History of Political Philosophy, Lecture 1: Plato’s Republic, books 2-4 Historical background • It’s worth remembering, over the next three weeks, the historical context in which Plato and Aristotle wrote: the Peloponnesian War had raged between Athens and Sparta in the late 5th century BCE, effectively destroying the Athenian sea empire; in partial reaction to this, the democracy of Athens had been overthrown by the “thirty tyrants” at the end of the century, before democracy was restored. (Before you sigh with relief, the restored democracy proceeded to put Socrates to death.) • Both Plato and Aristotle classify types of state with an eye to recent historical examples, including the militarized monarchy of Sparta, the democracy of Athens (in which offices were literally assigned by random lottery, and figures could be “ostracized” by a vote), and tyrannies like Syracuse. Remember that the political units here are cities, even if some cities did become the center of larger empires. • Both Plato and Aristotle also had their own experiences close to power: Plato in Syracuse, trying to convey philosophy to the tyrant’s son, and Aristotle as the tutor of Alexander the Great. Plato’s Republic • The Republic, arguably the greatest work of philosophy ever written, is also the founding text of all political philosophy. Actually Plato’s Crito, which is probably earlier, does touch on political themes with its examination of the reasons for obedience to the law. And one can find relevant bits here and there in the Presocratics. But it is really the Republic that first sets out a theory of political rule and the nature of the state. It does more than this, by envisioning an ideal society (the kallipolis, or “best city”) and by drawing a parallel between the city and the human soul. • Here is a ridiculously brief summary of its contents: Book 1: Socrates’ clash with Thrasymachus: is justice the “advantage of the stronger party”? Book 2: Glaucon’s challenge (on which see further below) Books 2-5: Setting out the ideal state, division of the soul as a mirror of the state (end of book 4). In book 5 we have the discussion of family arrangements and identification of the philosopher as the ideal ruler (at 473c-e), which sets off... Books 5-7: Plato’s epistemology and theory of Forms, including cave, sun and line analogies. Books 8-9: Back on track with discussion of inferior types of city/soul and how they emerge. Book 10: Critique of poetry, Myth of Er. Glaucon’s challenge • The project of the Republic begins in earnest in book 2 when Glaucon says Socrates’ defense of justice against Thrasymachus is inadequate. He sets out a miniature “contract theory” of justice: “They say that to do injustice is naturally good and to suffer injustice bad, but that the badness of suffering it so far exceeds the goodness of doing it that those who have done and suffered injustice and tasted both, but who lack the power to do it and avoid suffering it, decide that it is profitable to come to an agreement with each other neither to do injustice nor to suffer it. As a result, they begin to make laws and covenants, and what the law commands they call lawful and just. This, they say, is the origin and essence of justice. It is intermediate between the best and the worst. The best is to do injustice without paying the penalty; the worst is to suffer it without being able to take revenge. Justice is a mean between these two extremes. People value it not because it is a good but because they are too weak to do injustice with impunity. Someone who has the power to do this, however, and is a true man wouldn’t make an agreement with anyone not to do injustice in order not to suffer it. For him that would be madness. This is the nature of justice, according to the argument, Socrates, and these are its natural origins.” (358e-359b, Grube/Reeve trans.) • Glaucon goes on to illustrate his point with the famous Ring of Gyges example: after an earthquake, a shepherd finds a ring of invisibility and uses it to become king. Glaucon claims that no one would be just if they possessed such a ring. • Notice that Glaucon is arguing indirectly for the preferability of the unjust life: for he’s actually only arguing explicitly that people would be unjust if given a chance, not that they should be unjust. However this puts the onus on Socrates since his view that justice is advantageous to the just man is counter-intuitive (it is not, so to say, what people really believe in their heart of hearts). • We can draw a parallel distinction between two questions that are often intertwined in the history of political thought: the question of how the state in fact (historically speaking) arose, and the question of the normative sources of political authority. • Plato is very much alive to this distinction: after setting out his ideal state and the need for a philosopher-king, he asks in book 6 of the Republic whether and how a philosopher could ever take power, concluding that it would take a stroke of great fortune or divine intervention (499a-d). The shape of the state • In response to Glaucon, Socrates suggests (368c-d) with an analogy to reading (it’s easy to read big letters than small) that it might be helpful to consider justice at the level of the city (polis) in order to understand it at the level of the individual. This sets the agenda for