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Ancient Greek Political Philosophy

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Manifold attributes of modern-day civilization, if slightly taken heed of, predominantly carry the traces of concepts that were constructed and long conferred in the ancient Greek civilization. More precisely, it provided the basis for the foundation of the political system and its philosophy, bearing in mind that the word “politics” itself comes from “polis”, which simply refers to the Greek city-state. Despite the fact that the ideas and methods were generated and practiced in the olden days within the block of quondam standpoints and interests, proposed hypotheses implemented courses of action and even clash points of theirs are still the matter of consideration and discussion at the present time. Consequently, it is fair to state that ancient Greek civilization produced principal and complex patterns for contemporary politics and played an important role in further development. Accordingly, this paper is going to touch upon and analyze the particular aspects of Greek political philosophy, its elements, and great thinkers share on its genesis, and how they do or do not reflect the contemporary presentation of long-lived factors of political philosophy.

Starting with administration, the Greek civilization, mainly Athens, had undergone several types of governments that are monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. While the elucidation of the words implies the same purpose and image of their present-day meanings, there existed additions and alterations to the oligarchy that formed the concept of the aristocracy. What Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates as well-considered were that managing a government, serving for the people’s well-being, and encompassing the interests of the stakeholders should be executed by the aristocrats, perhaps philosophers, who were capable of making, strategizing, implementing the most optimum decisions for the sake of demos’ security, social welfare, generally for the state itself and some others. Moreover, Aristotle postulated six forms of government under the category of interest and the number of individuals ruling. Coming to the concept of democracy, keeping these positions in view, Socrates was opposed to democracy, one of the most disputed and prominent principles and types of government in Greece, likewise Plato. In order to grasp the rationale behind this standpoint and divergence of opinions on democracy, initially, the ideology and propositions are needed to be stated and construed. Firstly, Plato had an idealistic approach towards not only different spheres of science and philosophy but also the political regime and regulations in a certain state. He regarded “The Ideal State” as a valid and solid solution to the establishment of an ideal society in his work “The Republic”. Here his ideas overlap with and even go beyond the communist ideology, where everything is everyone’s, which eliminates private institutions and underpins the formation of hierarchy and the importance of unification within the society. For him, Sparta was the ultimate example of how one society should achieve the state of idealism, where military accomplishments were the mere aim of its citizens and kept them focused and painstaking in both battlefield and daily life. Nonetheless, Aristotle had a different perspective on the subject matter. What he concluded is that reality does not have any specific or separate forms, and reality is just as it is. In “Realism” he primarily refused the ideas suggested by Plato, by asserting that all citizens could be engaged in and have a word on the political problems of the states and government procedures and determine through which ways to lead a happy life. However, here one of the despairing and sorrowful truths comes to light, which was that by citizens he only referred to the males, so the theory did not take females, slaves, minors, and resident aliens into the account. In contrast, Plato equally incorporates women in his formulation of hierarchy.

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Democracy can be variously defined on relative terms. What today’s understanding of democracy is to have the decision that favors the majority or to acknowledge and confirm the choice of a large number of people, which mostly refers to the results of some elections. However, in Greek civilization, random citizens could partake in governmental procedures. Obviously, it naturally threatened the very existence, durability, and persistence of the system and the society that was under its control, as it was depicted in the “Ship of State” metaphor by Plato. Taking these into account, by all means, people’s voices should be heard, since the ultimate purpose of governments ought to provide its citizens with essential matters that will satisfy them physiologically and mentally at least at a minimum level. Throughout history, numerous kings, dictators, tyrants, and rulers came to power under the name of democracy. Notwithstanding, as Franklin D Roosevelt put it, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education”. The individuals who are educated, experienced, and qualified enough are needed to operatively function and take over the responsibility about substantial matters, Certainly, subjectivity, person’s ideology, political, social, economic groups that s/he belongs, and many other factors will affect the decision made by them and will not always reflect desires of the majority. That could be the situation in the case of an illiterate person takes over the control. Wisdom, knowledge and experience are the factors that make those persons exceptional and special to make the right decision. Additionally, the concept of rule of law was applied in ancient Greece, which in essence signifies that everyone is equal before the law, especially implying both parties – the ones that rule and ones that are being ruled. It is one of the key essentials of human rights ethics at the moment.

As R. Ebeling (2016) clearly summarized, “Benjamin Constant said that among the ancient Greeks “freedom” was understood to mean the right of the free citizen to participate in the political deliberations of city affairs, but once the deliberations were over and a vote was taken, the individual was a “slave” to the majority decisions of his fellow citizens,” the classification for the democratic freedom itself is highly incompatible with the concept of freedom that is comprehended today, which obscurely urges the equality among the members of the society. The citizen held the right of freedom chiefly due to the obligatory burden, which positions society’s interest as a unity above individuals. The idea of freedom rather served for the development and advantages of the community and state. On the contrary, at present, all over the world personal freedom measures the level of the tolerance of the certain society towards diversity of perspectives and allows the individuals to benefit from this right to the full extent depending on which country they are residing in and its constitutional law and political regime.

Taking all aforementioned into account, ancient Greek civilization, one of the world’s most distinguished and noteworthy civilizations of all time, did and will contribute to the establishment, development, and maturation of the political, economic, social, and even private institutions. This civilization was not close to the ‘standards’ of “The ideal state”, nor did it and could not attain the perfect form of the state where coexists democracy, freedom, justice, or equality in peace; however, the Greeks had different interpretations and profound knowledge on the subject and made an attempt to find the various ways to form a powerful and remarkable government and community that happily and freely lives under its administration.

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Ancient Greek Political Philosophy. (2021, September 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ancient-greek-political-philosophy/
“Ancient Greek Political Philosophy.” Edubirdie, 20 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/ancient-greek-political-philosophy/
Ancient Greek Political Philosophy. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/ancient-greek-political-philosophy/> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
Ancient Greek Political Philosophy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 20 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ancient-greek-political-philosophy/
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