By W. M. Spellman
This short narrative survey of political proposal over the last millennia explores key principles that experience formed Western political traditions.
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Extra info for A Short History of Western Political Thought
Life was meant to be grim and problematical; what small pleasures might come by and by were wholly fortuitous and undeserved. In answer to the question why one should obey the state, Augustine answered that obedience makes possible a focus on the really important business of life, the abandonment of distractions within the world, and compliance with the will of God. Here was a perspective very much removed from the common assumptions of the classical Greek mind, a perspective that would come to dominate the political consciousness of Western Europe for the next millennium.
The concept of a natural law of human City-States and Republics c. 400 BCE–c. 400 CE 33 relations, and the corollary understanding of justice as a knowable divine ordinance brought down to earth, would have an enormous influence on both medieval Christian and modern secular political thought. But natural law theory in its early Christian context also had to account for the Augustinian picture of fallen human nature. Cicero had argued that only the fully rational person would act on the natural instinct to sociability and consensus building.
122 CE) charged the Epicurean with parasitism, seeking the advantages of life in a polity without making any contribution to its well-being. 31 The radical disengagement of the Epicurean school was countered by perhaps the most productive intellectual response to the challenges associated with the growth of empire: Stoicism. The Stoic outlook, product of one of the great Athenian schools founded by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (335–263 BCE) at the end of the fourth century BCE, became immensely popular amongst educated Roman aristocrats of the second century of the Common Era.