the rest of the Republic. • The city comes into existence because individual men are not self-sufficient (369b) – there’s a contrast here with Aristotle who thinks that it is just a natural tendency of men to gather into social groups, and who sees an analogy between the family and the city. • Much of book 2 is the given over to considering what kind of people need to exist in the city, including soldiers (“guardians”) who are responsible for protecting the city and seizing the territory of neighboring peoples. It’s very explicit (373a) that this happens because of the need for luxuries. • We discover later that the philosopher kings, the true guardians, are drawn from this warrior class; the non-philosopher warriors are called “auxiliaries” (book 3, 414b). To each his own • By the time we get to book 4, Socrates has considered the training of the auxiliaries by means of physical and musical education (books 2-3) and, at the end of book 3, told the “myth of the metals,” also known as the “noble lie”: the three classes of men in the city are informed that they have admixtures of gold, silver and iron and bronze in their blood. This is to prevent the classes from protesting at their position in society. Thus: Gold: the guardians (later identified as philosophers in book 5) Silver: the auxiliaries Iron and bronze: the craftsmen • Then, in book 4 we finally return to the nature of justice. We are told that justice is one of four virtues exhibited by the best city. It is wise, courageous, and temperate, these virtues being associated with the three classes respectively (e.g. the city is “temperate” because the craftsmen obey the guardians). The fourth virtue, justice, consists in the interrelation of the classes: “each must do their own” (433b). • This “to each his (or her) own” principle is, then, the core of Plato’s political philosophy. Obviously it presupposes an inequality across groups and individuals in society: the just city is the one in which the most excellent rule and the least excellent are ruled. • This is very far from the sort of “contract” theory presented by Glaucon in book 2: in fact, as we saw it requires a “noble lie” to persuade the people of the city to abide by the organizational principles that keep the city running properly and justly. The parallel to the soul • Socrates then at the end of book 4 draws the promised parallel to justice in the soul, and says that the three classes are paralleled by three parts or aspects of soul, reason, spirit and appetite. Justice in the individual is for the parts of the soul to be appropriately interrelated, which means that reason is in charge. • It’s worth reflecting on why we might find the ethical teaching presented here fairly sympathetic and persuasive, while finding the political teaching less tempting (in fact Plato has been accused, by Karl Popper and others, of setting out a kind of totalitarianism). History of Political Philosophy, Lecture 2: Plato’s Republic, books 5-8 Recap • We saw last week that the ideal city is set out by Socrates as having three classes, with corresponding parts of the soul and corresponding “metals” in the myth put forward in the Noble Lie: True Guardians Gold Reason Auxiliaries Silver Spirit Craftsmen Iron and bronze Appetite • Justice in the city or the soul means “each doing its own,” that is, it is for the highest part to have authority over the others, for the auxiliaries to defend the city well, and for the craftsmen to perform their function. The “third wave” • In book V Socrates has defended himself against two “waves” that threaten to sweep away the argument: he must defend the equal status of men and women in the kallipolis, and the communal raising of children (his defense of this involves the eugenics program set out at 459d ff). • At 473, Socrates comes to the “greatest wave”: he must defend a new proposal, that the “true guardians” described in the previous parts of the Republic are in fact philosophers: “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor, I think, will the human race.” • This proposition is defended in the next few books, with the famous passages about the lovers of sights and sounds, the cave, the divided line, etc. Passing over this because it is covered in other modules, we should however note the famous “ship of state” analogy in book 6, at 488. The duty and opportunity to rule • As the ship analogy makes clear, Plato is unimpressed by the way that political rule is handed out in some (all?) Greek cities: the shipowner (the people?) is plied with drugs and wine, and badgered into making ignorant people, instead of the true navigator, the captain of the ship. What should happen is that the knowledgable person should rule, whether in a city or on a ship. • But there are two problems: first, why would the true philosopher be willing to rule, since he or she is a lover of learning and not of political power? Second, how can it come about that the philosopher actually takes power? • The first problem is one of the most discussed issues in the Republic – why would the philosopher go back down into the cave? As Socrates says at the beginning of book IV, the requirement of justice is not that each person be happy, but that the whole city is happy. So he might insist that the philosophers would be willing to rule even against their own interests, for the sake of