SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY ONLINE DICTIONARY

(PHI 3500 F19 QEP Project)

Democracy: A form of government where the power rests entirely among the people who are a part of that society. In its simplest form, democracy is a government by the people through either direct or indirect participation.

Aristotle: Democracy is the rule of everyone over everyone with the end aim of liberty. The foundation of democracy is freedom based on equality, where equality is numerical not proportionate. In a democracy, the majority is supreme and whatever the majority approves is what is to be just. This is problematic, however, because humans are naturally unequal, and not all capable of ruling.

John Locke: Locke argues in favor of democracy because all humans are equal and should remain so under a system of government. For Locke, government is not about the equality or inequality of persons, but rather government is established in order to solve property disputes. In order to protect property, Locke argues that there needs to be a common measure to decide all controversies, an indifferent judge, and a force to execute the laws.

Equality: To be the same in ability in ability or value. Philosophers often generate social and political formations based on the natural equality or inequality between people.

Aristotle: Humans are naturally unequal; some are destined rule, and some are destined to be ruled. This is true for both the aspects of the human soul and the humans within a society. Reason and virtue are held above vices int he soul, just as the virtuous rule is held above the citizens and slaves of the society. This natural inequality is the core of why democracy (why are all equal) cannot succeed.

Rousseau: Humans are naturally equal in both physical and metaphysical aspects. Stripped of the artificial faculties acquired only by a long process of self-perfection, humans possess the same capacity for preservation and self-sufficiency in general. it is the development of associations, and eventually society, that leads to inequality among people.

Human Nature: The natural tendency for a human towards a certain set of actions. For example, it is human nature for people to desire nourishment. In regards to society, human nature is often a guiding principle in social and political philosophy. It acts as a starting point from which philosophers generate descriptions of current societies and ideal ones.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: It is not our human nature that draws us into society. Instead, society is the corruption of our original human nature. It is human nature to be self-sufficient, but the development of society strips us of this self-sufficiency through forcing us to rely on others.

Machiavelli: According to Machiavelli (in the Prince), “men in general are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain.” It is for this that societies are, at their core, unstable.

Justice: Rules that focus on the distributions of goods and harms within a society.

Socrates: Justice in the city and justice in the soul are analogous. A just city is one in which each tier of society focuses on their own single task, rather than interfere with the tasks of others. For example, a city is unjust when a merchant class attempts to rule. Justice in the soul occurs when all of the parts of the soul are sticking to their single task, e.g. desire is not overruling reason. If one were to act on their desire to adopt all of the cats at the Humane Society without deliberating, then they run the risk of incurring unknown expenses. In this sense, their desire would be overruling their reason, and this soul would not be just.

Rousseau: The rules of justice are a trick perpetuated by the wealthy classes to trick the poor into submission. Because wealth was only passed through inheritance (prior to the use of physical currency), those without wealth were unable to get it, except through robbery and assault. Rules of justice further this inequality, by protecting both rich and poor from robbery.

Laws: The rules that regulate how citizens interact within a society. They are often derived from some theory of human nature.

John Locke: Municipal laws are founded upon the law of nature, which states that no one ought to harm another in their life, liberty, or property. Municipal law is a necessary piece of society, in order to provide unbiased judgment to those who do not follow the law of God. Laws then protect the interests of all citizens and are the key to a functioning society.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Municipal law replaces natural law, which was based on the natural feeling of pity. Municipal law sets the parameters of society and forces citizens to become interdependent and weaker than they were before. Municipal law, therefore, suppresses citizens into a state of slavery to society and only serves to protect those who created the laws in the first place.

Liberty: The ability to exercise ones freewill with no obstacles within a society, such that one may flourish in community and individually. Philosophers often center their analyses of social and political formations on the idea of liberty.

Thomas Hobbes: An absence of external impediments. Perfect liberty, in the state of nature, is impossible due to the natural equality between all human beings. However, the state of nature is untenable, so we must agree to give up certain rights in exchange for the safety guaranteed by an absolute ruler.

John Locke: An absence of external impediments. Rather than an absolute ruler, Locke argues that liberty can be guaranteed only within democracy. For Locke, we give up our felt right to all of nature in order to secure our own right of private property.

Morality: A set of ethical guidelines that are either natural to human beings or conventional. Social and political philosophers often use the idea of morality as a starting point for their analyses.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Humans in the state of nature were not moral, because morality requires reason (the subsumption of this particular act under a general principle). Instead, we had pity or a natural aversion to seeing others suffer. Society gets rid of our natural feeling of pity and we instead create systems of morality to protect the rich.

Machiavelli: Rather than the morality of the people, Machiavelli is only concerned with the morality of the Prince. There is a morality specific to the Prince, in which he can be virtuous or vicious when it best suits him. Whatever helps keep the Prince is power is moral.

Private Property: The designation of a non-governmental entity’s ownership of some material good. Concern for private property, in social and political philosophy, is often a motivating factor for the development of laws.

