispensable beast of burden. He or she should be kept well — for simple economic reasons. But slaves have no right to leisure or free time. They own nothing and can take no decisions. They have no part in enjoyment and happiness, and are not members of the community.
Plato continues and to use his classification system throughout the whole of society. Aristotle proposes a far less hierarchical society. Both perfect societies are based on the ultimate goal of achieving happiness for all. Plato claims happiness can be easily achieved once all the different classes co-operate with another, with each accepting their position in society, mainly due to the reason no matter what social class one is they are essential and part of this perfect society.
But the main problem of them which could be assumed as there similarity also is both of them have given less attention to womankind. Though Plato was more considerate to women than Aristotle in republic Plato stated women were to receive equal education to men. But Aristotle left no space for women in his political theory. As he stated women are ‘by nature’ inferior and defective. He compared women inferior than to barbarians and slaves. He stated, women are by nature inferior to men and slavers and barbarians are by nature inferior than civilized races so in this way women belonged in poorest position in the political philosophy of Aristotle.
I think that Plato was fully and completely accepting of women, as were most intellectual men of the period. It is common nature to realize that men and women are made of the same material, and therefore have the same intellectual potential. Plato knew this, but feared execution because his belief was so radical for the time period.
Plato’s view of women seems to have changed over his career. He favored equal education for them in the Republic. Although he believed that, on average, women were of lesser intellectual talent, he admitted that many women were better than many men and, thus, everyone should be given a chance to prove him- or herself. By the Timaeus, however, he claimed that women are what happen to the souls of men who have lived bad lives (not as bad as the men whose souls come back as animals, but worse than those whose souls come back as men again). In his last book, the Laws, his attitude toward women had deteriorated even further.
Plato’s pupil Aristotle was far less sympathetic to women. He described women has having lack of reason to determine the Good and therefore obligated to be obedient to achieve virtue. He described women as being the physical opposite to the spiritual male. He claimed that women were merely passive receptacles who bore and nurtured the life created by the semen supplied by the spiritual male. He shared Plato’s notion that women are the opposite of men and connected to the body, but not his belief that there was potential for growth beyond that state. He described women as “children who never grew up.”
In the evaluation process of the condition of women in western political thought, we mainly has emphasized on the starting position of western political thought and the position as well as the circumstance of women in the beginning. We wanted to demonstrate here the historical process of keeping women in a subordinate position in the western political thought. At this juncture it is attempted to ascertain the background of western political thought with its institutional basis.
Plato, however, was the first to start the journey of western political thought, had assumed a scheme of an ideal city state, which is almost utopian by nature. But the matter of hope that he kept a place for women in his theory. In his sense, male and female have almost same nature and both could be asserted the same work. Here we can see Plato was very liberal in the question of gender sensitivity.
On the other hand, one of the most renowned students of Plato, Aristotle, though followed the way showed by Plato, to assume the idea of a city state, he was rather practical than utopian. But the major fault of Aristotle, he showed a less care toward womankind. As we know true prosperity is not possible be keeping half of the population behind, in there Aristotle’s idea of the city state was fallen down.
So, we can see in the theories of the great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle women does not have a great position at all. In theories of both women have a scanty concentration as only for the reason that half of the population can totally not be disregarded. But as a human being, it could be said that, women have not get there proper position in the theories. Because, as human they would be equally judged and valued as men.
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