justice. And indeed, there is a passage in book VII (520) where the philosophers are ordered and compelled to rule by the founders. • As for the second problem, the role of the noble lie certainly doesn’t look encouraging: in fact, it is tempting to draw a parallel between the shenanigans used by the sophistical sailors to claim captaincy on the boat, and the lie told by the philosophers to perpetuate their rule in the city. • Certainly Plato does not seem to think that one could simply present the people with philosophical arguments. He goes on at length about the impossible situation philosophers confront in reality – like someone sheltering from a storm, they lead a quiet life of virtue surrounded by chaos (496d). • He also explicitly worries about whether the ideal state even could come about, and admits (499) that although it is not actually impossible, it is extremely difficult: basically, there must be a stroke of fortune whereby a group of philosophers takes the reins of a city (or whereby kings turn out to be philosophers). The worse cities • In book VIII, Socrates returns to the deferred question of the city constitutions that fall short of perfect justice. He ranks them and their corresponding lives (and in one bewildering passage, calculates that the worst life is exactly 729 times worse than the best) from best to worst, as follows: Aristocracy: “rule of the best,” as in the ideal city Timocracy: rule by the honor-loving Oligarchy: rule by the wealth-loving Democracy: rule by the many Tyranny: rule by the vicious There is also a type of soul or ethical character that goes with each type of city, continuing the parallel between the city and soul drawn in book IV. • Socrates actually claims that the best city would inevitably degenerate into the worse cities, because of errors in the eugenics program (546-7). • The timocratic city is a bit like the kallipolis deprived of philosophers: private property is introduced, sowing the seeds of the wealth-loving city, but the soldiers still live apart and devote themselves solely to military victory and honor. To this extent a timocracy is more like an aristocracy than an oligarchy, where wealth is the the only criterion of rule, so that good and bad are now irrelevant. • Here we have moved from a city ruled by spirit to a city ruled by appetite (that is, for wealth), and this continues with democracy, which is praised as “beautiful” like an embroidered cloak (557c), because it contains all character types and all desires can be fulfilled. “It would seem to be a pleasant constitution, which lacks rulers but not variety and which distributes a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” • One might wonder then why democracy is worse than oligarchy – why, that is, is it better to pursue all desires rather than just wealth? The answer seems to be that wealth-lovers are at least disciplined (559c-d), so that the oligarchy lacks the chaotic bustle of democracy which prevents it from attaining any kind of unity or sustained purpose. • The worst city is then tyranny, a kind of perverse reflection of the kallipolis where the worst people rule, instead of the best people. Worryingly, Plato seems to think that tyranny is a natural result of democracy: it degrades into tyranny when someone, conditioned to expect total freedom, seizes all the power in order to achieve that freedom and thus (ironically) enslaves everyone else. History of Political Philosophy, Lecture 3: Al-Farabi, the Book of Religion Historical background • With this lecture we are moving ahead (fast) to the 10 th century CE, a time at which Greek philosophy was being translated into Arabic under the ‘Abbasid caliphs. This is a highpoint of development for civilization in the Islamic world, in stark contrast to the situation in Christian Europe at the time. • The history of political authority in Islam is of course complex. Some basics: • Islamic law draws on two chief sources: the Koran and the hadith (reports about the Prophet). • The first “rightly guided caliphs” inherited political authority from the Prophet, but were appointed by consent of the community. This continues to be the criterion of rightful authority for sunni Muslims, but shiite Muslims believe that authority must be transferred along family lines from the Prophet himself (so that the correct first ruler would have been ‘Ali the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law; and then rule would be passed down in ‘Ali’s line). • There is an uneasy relationship between the caliphs and the scholar-jurists. Caliphs typically did not try to enforce dogma or orthodox belief, apart from combatting groups (such as shiites) who threatened to undermine their authority. Al-Farabi and his Book of Religion • Al-Farabi (died 950) was one of the greatest exponents of Greek-inspired philosophy (falsafa) in the Islamic world. He was especially expert on Aristotelianism, above all logic; but he also produced works discussing political philosophy which are deeply influenced by Plato’s Republic and Laws. • In the Book of Religion (Kitab al-Milla) al-Farabi sets out to adapt a broadly Platonic political theory to the context of Islamic society. However, he pointedly omits to mention Islam, Muhammad, etc explicitly, and seems to leave it open that there could be other “virtuous religions” besides Islam. • This