John Locke: Something is my own private property when I mix my own labor with it.  For example, a shelter is my own if I take the wood from nature and build it with my own hands. Private property is good, for Locke, because God gave humanity the earth to work over.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Private property is not natural to human beings, and only came about late in our development. Instead, private property began through generational farming.  Rousseau argues that private property is the root of the evils of society, because the laws that protect it only benefit the rich.

Reason: The subsumption of particulars under a general. Philosophers develop logical arguments with the particulars as the basis for the general, the conclusion of said argument. This method of reasoning is used to develop political systems under which the particulars, the details of the structure and ideology of such political system is justified as a whole.

Thomas Hobbes: Reason is the laws which govern the body politic he calls “the Leviathan.” Hobbes relates his political system to a living organism where each part of the body relates to a part of the political structure. Hobbes relates reason, the thought processes which governs an individual’s actions, to the laws which govern the individuals within the state. In this way, the laws are the Leviathans ability to facilitate reasoned thought.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Reason is a human creation which is not necessary for human happiness or prosperity. He argues that humans showed pity and notions of self-preservation as elements of natural right previous to the development of reason. Furthermore, Rousseau argues that the state of nature was not a brutish and awful state to exist within due to reason being non-essential for humans to exhibit Rousseau’s idea of natural right.

Self-Sufficiency: The standard by which social and political philosophy defines the level of reliance, either individually or socially, one might have with the government of the state or between citizens. Most philosophers use this concept build the foundations of their political theories on why humans leave the state of nature to form societies.

Aristotle: The goal of a city state is the preservation of the citizen, which he defines as having all things and needing nothing. Humans are naturally political animals who rely on the formation of communities, because we are not self-sufficient as individuals. The culmination of primitive families come together to form communities. Those families then combine to form a village and then the goal of the village is to become self-sufficient. The natural state of the family is naturally derived into the formation of a community.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: In the state of nature humans are self-sufficient, as they rely on nothing except their natural bodies, they do not fear death, and they have no morality (but instead are regulated by the natural feeling of pity). We lost our self-sufficiency once we began to rely on tools, and lost it completely once we formed societies.

Social Contract: The agreement between all members of a society to forfeit certain rights in exchange for others, in the name of the preservation of a society and its members. For example, I exchange my felt right to any object for protection against someone stealing things from me.

Thomas Hobbes: The total transfer of all rights to a sovereign to govern the populace in accordance with his body politic. This form of society frees humans from the brutish state of nature while simultaneously protecting them from civil war.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract aims to preserve property rights for the wealthy against the poor. From the development between the state of nature and society, the people who owned more sought to preserve their wealth. For Rousseau, the social contract is a kind of trick to keep the poor in poverty.

State of Nature: The state of nature is a thought experiment that outlines the hypothetical behavior of humans before the development of society wherein people held total liberty and operated to protect themselves against the fears and dangers of nature. Locke and Rousseau agreed that the state of nature was livable; though, Locke argued that the state of nature was livable, it was not ideal.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: People in the state of nature were self-sufficient animals acting out of instinct, using their own naturally evolved and efficient bodies as tools. There were natural inequalities among people derived from age, health, bodily strength, and mental clarity and ability. People were ingenious machines incapable of knowledge or reason, yet they were capable of improving in the same way that an animal adapts or evolves to their environment and dangers. Any sense of care for life other than their own in the state of nature was derived from the natural instinct of creatures to pity. For Rousseau, the evolution out of the state of nature and into the destructive state of society began with tools and continued with the development of permanent shelters, families, and complex associations. Society is the corruption of the state of nature.

John Locke: The state of nature was a livable, yet not ideal state of being. People in the state of nature held God-given moral ideas. Because of this, people were inherently good and had reason and knowledge. Within the state of nature, all people were equal, and the transition from the state of nature into unequal societies arose from a desire for property and security. Society protects people from the dangers of nature and creates the position of an unbiased judge who enforces moral absolutes and laws based around religious implications of property, liberty, and virtue.

Tyranny: The unreasonable or arbitrary use of power or control by an individual or group of people in a society. Many social and political philosophers have historically been concerned with the progression of societies into various forms of tyranny.

Aristotle: (Tyranny of the masses) In democracies nothing gets done because people who are naturally unequal are regarded as equal in all respects. This leads to everyone trying to fulfill too many roles at one time so nothing ends up getting accomplished. Instead, Aristotle believes that those in power (the politicians) should be focused on being virtuous and you can only be virtuous if you have leisure time.

J. S. Mill: (Tyranny of the majority) In democracies the majority opinion rules and the minority always has to conform to the decisions made by them. This social tyranny enslaves the soul by requiring the minority to abide by the standards set by the majority regardless of their own stance or opinion. Mill thinks that the safe guard against this is the freedom of speech which he describes as the entertainment of minority voices.