Question 2 – Political
modernity can be distinguished from pre-modern medieval thinking not only by
acceptance of conflict as a normal aspect of politics but also by recognition
of its productive character. Describe how Niccolo Machiavelli understood
conflict and its role in politics and compare it with one of the later
thinkers. Machiavelli & Hobbes.
Ruler, Machiavelli uses both logic and
reason along with his concepts of virtù to present his view on how a ruler can
enter a position of power, as well as how a ruler should rule. The idea that
entry into power comes from either fortune or the virtù of the individual is
very evident in The Ruler.
Machiavelli affirms that even though it may be difficult to come to power based
on one’s virtù, it creates an easier time ruling. On the other hand, those men
who come to power based on fortune must understand that just as fortune has
been given to them, it can be taken away. In addition, the men who come to
power from fortune often do not have the skill or strength to stand on their
own when fortune is taken away. Thus, virtù is a more desirable way of coming
In the Leviathan, Hobbes places the same weight on virtue and virtuous
acts as Machiavelli does in The Ruler,
but in a different way. Hobbes believes that the inner nature of man is
“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, andshort.” (Hobbes, Leviathan, 186) According to Hobbes in order for men, who are
wretched and horrible by nature, to experience the concept of virtue and good,
they must enter into a social contract with each other. Hobbes gives what he
called natural law, which he uses to express his beliefs of virtue being
necessary to the commonwealth. These laws also go along with Machiavelli’s
argument that virtù is a necessity to rule effectively.
“Fundamental Laws of Nature” is
“…that every man, ought to endeavor Peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining
it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and
advantages of War.” (Hobbes 190) This law shows that both Machiavelli and
Hobbes believed that peace should be the goal of the commonwealth or
principality, but if it cannot be attained, war is necessary.
A clear difference in the thoughts of
Hobbes and Machiavelli comes from their definitions of justice and other
virtuous actions. Hobbes declares that “the definition of Injustice, is no
other than the not Performance of Covenant. And whatsoever is not Unjust, is
Just.” (Hobbes 202) This seems straightforward because the covenants or
contracts are mutually agreed upon and any action that appears to ignore the
contract is wrong. Machiavelli however takes a different approach in his
arguments. Machiavelli does not define the terms of justice and injustice in
regard to self-interest, and does not include justice as one of the “good
qualities” that a ruler should have. The list of qualities that Machiavelli
gives contains both good and bad qualities, such as reliability, sympathy, and
promiscuity. Machiavelli claims, “…everyone will agree that if a ruler could
have all the good qualities he has listed, and none of the bad ones, then
this would be an excellent state of affairs.” (Machiavelli 48). Again, this is
straightforward, but since justice is not mentioned, it is as if Machiavelli
does not find it necessary to be a good ruler. This contrasts with Hobbes
because Machiavelli’s system does not require justice, whereas Hobbes’ system
is based on justice and injustice.
Another difference between Hobbes and
Machiavelli is the way that they discuss morality. Machiavelli gives a large
importance to history, and uses history to outline the proper way to conduct
oneself in a moral fashion. Machiavelli views morality regarding religion as a
way to use one’s proper virtuous qualities and strength, or virtù. Machiavelli
uses the tale of David and Goliath to explain his view of morality in religion.
Saul gives David armor and arms him, but David takes it off, saying “he could
not give a good account of himself if he relied on Saul’s weapons. He wanted to
confront the enemy armed with a sling and a knife.” (Machiavelli 44) The point
that Machiavelli is making is that the morality in the story comes from David’s
self-reliance and self-sufficiency, which are good qualities for rulers
have. Hobbes on the other hand uses the golden rule to expand upon his
laws of nature and says, “Do not that to another, which thou wouldest not have
done to thy selfe.” (Hobbes 214) Because this ethic seems to be evident in all
of man, it makes sense that it would fit well into Hobbes’ idea of natural law.
Both Hobbes and Machiavelli seem to
focus on and give weight to the concepts of morality, virtue, and good and
evil. However, the way that the two philosophers discuss each of these concepts
is what separates Hobbes and Machiavelli. Hobbes is more focused on definitions
and the role of the common man in a commonwealth. Machiavelli on the other hand
emphasizes the ruler and the correct methods of ruling.
Question 7 – Many of the modern
thinkers reflected on tyranny, illegitimate government, and their remedies.
Compare and contrast idea of two thinkers. What did they think about tyranny?
What according to them does make the government legitimate and what makes it
illegitimate? What remedies do they suggest – if any? You can use: Locke &
John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and
Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of
Independence are both very similar in their writings, which proves Locke’s
work had an impact on Jefferson. The
biggest similarity between both writings is that they are strongly focused on
the belief that all men are created equal and have the right to happiness.