is only one of several works by al-Farabi which touch on political themes. The Ruler-Prophet and the status of revelation • The most obvious transformation of Plato’s theory in al-Farabi is that the ideal ruler is a prophet. He brings a revelation which instills in the people correct “opinions” about a range of issues, both theoretical (e.g. concerning God) and practical (e.g. which actions are evil). A religion which conveys the correct opinions is a “virtuous religion.” • The truths conveyed in virtuous religion are also grasped by philosophy. But there is a difference: philosophy yields demonstration and thus certain knowledge, whereas religion only yields opinions (cf. the contrast between opinion or belief, doxa, and knowledge, epistêmê, in the middle books of the Republic). One might capture this by saying that religion tells people (some of) what is true, without showing why, or that, these things are true. • Notice that the ruler will himself be a philosopher or at the level of a philosopher, in the sense that he has certain knowledge of the relevant truths. But he may get these through a direct revelation rather than by working them out in Aristotelian syllogisms. • Why then does the ideal ruler need to be a prophet, instead of just a philosopher? Because without the revelation, the ruler will have no way of inducing belief on the part of the populace. • Here one might, with some alarm, think that al-Farabi is comparing the Koran to the “noble lie” of the Republic! But a moment’s reflection shows that this isn’t quite true: the Koran instills truth, not lies, even if it is not truth conveyed demonstratively. The degenerate regimes • Like Plato (and Aristotle in the Politics, but as far as we know this text was unavailable to al-Farabi), al-Farabi devotes considerable attention to inferior ways of organizing society. He too speaks of virtuous and non-virtuous (“ignorant”) cities, and broadly keeps Plato’s system of classifying cities in terms of their primary value: honor, wealth, pleasure. He omits to discuss democracy in the Book of Religion but does mention it in other works. • Between the prophet-led and the ignorant cities, there are the cities which are following the teachings of an ideal ruler who is no longer alive. This arguably would be al-Farabi’s own situation, at least if the rulers are following the teachings of Muhammad; but again, he says nothing directly to apply the theory to his contemporary situation. • In the absence of a ruler or group of rulers who can follow in the footsteps of the prophet, the city should turn to jurists, who use jurisprudence to deduce what the teachings of the prophet would be on a topic which has not been dealt with explicitly in the prophet’s lifetime. ARISTOTLE’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Guest lecture by Harry Platanakis (BBK) (1) The significance of political philosophy. Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good. [Politics I.1 1252a1-8] (1.1) The architectonic nature of political philosophy. Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. […] Now, as there are many actions, arts, and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics wealth. But where such arts fall under a single capacity--as bridle-making and the other arts concerned with the equipment of horses fall under the art of riding, and this and every military action under strategy, in the same way other arts fall under yet others--in all of these the ends of the master arts are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the sake of the former that the latter are pursued. [… T]he most authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should learn them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities to fall under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from , the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and more complete both to attain and to preserve; for though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states. There, then, are the ends at which our inquiry, being concerned with politics, aims. [Nicomachean Ethics I.1.1094a1- I.2.1094b12] (1.2) The purpose and the methodology of political philosophy. [cf. Politics IV.1-2] [I]n the light of the constitutions we have collected let us study (22.214.171.124)what sorts of influence preserve and destroy states, and (126.96.36.199)what sorts preserve or destroy the particular kinds of constitutions, and (188.8.131.52)to what causes it is due that some are well and others ill administered. When these have been studied we shall perhaps be more likely to see (184.108.40.206)which constitution is best, and (220.127.116.11)how each must be ordered, and (18.104.22.168)what laws and customs it must use. [Nicomachean Ethics X.9.1181b16-22] (1.2.1) Descriptive element: (22.214.171.124) The general causes of constitutional change. (126.96.36.199) The causes of change of a specific constitution. (188.8.131.52) The role of ruling in constitutional change. (1.2.2) Normative element: (184.108.40.206) What is the best constitution. (220.127.116.11) How actual constitutions can be improved, by taking into account the socio-politico-historical context and their existing citizenry. (18.104.22.168) What is the appropriate legislation. (2) Political naturalism. (2.1) Human nature and happiness. (2.1.1) The proper human function will determine the peculiar human happiness. The For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or any artist, and, in general, for all things that have a function or activity, the good and the ‘well’ is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem to be for man, if he has a function. […] Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what is peculiar to man. Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition and growth. Next there would be a life of perception, but it also seems to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal. There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle (of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought); and as this too can be taken in two ways, we must state that the life in the sense of activity is what we mean; for this seems to be the more proper sense of the term. [Nicomachean Ethics I.7.1097b25-1098a7] (22.214.171.124) The political aspect of practical reason. [Practical wisdom] is a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man. […] It is for this reason that we think Pericles and men like him have practical wisdom, viz. because they can see what is good for themselves and what is good for men in general; we consider that those can do this who are good at managing households or states. [Nicomachean Ethics VI.5.1140b4-10] (126.96.36.199) Non-relative concept of moral happiness vs. the plurality of conceptions of political happiness: human happiness consists in excellent performance of practical reason. (2.2) The polis exists by nature. (2.2.1) The polis as a type of association [koinônia] and a natural development from families and households. When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self- sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. [I.2.1252b28-34] (2.2.1.a) But, animals also have associations (e.g. bees, cranes, etc). (2.2.1.a.a) Language differentiates human beings from the other gregarious animals. Language makes the exercise of practical reasoning possible, so it makes us conscious pursuers of happiness. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal who has the gift of speech. And whereas mere voice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore found in other animals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and the intimation of them to one another, and no further), the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and the unjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state. [I.2.1253a9-18] (2.2.a) What about the sophistic distinction between law and nature? (2.2.a.a) Against the sophists, Aristotle argues that the polis exists by nature. (2.3) Man is a political animal. (2.3.1) Necessary for human happiness. [M]an is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the ‘Tribeless, lawless, heartless one’ whom Homer denounces. [I.2.1253a2-5] But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god. [I.2.1253a25-26] (2.4) The polis is naturally prior to the individual. (2.4.1) The whole is prior to the part, thus the function of the part is to contribute to the function of the whole. The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. [I.2.1253a25-26] (2.4.1.a) Does that entail a totalitarian scheme, where the citizen’s happiness can be sacrificed for the sake of the happiness of the polis? (2.4.1.a.a) No! Contra Plato, a happy society is not like an evenness that can belong to the polis as a whole, but not to any of its citizens. But the whole cannot be happy unless most, or all, or some of its parts enjoy happiness. In this respect happiness is not like the even principle in numbers, which may exist only in the whole, but in neither of the parts; not so happiness. [II.5.1264b17-22] (2.4.1.a.b) No! The polis is a natural extension of the family and the household. [T]he state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole isof necessity prior to the part. [I.2.1253a18-20] (2.4.1.a.c) No! As the body analogy suggests, Aristotle’s point is about interdependence, rather than totalitarianism. [I]f the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except homonymously, as we might speak of a stone hand; for when destroyed the hand will be no better than that. But things are defined by their function and power; and we ought not to say that they are the same when they are no longer have their proper quality, but only that they arehomonymous. [I.2.1253a20-25] (3) Distribution of political power. (3.1) The citizen is sharing in the constitution. [T]he citizen whom we are seeking to define is a citizen in the strictest sense, against whom no such exception can be taken, and his special characteristic is that he shares in the administration of justice, and in offices. [III.1.1275a18-21] (3.1.1) Constitution is the way that polis should be organised. A constitution is (188.8.131.52) the organization of offices in a state, and (184.108.40.206) determines what is to be the governing body, and (220.127.116.11) what is the end of each community. [IV.1.1289a15-18] (18.104.22.168) Constitution defines the final end of the polis, which in turn will influence the definition of the currency for political distribution (22.214.171.124). (126.96.36.199) The constitution defines which is the currency of comparison for political distribution. (188.8.131.52) Who should hold each political office. (3.1.2) Aristotle’s