Essay, Research Paper: Political Thought Changes


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The study of western political thought has endured a drastic change throughout
the centuries. This shift occurred through the queries of ancient philosophical
minds such as Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and St. Augustine. Two examples of
great importance are the inequality of gender and the role of power distributed
and issued within the state. Plato believed all people, men and women alike are
created equal; this notion runs parallel to our modern day Constitution. He
states “if we are to set women to the same tasks as men, we must teach them
the same things,” they must endure “training for the mind and body and also
be taught the art of war” (149). Plato developed a role known as a guardian or
a soldier to protect over the people. He relates this to the fact that if
watchdogs can be both male and female why can’t guardians. Aristotle is known
as Plato’s greatest pupil. He was strongly influenced by the teachings of
Plato but was also known for ridiculing some of his ways. His view of women is
drastically different from those of Plato. By nature, he says, women are to be
dominated by men. Aristotle refers to women as imperfect men. He acknowledges
that women can possess reason, but can not obtain the same stature as men.
Aristotle believes the only purpose that women serve is to provide matter for
the child and the men provide the form. His ideas of form and matter are very
different from that of Plato, since his beliefs are void of matter holding only
form as the essence behind life. The beginning of Stoic philosophy formed a
totally different view on the idea of equality. Equality was no longer devised
with respects to a community in the whole, but rather as individuals. The Stoics
developed a system consisting of three classes. Everyone within each particular
class was considered equals. They were strong followers of the concept of
natural law, which meant both men and women can reason. Their reasoning was
treated in the same respects no matter what gender; this statement is very
different from that of Aristotle. Zeno, the founder of the Stoics, believed in
the notion of brotherhood among all, men and women alike. St. Augustine took the
Stoics ideas of equality one step further. His views pertain to that of the
Christian approach. Augustine believed that people were all equals within the
City of God. Spiritually women were identical to men, but physically they shared
many differences. This idea of equality holds true even to present day. These
paragraphs demonstrate a tremendous change in the equality of women within
society. Another example that was greatly impacted by these time periods was the
change in the role of power distributed and issued within the state. Plato held
the belief of the philosopher king. He believed to ensure the ideal state
“either philosophers (were to) become kings in their countries or those who
are now called kings and rulers come to be sufficiently inspired with a desire
for wisdom” (179). Plato believed only the wise could execute proper justice.
A just city is an ideal city for Plato, one in which the philosopher was in
total control. Aristotle’s views greatly differ from Plato’s. Aristotle
believed that each individual in their self made the polis. He compares having
only one person as a “hand” (112) without a body, put that hand with the
rest of the body and it can work to its fullest potential. This describes
individuals working as a whole to better the polis. By including all citizens
Aristotle believed he had created the ideal city. During the time of the Stoics,
many important philosophers gave their opinions about the issues of authority
within the state. As stated previously, Zeno was a strong believer of the
brotherhood among all. The Stoics notion of natural law granted all people
within the state, of any class, to be offered the ability to share their opinion
of government. Another philosopher, Polibius, agreed with Aristotle’s concept
of mixed constitution. Government was gradually moving away from the days of
Plato. Augustine defined the Christian rule of the Church over state. In order
to have the ideal government, Augustine believed law should co-relate to that of
the Church. He believed firstly that the state should promote peace and
prosperity among the people. Secondly, that it should reflect only true
religion. Lastly, the government should work to establish commonly accepted
rules for acquiring the necessities of life. God has doctrine over man,
therefore; he has doctrine over state. After much reading for this report, I
realized the major impact these philosophers have had both in equality and state
over the nations of today. This shows that at one time certain governments or
rights were at there prime, but as time progresses things change. One thing will
always remain and that is the impact of religion over society.
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