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The Political Man As A Ruler , A Portrait - With A Free Essay Review

The ruler is the figure that posterity remembers . History had its share of good rulers and ones that left it hope for more. But what is the portrait of the ideal ruler? The following presents what some of the most influential philosophers from Ancient Greece up to Renaissance believed were the characteristics the political man in his role as a ruler should gather.

The discussion on the ideal figure of the political leader starts with Plato, founder of Akademia, who, in his “Dialogs” established the theory of the Tri-Partite Soul with its rational , spirited and appetitive part. Inspired by this theory he creates a threefold class division: the philosopher-kings which are characteristic to the rational part , the auxiliaries which are distinctive to the spirited part and lastly the workers which are representative to the appetitive part. Plato had a firm belief in the fact that self-interest and political power must be kept separate and due to this fact the philosopher-kings and the auxiliaries must give up private property in order for it not to taint their minds and spirits: “power tends to be corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Plato's philosopher-king ruled over his ideal republic with rationality , his task being to create the Utopia , where all worked together for the common good of the rigid three-fold classed state.

Plato's point of view evolves when Aristotle, founder of Lyceum, and student of Plato's tries to further explain the great machine that a state is. He calls the man a “zoon politikon” term that signified not that the man is a “political animal” but that the man is a social being. He believed that if a man were to live outside society he would either turn into a God or a beast, for outside the society , man loses his human nature. As an advocate of the polity as the best way to rule, Aristotle thought that the king put in charge of the polity must not have unlimited power , he actually ought to be a guardian of the law. An overseer of the state not a Demiurgos. In this case the king could be over-thrown if he were to usurp power , as he believed that a king granted less power and more mobility would make for the best political leader.

The 1200's bring Thomas Aquinas, who, as a representative of the religion-influenced point of view, believes that following the Christian moral code would be an adequate way to rule a society. A ruler inspired by the Scripture , that follows God's laws is the ideal ruler in Aquinas' opinion , which is of course biased due to the fact that he was a member of the Church and live din a period where human kind had put his faith and future in the hands of Christianity.

Niccolo Machiavelli , the most ideologically influential offspring of the Renaissance , in his work “The Prince” portrays the ruler as a Demiurgos . Although his work is linked to a specific historical context , Italy's disunity , his contribution to the portrait of the political man as a ruler can not be overlooked. Machiavelli believed that the human nature is flawed , people are bad and due to this fact it is easier to persuade than try to change them . This is the reason behind his portrayal of the ideal ruler as a cruel one because “men love who they want, but fear the Prince”. This is not only a secular portrait of a ruler in a period where Christianity had already reached its peak but also a very disputed one due to the fact that “The Prince” was banned by the Catholic Church.

In the XVIIth Century Thomas Hobbes' “Leviathan” brings a new perspective on the image of the ruler and the quest for power. In Hobbes' work , power is defined in a simple but not at all shallow manner: “a man's present is to obtain some future apparent good” and in a world where every man is against every man , life could be no other way than “solitary, poor, brutish and short”. Aided by the body metaphor , to which Hobbes compares the state with , the artificial person that represents the state in its entirety is the Leviathan, a necessary evil. Thomas Hobbes believed that all men are equal “for such is the nature of men that, whatsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be so many as wise as themselves” , but this society in which all men are equal is governed by fear, which is why men look for peace , achievable through a contract between all the members of the society which give up some of their right in order to be protected from exterior forces as well as from forces inside their own society , but what kind of ruler is sure to grant the security they need ? The answer is a strong ruler. His “Laws of Nature” did not contain a moral code , it did not portray the ruler as a product of divine will and power , but it dictated that through reason and the first principle, the one of self-preservation people will seek peace and choose a strong ruler and will legitimate him to punish their disobedience with death , which impersonated their greatest fear.

No matter the reasoning behind the ruler's coming into position , no matter the era in which this “portraits” were gathered into real guides of political behavior , the ruler is a distinctive human standard that either tainted or set a crown of laurels on the belief and will of the many.



The essay lacks the kind of purpose that one normally expects to find in a essay. It provides only a brief summary of part of the history of political theory but offers no analysis or criticism of any of the views presented and gives no indication of whether one view is more reasonable than another. It seems to be no more than a list of soundbites, illustrated by some of the most obvious quotations. It doesn’t seem terribly inaccurate, but it also doesn’t explain very much. I learn the names of the three parts of the soul in Plato’s account, for example, but I don’t learn what they mean, or why a political leader is or ought to be characterized by the rational part of the soul. I learn that the leader rules “with rationality,” but not what that actually entails. But more problematic than the limited scope of the explanation is that you given no indication of what one ought to think about Plato’s views. Now the same is true for the rest of the figures you discuss, with the exception of Aquinas whose views you think are biased in favor of the prevailing views of his time. You do also claim that Machiavelli’s contribution to political theory “cannot be overlooked,” which is a claim about the historical importance of that contribution, but you don’t justify that claim.

So, if all you want to do here is indeed just provide a very brief overview of political theory, then I think the least you should do is explain in greater detail the actual concepts and arguments advanced by the theorists you discuss. But I suspect you could also do a bit more than that. You could for instance compare the different theorists to each other, perhaps lining the moralists up against the pragmatists, the exponents of realpolitik. You could, that is, compare those whose views are informed by the idea of what a ruler should do or be in order to be good, in the moral sense, to those views are informed by the idea of what a ruler should do or be in order to be effective. And then you could answer your original question about the nature of the ideal ruler.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: vaniquertamere

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