proposal. (184.108.40.206) The final end of the polis is happiness for both the polis and its citizens. [cf. (2.4.1.a.a)] (220.127.116.11.1) [T]he state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and (18.104.22.168.2) continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. [I.2.1252b29-30] We have already said, in the first part of this treatise, when discussing household management and the rule of a master, that man is by nature a political animal. And therefore, men, even when they do not require one another’s help, desire to live together; not be that they are also brought together by their common interests (22.214.171.124.1)in so far as they each attain to any measure of well-being. This is certainly the chief end, both of individuals and of states. (126.96.36.199.2)And mankind meet together and maintain the political community also for the sake of mere life (in which there is possibly some noble element so long as the evils of existence do not greatly overbalance the good). And we all see that men cling to life even at the cost of enduring great misfortune, seeming to find in life a natural sweetness and happiness. [III.6.1278b16-30] (188.8.131.52.1) The final end of the polis is its happiness and that of its citizens. (184.108.40.206.2) Satisfying the necessities of life is a sine qua non for happiness. (220.127.116.11) The two criteria for the currency of distribution of political power. As [we say] that a seafarer is each one of the members of a community [of a boat], so we say of the citizen. (18.104.22.168.1)Among the seafarers who are dissimilar with reference to capacity—since the one is a rower, another is a cox, another a bower, and others have other names to signify [their distinct capacity]—it is obvious both that the most accurate definition will be peculiar to the excellence [of each seafarer = (22.214.171.124.1)] and that similarly (126.96.36.199.2)a common [definition] will fit them all. For the safety of the cruise is the function of all of them; since this is what each of the seafarers reaches at. Similarly for the citizens too, (188.8.131.52.1)even though they are dissimilar, (184.108.40.206.2)the safety of the community is their function, and community is the constitution; thus it is necessary that the excellence of a citizen to be [defined] with reference to the constitution. And since there are many types of constitution, it is obvious that the excellent citizen does not admit of a single excellence that is final; contrarily, we acknowledge a person as [morally] excellent person with reference to a single excellence which is final. [III.4 1276b20-34] (220.127.116.11.1) 1st criterion: political capacity, which is essential for someone to be a citizen. [III.12.1282b31-1283a3] (18.104.22.168.2) 2nd criterion: contribution to the polis, which manifests itself differently in different political tasks. [III.12.1283a14-22] (22.214.171.124) Distribution of political offices. (126.96.36.199.1) Due to the 1st criterion, all those who have the political capacity are members of the citizenry. (188.8.131.52.2) Due to the 2nd criterion, specific political offices are distributed with reference to those aspects that people contribute. History of Political Philosophy, Lecture 5: Aquinas’ Legal and Political Philosophy Thomas Aquinas and the so-called Treatise on Law • St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) was a Dominican monk from Italy who taught at the University of Paris. His Summa Theologiae (Compendium of Theology) is probably the most important single work in the Christian intellectual tradition – and certainly in the Catholic intellectual tradition. • In the Summa and other works, Aquinas draws on a wide range of sources, including Christian authors like St. Augustine, but also Greek, Jewish and Muslim philosophers whose writings he could read in Latin translation. His main influence from the Greek tradition is ‘the Philosopher’, i.e. Aristotle. • The Summa is written in a stylized form of the ‘disputed question’, a kind of debate held in medieval universities: hence the objections/body/replies structure. Larger topics receive their own ‘questions’ within which are several ‘articles’ per question, asking and answering specific problems. • The so-called Treatise on Law is questions 90-97 of the first half of the Summa’s second part. He has already covered a lot of ground, such as proving God’s existence, discussing His nature, establishing the nature of human happiness and the virtues, etc. Here he turns to the problem of law. His main sources are ideas drawn from Roman law, Christian (e.g. Augustinian) ideas about law, and Aristotle. The types of law • Aquinas recognizes four types of law: Eternal law: the same as divine providence Natural law: laws accessible to all mankind from their very nature Human (or ‘Positive’) Law: laws written by human legislators Divine law: laws revealed in the Bible • This seems like a lot of laws. Why do we need all of them? And in what sense are they all laws? • To start with the latter question, in Q. 90 Aquinas argues that a law is “a dictate of reason for the common good, made by one whose business is to care for the community, and has been promulgated.” • Some interesting points emerge already from this definition: (a) Laws are laid down by reason, and in particular (in the human case) practical