Summary Class notes - History of Political Thought

- History of Political Thought
- Overeem
- 2020 - 2021
- Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
- Politicologie
359 Flashcards & Notes
2 Students
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Summary - Class notes - History of Political Thought

  • 1612220400 Lecture 1 & 2

  • What is the biggest difference between the approach of textualist/universalist and contextualist political philosophy?
    Universalists believe that history has a lot of constants, so big questions remain in history. Contextualists believe that every time is unique and incomparable
  • What are perennial questions?
    • questions that return over and over because they haven’t been answered
  • How was Plato linked with the "Thirty Tyrants": the thirty antidemocratic rulers that were installed by Sparta after the Peloponnesian War with Athens?
    One of them was the cousin of Plato's mother and the other one was his uncle, the brother of his mother
  • What was Socrates convicted of and what did he get as his punishment?
    In 399, Socrates got the death penalty for not believing in the city's gods, introducing new gods and corrupting the youth
  • What was the main philosophy about knowledge of Socrates that inspired many followers including Plato?
    That no one possesses moral knowledge, and we must spend our lives searching for it
  • Why could Socrates not be typified as a democrat nor as an anti-democrat?
    For instance, he fought in Apologia (his defense in trial) against the Thirty rulers that had been appointed, but thought also that one should follow the commands of an experts and pay no attention to the opinions of the many
  • How does Plato portray Socrates?
    As a man of penetrating insight and great augmentative skill, that he uses in conversations to get people to philosophize, and Plato uses that same strategy on the readers
  • What did Plato after 399 when Aristotle died?
    He left Athens and visited thinkers of the Pythagorean school, and later when he returned to Athens, he established "the Academy"
  • What were the ideas of the Pythagorean school?
    They held that the human soul is reborn in to other human and animal bodies after death and they were interested in mathematical relationships in for example music
  • What is the inconsistency that Socrates has in death and life after death?
    In Apology he consists that we cannot know what comes after death, but in Phaedo (the final conversation before drinking poison), he presents arguments for the immortality of the soul
  • What is the relationship between Glaucon and Adeimantus and Socrates?
    They are Plato's brothers
  • Why insists Plato that philosophers should first be trained as mathematicians before they can philosophize?
    Because real philosophers are those whose understanding of value is based on their study on the forms, and in particular the forms of the "good", which goodness has a mathematical nature
  • What is the conclusion of all the books of Politeia?
    Since the soul does not perish after death, the good of justice neither does. So even if there is no afterlife, a life of justice is worth living
  • Why does Socrates delight in conversing with very old persons (in this case, Cephalus)?
    Because they have gone before us on the road over which perhaps we also shall have to travel and they know how that road is
  • In what way does Cephalus disagree with most older men in being old?
    He thinks old age brings profound peace and freedom while the rest only sees what they have lost from being younger like sex
  • What is the metaphor of weapons that Plato writes in book 1?
    He asks Cephalus whether when he would have lended a weapon from a friend, and he was persuading angrily to give it back, he would give it back to have an angry man with a weapon against him
  • What is the opinion of Polemarchus on justice?
    He says: to restore to each man what is his due = benefit your friends and harm your enemies
  • Why can we according to Socrates not make the distinction between just and unjust man just as Polemarchus argued?
    Harming enemies is not just, but this is a preoccupation for being just according to Polemarchus
  • What critics does Thrasymachus express against Socrates and what makes him that angry?
    He believes Socrates will not give instruction himself, but goes about and learns from others by asking them questions without showing gratitude
  • What does the last speaker, Thrasymachus see as justice?
    The advantage of the stronger
  • What examples does Thrasymachus give to uphold his argument that justice is thee advantage of the stronger?
    He sees different kinds of regimes (autocracy, democracy and tyranny) and identifies that they can appoint by law what is just and unjust and typify unjust in their eyes as guilty or illegality
  • What is the argument against Thrasymachus that Socrates gives why justice isn't in interest of the stronger?
    Socrates uses the metaphor of a city of just men, where no one wants to rule because honor-loving and money-loving is a disgrace. Because of that, no rulers rule out of self-interest but of that of the subject
  • Why is injustice more powerful than justice, but is justice better than being unjust?
    Unjust is easier and more fruitful to be, but justice is both wisdom and virtue and injustice is ignorance, so justice is stronger
  • Why brings justice happiness and will injustice make people misery?
    Because everything has a virtue, a purpose without it could not do its purposed things. The virtue of the soul is justice, they just said, so the just man is happy and the unjust man is miserable
  • What was the mother of Socrates and how does that correspond with his philosophy on knowledge?
    His mother was a maieutic (verloskundige op straat). He saw his fate as the same; wandering around the streets getting things and solutions out of people
  • What are the meanings of doxa and aporia?
    Doxa are your opinions and ideas that you think you know for sure. Aporia is a state of confusion. Socrates believed that people should get in aporia before they could learn something new
  • What are Sophists?
    Teachers in the Ancient Greece that taught skills like argumentation and philosophizing
  • How was Socrates different from Sophists?
    Sophists taught people skills and ideas like they were as they were. Socrates wanted people to think for themselves so he only posed questions to them
