Political philosophy is the branch of philosophy that is responsible for studying and reflecting on issues related to politics. This, as well as its relationship with other disciplines and related fields. In this sense, fields such as law, religion or ethics and morality.
Political philosophy, in the words of the author and political philosopher Leo Strauss, is divided into "philosophy", which refers to method; and "politics", which indicates the object and the function. "The subject of political philosophy encompasses the great objectives of humanity: freedom and government or authority, objectives that are capable of elevating man above his poor existence."
In this concept, political philosophy, is the germ and the essence of the entire history of mankind.
The human being, in the words of Aristotle, is a sociable being, for this reason he relates to other individuals and is organized into tribes and societies; until, finally, the State was constituted, this being the widest territorial unit. Well, all these questions, and the relationships between individuals and groups with power, are studied and reflected in political philosophy. Why some states differ from others in their form of government; why they provide their citizens with certain political rights and civil liberties, all this is studied by this discipline. It is about looking for the essence, going to the original causes and consequences, a task that philosophy takes care of.
Origin and history of political philosophy
Political philosophy arises in Ancient Greece, being Plato and Aristotle the first thinkers to develop theories about the government of the Greek polis. For Plato, the government must be led by the most intelligent and capable people, the philosophers, who must guide their people and ensure their well-being. For Aristotle, the polis was made up of people who shared a series of traits, such as language, territory or interests.
Later, for Cicero, what was going to define the Roman Empire as a unique people was the law; for Christianity in the Middle Ages, it was going to be religion. Starting in the 16th century and the contributions of Machiavelli, father of modern political science, political philosophy began to focus on the State, its organization and the power it had over its citizens.
Finally, in our time, political philosophy is interdisciplinary, it refers both to society, and to law, morality, or relations with power.
What does political philosophy study?
Political philosophy studies numerous questions, some of them are:
- The government: How the government of a State is to be constituted and organized. As chosen or imposed; or as the powers of the State are related; as well as the use they make of power. Some of its types are: monarchies, republics, tyrannies, dictatorships, etc.
- The law: What are the rules that must govern life in society. As well as who is part of the citizenry, and to whom these norms can be applied.
- Freedom: A fundamental question on which many authors have dealt. What is freedom and how it relates to other values and rights have been key questions, especially since the emergence of liberalism as a political doctrine.
- Equality: If individuals have to be equal or not, or on what plane they should be. Legal equality is not the same as economic equality or equal opportunities. Ideologies understand this concept very differently.
- Property: If private property is legitimate, or if, on the contrary, the means of production must be public. If the dwelling is to be the only private good. Or if the uses of this property have to be at the service of the general interest or not.
- Justice: What is fair, what is not. If it has to be the citizens, through the popular juries, who administer justice; or should be taught by professional judges; or if, on the contrary, it is the king, in representation of the divinity, who must do it.
Relevant political philosophers
- Plato: Considered the first Western philosopher to make contributions to politics. Of the outstanding thinker stands out his ideal of government of the polis, led by the philosophers, who were the wisest and most capable; in a second step the warriors would be located; and, lastly, the artisans and workers. It also stands out for classifying the forms of government into five types: the perfect government (monarchy or aristocracy), timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny.
- Aristotle: He also made his contribution to the forms of government, establishing a total of six: three desirable, and three degenerations of the first. These were: monarchy degenerating into tyranny; aristocracy degenerating into oligarchy; and democracy degenerating into demagoguery.
- Machiavelli: Considered the father of modern political science, the Italian thinker made multiple contributions. How to establish the State as the main object of study; or, in his work Prince, establish what a ruler has to do in order to conserve and preserve the State and its government.
- Hobbes: The British author, in his work Leviathan, establishes the power that individuals must cede to a higher entity (the State), in order to preserve the security of the entire population, thus avoiding wars and civil confrontations. Also, it establishes the bases for the later development of liberalism, through the defense of the rights of the individual. But security understands it as a superior value.
- Berlin: He was a contemporary philosopher, from the 20th century, whose most precious contributions fall in the field of freedom. Distinguishing between negative freedom (absence of external influence) and positive freedom (personal fulfillment).
In addition to those mentioned, there have been many more philosophers whose contributions have been very important for philosophy and political science in general, such as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas, Spinoza, Montesquieu, John Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Stuart Mill or Karl Marx .