reason, which (following Aristotle) has the role of applying general principles to concrete situations. (b) Laws have as their goal “the common good” – note, not the good of one person at a time, but of the whole community. This is Aristotelian. It also implies, as Aquinas accepts, that laws which do not promote the common good are not really laws! (c) The legislator is defined as someone who takes care of the community. Hence the political dimension of Aquinas’ legal theory – note he agrees with Plato and Aristotle that the political rulers or legislators are defined by their seeking the good of those who are ruled, or for whom they legislate. (d) A law must be promulgated (made known) in order to be valid. • We won’t have time to look much at eternal or divine law, but notice that from Aquinas’ point of view there is no such thing as a lawless situation, because of both eternal and natural law. Natural law • The most famous and controversial aspect of Aquinas’ theory is the inclusion of ‘natural law’. This is defined as the participation in eternal law by a rational creature. In other words, humans by their very nature have certain precepts which are instilled in them by God. • This is the framework which makes it possible for Aquinas to say that certain things (e.g. incest, homosexuality) are “unnatural” and unlawful for any community. But it is also his idea that human or positive law is derived from natural law the way natural law is derived from eternal law. So, we need to make sense of his theory of natural law to grasp his theory of human law. • The basic idea is that there are fundamental precepts or principles built into human reason, the highest principle being “seek good and avoid evil” (Q. 94, a.2). All natural law depends on this principle. • Here we can see Aquinas following Aristotle in thinking that human nature is itself the source of normativity in our ethical and political arrangements. This is a deeply non-consequentialist theory – we are not trying to maximize happiness, pleasure, or anything else, but to follow out the dictates of reason, which is understood as inherently normative. • The highest principle “do good and avoid evil” looks rather empty, but Aquinas thinks that it can be filled out with further observations about human nature (this is where he gets the stricture against homosexuality for instance). On the other hand, the dictates of natural law will vary from one community to another, because of their different circumstances. However this doesn’t mean that anything goes, as some things are always either licit or forbidden according to our nature. Human law • This brings us to human law, which is even more adapted to be appropriate to given circumstances. As in Aristotle, the goal of human law is to bring the members of the community to virtue, thus allowing them to flourish. He thus emphasizes the idea that human law is above all dedicated to training people in virtue and forbidding vice, while admitting that not all virtues can be commanded, and not all vices can be forbidden. For instance human laws cannot outlaw or punish sins committed inwardly – this is one reason why there needs to be a divine law as well as the other three kinds. • This means that Aquinas is giving us a very ‘paternalistic’ theory, and not in any way one where laws are intended to protect individual rights or freedoms, or even to protect us from one another. However these goals could be served indirectly, insofar as we might protect individuals’ freedoms in order to allow them to work towards virtue, and also forbid vicious actions and thus protect the citizens from one another. However Aquinas would regard these goals by themselves as far too minimal. • An interesting case here is his views on property: since the purpose of the law is to encourage virtue and not ensure freedom, he has no commitment to the idea that one should be allowed to amass wealth. In fact he says that it is wrong to possess more wealth than one needs to lead a good life (which could include having the opportunity to show generosity). • Despite this lack of interest in individual rights, Aquinas does seem to think that the natural law (never mind human law) already provides for a certain degree of autonomy, for instance he argues it is against the natural law forcibly to convert Jews or their children, even though that would in his view actually be good for them. Again, note the lack of consequentialist intuitions here. • Finally, note that what we are trying to achieve is the common good, not the good of one person at a time. This is why for instance he thinks one can kill heretics, but not forcibly convert heathens; and is one reason why he doesn’t believe in capitalistic acquisition of wealth, since he thinks the purpose of wealth is basically to provide the basics for oneself and then to help others with less wealth. • This helps to explain why the political system recommended by Aquinas is like the one recommended by Aristotle: the “mixed constitution,” since this is the most likely to ensure that the good of the whole community is pursued. It’s striking that the legislator is seen as a representative of the people and instrument of the people’s attempt to make itself good – it would be too much to see this as “democratic” but we are certainly not getting anything like the divine right of kings here.