GVPT241 NOTES - politics and political philosophy have one...

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politics and political philosophy have one thing in common, and that is argument . Politics means taking sides; it is partisan . A partisan difference like this one is not a clash of “values,” with each side blind to the other and with no way to decide between them. A competent judge could ask both sides why they omit what they do, and he could supply reasons even if the parties could not. Such a judge is on the way toward political philosophy. So Aristotle’s dictum that man is a rational animal leads to his definition of man as a political animal who rules himself and others, not one who merely decides for himself only on a whim. Aristotle is no relativist, but he is also no dogmatist. He is willing to allow that though the justice of the best regime is everywhere the same, justice in the actual regimes we live in varies according to circumstance and convention. He (CICERO) brought political philosophy to Rome for a people whose leading lights were gifted in politics and rhetoric but despised anything that derived from the Greeks, whom they had defeated. Natural law in political philosophy is not to be found in the Greeks but was first seen in Cicero’s writings, where it is attributed, with some stretching, to the Stoics. Similar to the natural justice or natural right of which Plato and Aristotle spoke, it is not identical. Whereas natural justice takes effect through the regime, natural law sets the basis for regimes and so precedes the regime. Natural justice is more flexible, and therefore runs a greater risk of seeming relativistic than does natural law. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), the first modern thinker. He was the first modern because he had the amazing ambition to bring politics, and with politics all other human problems, under a greater degree of human control than had ever before been thought possible. This new state of affairs he called the “perpetual
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2008 for the course GVPT 241 taught by Professor Alford during the Winter '08 term at Maryland.

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GVPT241 NOTES - politics and political philosophy have one...

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