Locke explains that humans have natural rights of life, liberty, and property.
Jefferson restates this claim as unalienable Rights of life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. They also state that natural rights can’t be taken away
because humans are born with these rights. Both works also claim that no one
person is above another and that all men are born equal.
Both Locke and Jefferson use the
State of Nature as a base for their government, but they also use it
differently. Jefferson believes that if one set of politics is not working
properly under the State of Nature, then the people can break away from it and
begin a new one, because this is what the Laws of Nature entitle them. Locke on
the other hand states that everyone is free under the State of Nature, but can
also be under a government. But if the government violates the State of Nature
then the government should be removed.
Jefferson believes the people should be in charge and
decide the government. He says the people have the right to alter or abolish
the government and create a new one that will work in their best interests and
protect their safety and happiness. Locke states this idea as well, but in a
different way. In his essay he refers to this as the power to punish a crime,
to preserve mankind by having the power to prevent something from happening.
In the Declaration of
Independence, Jefferson lists many offenses that King George III committed
against the colonies. One offence was “He has forbidden his governors to pass
Laws of immediate and pressing importance… neglected to attend them.” Locke
argues this when he states that we are not to ignore laws that need to be
passed. If that law needs to be passed, then no person should keep it from
passing. In other words what needs to be done has to be done regardless of one
The differences in their writings are very slim. Jefferson
seems to take influence and statements straight from the Second Treatise of Government. By this logic on can say that the
first portion of the Declaration is just a summed-up version of Locke’s the Second Treatise of Government. However,
John Locke went into extreme detail and gave reasons and purpose for his ideas.
Jefferson stated his ideas in the simplest way with little to explain them.
Another difference is in the manner upon which they were
written. Jefferson wrote the Declaration
of Independence as a statement to establish just cause for the actions that
the colonies were going to take. John Locke wrote his essay as a justification
of the Glorious Revolution, and stated his view of the perfect government and
how it should be governed. Although they have similar principles, they were
written for different reasons.
Perhaps the biggest difference is in the two writings is
the subject of property. John Locke heavily addresses the right of property, the
idea that if one puts labors into something, then that person owns it.
Jefferson, however, never addresses this point in the Declaration. This would
have probably strengthened the Declaration even more by claiming the colonists
own their land because they have put their labor into it.
Question 9 – Compare and contrast critiques of
private property by Marx & Rousseau.
Rousseau in his Social
Contract presents his views on private property. He defines property as that
which is obtained legally thereby purporting legitimate claim to one’s
holdings. The problem with this is how does one claim their holdings? Rousseau
answers this with the view of right does not equal might. A right must be given
legitimately, which makes it attached to a moral and legal code. This,
according to Rousseau, makes it contractual whereby the rights of one are
applied to the rights of all. Once a right is established, it is beneficial and
necessary for the individual to apply this right his interests and those of the
community. This motivation is directed at the formation of community thereby
creating a social contract between individuals whom come together to act as a
According to Rousseau, a combination
of rights is formed when every individual is protected by the whole group unifying
as a community. The concept is there is strength in numbers. This condition
makes it impossible for one to hurt an individual without hurting the whole
group or for one to hurt the group without affecting everyone. In this case, it
is in the best interest of the individual to give over his rights to the group
since he has a more powerful protective base than standing alone. Even though
individual rights are eliminated, a strong advantage is created since one now
stands in better defense against all forces. Now united there is an obligation
of commitment to the whole, where one acts in the best interests of the whole
and not the self. Civil action comes into play on the part of each individual
so there is more moral structure. Men act more moral, according to Rousseau,
when legal rights are given then when acting in concert with nature where
nature provides for all and no one has the right to make claims on property.
After establishing legal rights, the
right to claim property in our now civil society must be established. It involves
the code of “right of first occupant.” Rousseau defines this right
using what he dubs three essential strictures. First, there can be no prior
inhabitation. Second, ownership must be based on need not greed; this prevents an
individual from taking more land than they can work. Third, the individual must
work the land they claim. These conditions, by Rousseau’s definition, once met
allow an individual to lay claim to property.
The properties of everyone are then combined with the whole to create a
public community. Thereby each individual property is protected by the govern
of the whole. Created now is a state by which each occupant depends on the
other with an obligation to work toward the best interests of each other and
Karl Marx in his Estranged Labor defines property ownership as a divider in the
community. On one hand you have the property owners and the other the
property-less. This separation creates a rift in the community according to
Marx. The rift causes the workers to suffer poverty
and experience a separation form the community. This separation occurs,
according to Marx, because the worker relates to the product of his work as an
object hostile to himself. The worker puts his life into the object and his
labor is invested in the object, yet because the worker does not own the fruits
of his labor he becomes estranged, and the more he produces the further he is
alienated from the community. Everything he makes contributes to a world
outside of him to which he does not belong. He shrinks in comparison to this
world of objects that he helps create but does not possess.
