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Modern Political Thought First Lecture

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by: Andrew Edwards

Modern Political Thought First Lecture POLS 202

Marketplace > SUNY College at Oneonta > Political Science > POLS 202 > Modern Political Thought First Lecture
Andrew Edwards
SUNY College at Oneonta
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These notes cover what was discussed in the first lecture of Modern Political Thought and presents some background information about some of the major contributors to modern political theories.
Modern Political Theory
Professor Janet Day
Class Notes
political science




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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Andrew Edwards on Friday January 22, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to POLS 202 at SUNY College at Oneonta taught by Professor Janet Day in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 25 views. For similar materials see Modern Political Theory in Political Science at SUNY College at Oneonta.

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Date Created: 01/22/16
Modern Political Thought First Lecture:  Paradigm Shift Medieval Europe  Lasted from 1300 to 1600  Theories based on Christianity  Belief in two realms: one spiritual and one worldly   Thomas Aquinas:  wrote an essay about codified law and God­ Made/natural law & believes virtue is superior to all other things  codified law:  very specific in describing what was and was not  allowed  natural law:  more general in saying what was and was not  allowed, based more on moral principles and what is natural, and  very broad in emphasis Italian Renaissance  inspired many other European countries to modernize  led to rise of humanism, a philosophy based on the values of  humankind and the individual, logic and scholarly practices  permeated education and became the main focus  More ideas came about that focused on the physical world as well  as more emphasis on rule by governments instead of church  Less forms of rule where all authority is centered in one person or  group Machiavelli’s Italy  Italy was not unified, did not have recognition as a nation, and did  not have one single military to serve all the regions.  The Roman Catholic Church lost a lot of power and invaders  wanted to take over Italy.  Virtue seemed to lose its importance among the people of Italy. Machiavelli’s background and ideas lived from 1469 to 1527 wrote Discourses on Livy, History of Florence, The Prince, and the New Science of Politics Having nobility in leadership lessens corruption from his point of  view. United power needed to be in place before democracy could be in  place in Italy. Machiavelli was in exile in Venice and was a diplomat for the  Anti­Medici Republican. His idea of real­politik, which is based on what is practical, and is  distrustful of other people. If the ends are ethical, so are the means. History must be used to make decisions about what needs to be  done. He seems to support democracy in the form of selecting multiple  magistrates. Believed that civic virtue could not be the basis of government  since it no longer exists. He believes it is difficult to rule people who have different cultures and speak different languages in the same area. The Prince   Machiavelli stated that human nature is not good and stressed the  importance of understanding human motivations.  The Prince is also based on real politik, which is a set of ideas  focused on practicality rather than morality and is not based on  ethical consideration.  Impartial principles based on science are also discussed in The  Prince. Thomas Hobbes  Lived from 1588 to 1679, from Malmebury, England  Believed in having an absolute ruler to maintain peace and  stability.  In 1640, Hobbes published a work about how a single person  should have all the power.  Published On the Citizen in 1647 before writing Leviathan   Created the Social Contract Theory, which stated that people must  give up certain liberties in order for the government to provide  protection and security  The Leviathan is a more mature version of Hobbes’ argument that  there should be a single ruling body/person with all the authority.  An advocate of man­made law who believed humans were at war  before the creation of government.  He also believed that all other laws are lesser than the right of self­ protection and that rulers are above the law, but that it is in their  best interest to treat the people in exchange for support. State of nature State of nature existed before government. Humans are selfish. Governance is done by natural law/ what is deemed natural. Humans were not controlled by law. Social Contract  Government must intervene to end conflict.    There is always the possibility of violence and the fear of death.  Necessary for security.  A single body of government would uphold the social contract. Hobbes’ thinking  Humans are self­centered want to fulfill their wants and want to be  glorified.  Humans also want more power.  Together, people want to seek peace but on their own, they want to seek power.  Humans are more or less the same in regards to intelligence.  Nobody can validate their belief they can rule based on physical  strength or smarts.  A process is required for people to choose a leader.  Peace leads to trade and creative expression. Hobbes’ Methodology  Science and math were used to create a theory of what moral and  political life should be like.  He believes valid principles must be the foundation.  Hobbes lived during the Enlightment and believed in faith in  reason, but also thought there are flaws in rationality so an absolute ruler is necessary. John Locke   Lived 1632 to 1704 and lived dangerous times.  John Locke was politically active with the Whigs whom fought for a government ruled by the Parliament and were a reform party that  wanted to lessen the power of royalty.  John Locke also believed in free trade, the ending of slave labor,  increase the granting of authority by the government or company  to a person or group that business related activities.  John Locke was also against absolute power. Natural Law & Natural Rights in Locke’s Opinion Nature is more peaceful. People can make their own decisions. People are able to make their own decisions. Government was established to abolish the unknown. Natural law provided rights. Focused on life, freedom, the ability to own possessions. There is no right to be submissive. Government must protect the right of the people. Power should belong to the people. People are able to revolt if their rights are violated by the  government. There should be division of government to prevent tyranny. The idea of natural rights inspired the Founding Fathers. Jean Jacque Rousseau and his ideas  Believed society is the danger to people and believed in the State  of Nature, which he thought implied people using instinct, before  morality, caring about others, and people are naturally good  Social contract is forced upon the poor.  When population, technology, and property increase, so do  jealousy and pride.  Social contract only benefits those with power and money.  There must be a new social contract that focused on what benefits  the most people.  General will:  All people submit, are creators of the law, all have  equal freedom, the laws and state are legal, there is a basis in  rationality, enlightenment provides freedom, and people should be  free. Today in Politics  Libertarians are more likely to support Locke’s thinking.  Liberals align their ideas closer to Rousseau’s thinking.  Conservatives and neo­conservative are more supportive of  Machiavelli.  Most people are against Hobbes’ idea of an absolute ruler.


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