Political theories

PLATO
Why is Socrates dissatisfied with the definitions of justice provided by Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus? Briefly describe each definition and each response by Socrates. [Book 1]
What purpose does the Myth of Gyges serve in the discussion of justice? What implication does this have for our understanding of just & unjust action? [Book 2]

How is the kallipolis structured, and what is its purpose? How is justice enforced in this ideal city? [Books 3-4]
Why does Socrates hold the philosopher king in such high regard? Explain how this ruler is different from other types of governing bodies. [Book 6]
Describe the Allegory of the Cave and explain its significance. What point does the allegory help Socrates make? How does it relate to the philosopher king? [Book 7]
ARISTOTLE
What are the commonplace things that humans often attribute to their happiness? Explain why Aristotle believes that these things fail to really make us happy.
Aristotle argues that moral virtue (virtue) and intellectual virtue (wisdom) are the proper avenues to happiness. Explain the difference between the two, and explain why they succeed where other potential avenues fail.
Aristotle tells us that the virtues exist on a spectrum between the vices of excess and defect. Explain the relationship between the virtues and the two vices that accompany each. In other words, how do the vices relate to their respective virtues, and how are humans supposed to navigate the vices in order to get to the virtues. Use at least two examples.
What does Aristotle mean when he refers to humans as “political animals?” Explain in detail
Explain Aristotle’s division of political authority into three fields. What are the three appropriate formulations of each type of authority, and what are the three deviant formulations of each type of authority? What is the fundamental problem with the deviant formulations? Explain.
MACHIAVELLI
What is Machiavelli’s position on princes who gain power through wickedness? Why does he hold this position, and do you agree/disagree with it?
Machiavelli says that “it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain his position to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge or not to use it according to necessity” (337). Explain how this advice reflects a morality for the prince. Is it difficult to reconcile not being good with a moral framework? Also, what conditions would he deem “necessary?”
Explain Machiavelli’s position on whether a prince should be loved, feared, hated, or some combination of these qualities
What are the three proper formulations of government, according to Machiavelli, and what are their deviations? Which among these, if any, does Machiavelli argue is the best form?
Explain Machiavelli’s positions on virtue (virtu) and fortune (fortuna) in relation to the maintenance of a government (either a principality or a republic).

HOBBES
According to Hobbes, what is the “natural condition of Man?” Describe this condition in detail and explain why it is problematic.
What must an individual give up in order to leave the ‘state of nature’ and enter into a ‘commonwealth?’ What does the individual obtain in return? Evaluate whether or not this appears to be a fair exchange.

What are the three types of commonwealths that Hobbes discusses? What are the virtues and shortcomings of each?
Explain what role the ‘sovereign’ plays in the transition from the state of nature to the commonwealth. What power does the sovereign have over the populace? What power does the populace have if sovereign becomes tyrannical?
According to Hobbes, what is the difference between a covenant formed in the state of nature and a covenant formed in a commonwealth?
LOCKE
Explain what Locke means when he says that individuals in the state of nature are governed by Natural Law. What is this law, and how does it guide behavior? In this capacity, how does Locke’s state of nature differ from Hobbes’s?
Compare and contrast Locke’s view of the state of war with Hobbes’s view. In your opinion, which description seems more conducive to the state of nature as a general thought experiment?
Describe Locke’s view of property in detail. What is it? How is it acquired? What is it about our relationship with property that compels us to leave the state of nature and establish a political society?
Describe the parameters of an appropriately-conceived commonwealth, according to Locke. Be sure to discuss the importance of the legislative body. Be specific.
What are the major differences between Locke’s and Hobbes’s conception of authority in the commonwealth vis-à-vis the people?
ROUSSEAU
Describe what Rousseau means when he talks about the concept of ‘amour-propre.’ What utility does this concept have in lieu of its omission in Hobbes’s analysis?
According to Rousseau, what is the difference between natural inequality and moral inequality? What role does property have in the development of moral inequality?
Explain how the concepts of ‘the sovereign’ and ‘the general will’ relate to each other in Rousseau’s system.
According to Rousseau, what are the signs of a ‘good government,’ and what are the signs of a degenerate government?
Rousseau has a very specific and nuanced vision of a proper democracy. Explain what it is in detail.
KANT
Why is it important for the discussion of moral and political philosophy to generate from a metaphysical foundation?
According to Kant, what is the ‘good will,’ and how does ‘duty’ relate to it? Define your terms and explain the relationship.
What is the difference between a ‘hypothetical imperative’ and a ‘categorical imperative?’ How do ‘perfect duties’ and ‘imperfect duties’ relate to each type of imperative? Be specific.
Describe the four steps that are used to calculate whether or not a maxim can be considered a categorical imperative.
According to Kant, why is the categorical imperative so instrumental as an object of moral behavior? What is your evaluation of the categorical imperative?
MARX and ENGELS
Describe Marx and Engels’s materialist interpretation of history.
What is the bourgeoisie? What is the proletariat? Explain the relationship between these entities.
Explain Marx and Engels’s critique of industrial capitalist society.
What role does bourgeois property, or private property, play in Marx and Engels’s socialist solution to capitalism?
Explain the difference between utopian and scientific socialism, according to Engels.
MILL
Define and explain the Principle of Utility; be sure to include the distinction between greater and lesser pleasures.
Define and explain the Greatest Happiness Principle; be sure to include a discussion of individual- and group-level happiness.
Explain the role that intentions or motives play in a utilitarian calculus.
Discuss two or more problems with Utilitarianism.
Define and explain the Harm Principle

 

 

 

Sample Solution

ACED ESSAYS