How Should We Study the History of Political Thought

The preceding paragraphs may appear rather abstract. But it is important that we consider the difference between 'ancient' and this type of'modern' reason before we look at the writings of earlier political theorists. The purpose of trying to draw a distinction between ancient and modern reason is to elucidate some of the consequences of studying the history of political thought in one way as opposed to another. Modern philosophers and political theorists have increasingly displayed an interest...

Equality Of What and of Whom

Isegoria, equality of public speech, was intimately tied to democracy as a unique kind of civic life, especially in contrast to tyrannies. Isegoria, as Herodotus speaks of it, was that unique characteristic of democracy that allowed each citizen to express his equal membership of the community and in this way he achieved 'his very self through and in community.35 This isegoria, introduced by Kleisthenes in 508 7 bc, was closely linked with the notion of equality of opportunity to participate in...

Heroic Politics versus an Amateur Citizenry Character Formation

It appears that moral conduct, especially of those in authority, and morally correct legislation continued to be thought to be the determinants of a successful polis. As we have seen, Perikles argued that the democratic constitution was organized for the many but he also noted how political leadership fell to those worthy of it in that they were individuals with arete, that is, the best, noblest and ablest. What kind of language is this Scholars who have studied the heroic literature of ancient...

Two Hundred Years of Greek Democracy

They called themselves Hellenes by the seventh century bc and before that, Achaeans or Argives or Danai. In the fifth century bc the historian Herodotus, himself probably not of purely Hellenic origins and a subject of the Persian Empire, tried to define what it meant to be self-consciously Greek (to Hell nikon) in terms of common blood, language, religion and customs.1 Herodotus also tells his readers that an early form of d mokratia can be traced back to the early...

Athenians Reject Oligarchy

The argument between democrats and oligarchs worked itself through the events of the late fifth century bc. Those who during the twenty-seven years of the Peloponnesian war with Sparta (431-404) insisted that the operations of a full democracy caused the lack of Athenian success, not least in prosecuting war, were able briefly to engineer an oligarchic revolution in 411. But with the violent excesses committed by these oligarchs and, in particular, the violence committed by the so-called Thirty...

The History of Philosophy From the Pre Socratic Naturalists to Moral Philosophy

This division of subject matter to be investigated follows the development of Greek speculation itself. The history of philosophy is thought to begin with what are known as the pre-Socratic naturalists seventh to fifth century bc who were concerned with enquiring into the nature and origins of the universe kosmos . It gradually shifts to those engaged in a more critical philosophy fifth to fourth century bc , concerned with the foundations of morality and knowledge. Because we still take these...

Ancient Athenian Democracy in General During the Fifth and Fourth Centuries bc

Because Athenian democracy inscribed its state documents on stone most regularly from c. 460 onwards and Athenians and non-Athenians who lived in Athens produced a great deal of literature in the fifth and fourth centuries, we have more information 4 On the extinction of democracy see G. E. M. de Ste Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient World London, 1981 , Appendix IV, and chapter 5, this volume. J. M. Bryant, Moral Codes and Social Structure in Ancient Greece a sociology of Greek ethics...

Canonical Difficulties

The writers listed above are traditionally considered to have contributed most influen-tially to political debate on the principles and practices of good government across the centuries, and therefore are taken to be the key figures in the history of European political thought. This may look like an uncontentious statement, but it is not. Just how we evaluate who contributed most and how we determine which authors and which of their works ought to be included on the list of 'great political...