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Early Political Philosophers

In this free online course, learn how early political philosophers strived to achieve the primary rights we enjoy today.

Teaching & Academics
Free Course
This free online course offers an in-depth insight into the early political philosophers. You will learn about Socrates and Plato and study Plato’s opinion about the ‘ideal state’. You will also learn about Plato’s beliefs on education in the ‘ideal state’. Aristotle’s political concepts will then be unraveled, starting with ethics and virtue. You will then explore other theories of Aristotle, such as citizenship, slavery and the constitution.
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    4-5 Hours
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Freedom of speech, democracy, majority rule with minority rights, justice, as we claim them today, are the legacy of early political philosophers, Plato and Aristotle in particular. This course introduces you to early political philosophers, emphasising their works and highlighting their relevance to our cultural system. Plato, for instance, addressed justice. His conception of justice is rooted in the harmony of existence within the individual’s soul. This is split among the three classes in the state. He considered justice to be vital for order within the soul and within the state. In his opinion, justice is a primary moral value intrinsically connected to other moral values such as courage, wisdom and temperance. This course will give you more details about the theme of justice as addressed by Plato. Apart from justice, Plato exposed his ideal state, which many authors found very utopic, although it could still guide governing the state wisely and in a just manner. You will discover other political themes addressed by Plato in the course. 

As you work through the course, you will be taught about another eminent political philosopher named Aristotle, Plato’s student. For Aristotle, politics is a master science. In his opinion, the knowledge of politics helps men live an ethical life, realising their full potentialities as moral beings. This is only achieved in a polity or a good community. Aristotle considers that men are distinct from other species in terms of being rational and having the language to communicate their ideas. He believed that men are neither beasts nor gods, though they share some attributes of both. He questioned any transcendental or universal theory of ethics, morality, or good. Considered as conservative and conventionalist, Aristotle is thought to be a revolutionary thinker. He has influenced the history of political thought, western tradition in particular. Other themes covered by Aristotle include economy, which Aristotle described as the art of household management, constitution, citizenship, and corruption.

Despite their eminence in the field of political thought, you will learn that Plato and Aristotle have been criticised, often severely, by many authors. Aristotle himself severely criticised Plato about his ideal state. Aristotle deemed Plato’s ideal state elitist, questioning the premise’s absoluteness of the truth or wisdom accessible to philosophers alone. Aristotle believed in the wisdom of many, although accepting the form of state described in Plato’s Statesman and Laws. Many scholars considered Plato’s second-best state as Aristotle’s best-state. Likewise, many scholars criticised Aristotle, especially on his defence of slavery and his support of women’s subordinate roles. Do you consider slavery to be morally and ethically unacceptable? Do you find Aristotle’s view on women offensive? This course investigates these theories and discusses these roles in depth. This course will be of particular interest to students specialising in philosophy or political science. Start this course today to boost your knowledge of the early political philosophers.       

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