  • What does the Ring of Gyges mean in Book 2 of Plato?
    That ring makes you invisible, so the question was posed whether people that had the ring would do all kinds of unjust things like stealing and raping just because they could.
  • What is Kallipolis?
    A state that Plato creates where everything is perfect and just
  • What are the 3 hierarchical classes that are set out in book 4?
    The rulers, the auxiliaries and the workers
  • How could someone become a ruler in book 4?
    Rulers would procreate to have the best rulers possible. They were trained in numerous ways in training camps and only the best could stay.
  • Why was Plato seen as a communist in his vision on rulers?
    He described training camps where there were no private possessions, because people would care the most about that. That is a communist thought, but only if you see this thought experiment as a prescription of the ideal state
  • Where does the soul consists of according to Plato?
    The head (reasoning power), the heart (where spirit comes from; thymos) and underbelly (where desires come from)
  • What are the three virtues that Plato describes?
    Prudence (making the right decisions), courage and temperance (thee ability to withstand something)
  • What is Plato's idea on essence of things?
    We all have an idea of what contributes to a certain thing and if we see something that corresponds with that, we describe that as that thing
  • What is the world when prisoners climb out of the cave?
    The World of Forms/Ideas: the sunlight (the Good) will show them the things they havent seen
  • What is the circle of rulers that will be in the Kallipolis and stands in contact with the stepwise decline of the soul?
    Aristocrats love wisdom, timocrats love honor, oligarchs love money, democrats love pleasure and tyrants love themselves
  • What is Plato's opinion on democracy?
    He sees it as a beautiful form of government, but equals and unequals are treated alike. Everybody has the same amount of votes and they will vote like pleasure and desire. Appointing people by lottery is fully equal according to him
  • What is the purpose of law according to Plato?
    It tries to bring citizens together by persuasion and constraint, makes them share goals and building the city stronger
  • What is the sequence of possible constitutions ranked from preferable to terrible according to Plato?
    Aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny
  • What is timocracy?
    The children of aristocrats will no longer value arts like their fathers had, so they will love honor instead of wisdom as their thing
  • How does an oligarchy be the next step from timocracy?
    The honor will bring the desire for money and to keep that money they rule like oligarchs
  • What is the metaphor that Plato makes with bees and their stingers and oligarchs?
    Some bees have formidable stings and others are stingless. Stingless bees will end up in beggary: so will the normal people while those with big stingers are the oligarchs that want more and more
  • When does democracy rise according to Plato?
    Whenever the poor can't stand the oligarchs that rule only for their own fortune, they kill and expel them and have the remainder distributed over the rest. When people feel a fraction of what the oligarchs have, they want more and turn themselves against them
  • What is the inevitable consequence of the excessive freedom democracy gives?
    Excessive slavery, because people choose with their freedom their pleasure and become addicted.
  • What is another important consequence of democracy?
    The restoration of three classes:
    1) the members that speak and act and therefore rule
    2) the money-makers that do not get into politics
    3) the workers that don't make money and haven't gotten into politics
  • How can tyranny rise out of democracy?
    The third class see injustice from both of the other classes and they think the others are being oligarchs. There is then a leader that wanted to overthrow all this and he is helped by this class
  • What is epistocracy?
    Only letting the informed vote
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What is the most characteristic in totalitarian regimes compared to other parties?
Their demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional and unalterable loyalty of the member
What we're the two illusions democratic countries had and that this showed?
Each individual was in sympathy with one's own or somebody else's party and indifferent masses did not matter because they were truly neutral
What is possible for politics of masses to do?
Introduce entirely new methods of political propaganda and indifference to the arguments of political opponents
What are masses?
People who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both cannot bee integrated into any organization based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organization or trade unions
Is Arendt's work fatalistic?
No, it is harsh, but not fatalistic. The individual person is not condemned to impotence and despair, but she wants to remind us what people can do
What did the concentration/death camps in Europe mean for Arendt?
As a warning for the potential of political mass movements, but also as an inverted model of what politics should be striving for; if camps were oblivion and anonymity, brute-like silence and terror, then public realm should be freedom, remembrance, dignity and rights.
Why is Arendt difficult to classify in political categories?
Because she combined and connected what modern ideologies have fiercely opposed. She distrusted oppositions and distinctions.
What is needed to turn this challenge around? How can we prevent alienation and therefore disaster?
The political thought lacks the resources she argues, so the need for free and independent thinking (selbst denken) becomes urgent. It is foundational and critical about everything in politics; constitutions, freedom etc.
What were the most dangerous threats for human dignity and what were examples of this?
Extreme political alienation; from parliamentary democracy that led to totalitarian governments, a striking decline in political legitimacy
What did Arendt think of reducing human beings to calculating economic animals?
This had not only been to justify totalitarian terror, but also contributed to the political alienation of democratic citizens