Marx calls this
estrangement of the worker form the fruits of his labor, the first form of
alienation. According to Marx there are four total. Marx calls the second form
the estrangement of the worker from his labor. This estrangement changes the
purpose of the labor the worker preforms from being an act of a willing
individual to the act of an individual trying to survive.
The third form of
estrangement is the alienation of the worker from the species, or removing
their identity as a human being. This is interesting as Marx views the
transforming of inorganic matter to create a product as what constitutes to the
core identity of a human being. This identity is denied to the worker as not
all work need a person transforming inorganic materials to a product.
The fourth and final
form of estrangement is the alienation of man from his fellow man. This form of
estrangement occurs due to the first form where a worker begins to resent the
product of his labor. By resenting the product, he resents the individual that
comes into possession of the product that is his by rights of labor.
between Marx and Rousseau is obvious in this instance, Marx sees the concept of
private property as a dividing force in a community and Rousseau sees it as a
unifying force. Yet despite this differing view both Marx and Rousseau agree
that the fundamental cause of suffering lies in the material nature of society.
Property is what ultimately governs the actions of man. Though they both begin
with similar ideas of civility, a unified community, the solution to the
problem is drastically different in the eyes of the two philosophers. Marx
would argue that it is necessary to forgo all possessions to the state, who
will govern all financial and social matters while, yielding all power to the
state. Rousseau, on the other hand, argues that a direct democracy is necessary
for the appeasement of the populace.
3 – Compare
and contrast two conceptions of sovereignty. You can use Jean Bodin and
In his pamphlet
“What is the Third Estate?” Sieyes displays his views on the importance of the
Third Estate. Sieyes held this belief because of the structure and population
on each of the classes. The first estate was mad up of the clergy, the second
was made up of the nobles. Together these two classes made up around ten
percent of all of France, possibly less. The third estate was everyone else
that was not a member of the church or nobility. It was for this reason Sieyes
argued that it was the third, not the first or second, that played the most
prominent role in France. He even went so far as to call the third estate was
“everything” in France, which given its size was true.
release of this pamphlet was a wakeup call to the third estate as it reminded
them that they did all the work as well as payed the way for the first two
classes. And what was their reward for their labor? Misrepresentation in the
government and oppression from the clergy and the nobility. It was this
mistreatment and unfair representation that Sieyes
argued against. The way he sees it was the commoners made up most of the nation
and did most of its work, so therefore they were the nation.
view of the third class being the nation as they made up most of it and did the
work essentially defines them as the sovereign rulers of France. They are the
sovereignty in France despite the abuse and exploitation of a small group
because without them there is no France. The third estate was independent of
the first and second class because it did not need them to exist, they had the
farmers, the bakers, and so on. The existence of the first and second classes
on the other hand was entirely dependent on the third class, further giving the
third class more power over them.
In On Sovereignty Jean Bodin presented
another idea of what a sovereign power is. Bodin saw a sovereign ruler as
absolute and one that holds power for his entire life. According to Bodin, a
sovereign ruler is a being above, beyond or excepted from the law. Although it
occupies a subordinate place in Bodin’s view, it could be said that this
exception from being subject to the law is the essential condition of
For Bodin sovereignty is characterized by
absolute and perpetual power, he goes on to further his definition by making a
series of important recommendations to this concept. These come from two
principle concerns. The first is a sovereign cannot and should not confiscate
property nor break contractual agreements made with other sovereigns, estates
nor private persons. The second reason is Bodin’s underlying theological notion
of divine authority and natural law. Saying this, it is ultimately from this
divine authority that the earthly right of sovereign power is legitimated. The ruler
literary does god’s bidding, and yet by this can do wrong.
Both Bodin and Sieyes believe that the
sovereign holds the highest power when it comes to ruling. Where they differ is
to whom they believe should hold that power. To Bodin the sovereign is a noble
individual, like a prince, who is above everyone and absolute in his power. To
Sieyes a sovereign is not an individual but a group, united and uniform in
their goal. And when the grope stands united it makes up a nation and does not
depend on a nobility to exist.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. “The Prince.” The
Hobbes, Thomas. “Leviathan.” Leviathan.
Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of
John. “Second Treatise on Government.” Second Treatise on Government.
Karl. “Estranged Labour.” Estranged Labour.
Jean-Jacques. Social Contract.
Emmanuel-Joseph . What is the Third Estate? What is the
Jean. On Sovereignty.