This is it; the fourth and final chapter of a very interesting discussion on philosophy. It has been a very enjoyable ride and quite thought provoking. This last section is going to revolve around four political philosophies: Plato’s Aristocracy, Hobbes’s Commonwealth, Locke’s Consensual Democracy, and Marx’s Communism. I must say I really struggled with choosing the one I wanted to agree with. It would have been preferable to agree with three, in part, and disagree with one. Alas, this cannot be done, and so I picked John Locke, and not just to be a good American.
John Locke was so interwoven into the formation of America that to take away Locke would be to take away the America we learn about in history; all those great stories about the founding fathers would not be as they were. America would be a different place. Looking past Locke’s particularly rosy outlook on human beings, which I do not hold, we find concepts such as natural law, natural rights, property rights, and the right to self-preservation. What I like is that Locke presents us with the truth that “humans have freedom but not license to do absolutely anything they wish” (Falikowski, 2004, p. 410). Natural law, that we should not “harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” comes from God, our creator or “Maker” as Locke says (Falikowski, 2004, p. 410). We do not need government to tell us what the laws are, they are imprinted on our souls by God, whether we wish to acknowledge them or not is our decision. Due to this fact, we do need government to protect us from the people who choose not to operate by the laws of nature. I also like how government is a servant of the people, not the master of the people. I agree that the government should have divisions of power, checks and balances, to keep it under control. I also believe that government should be dissolvable if necessary. Government should be a secretary to the people. People end up abused and oppressed when government is their master, not because government is evil, but because the people who run government are corrupt: they no longer serve the people, but want the people to serve them. Locke’s political philosophy prevents this problem from happening, provided the people remain in control. I should note that the people—the majority of the population with the same ideas—need to be good and capable of wielding government properly, and when they do not Locke’s political philosophy falls apart.
Thomas Hobbes has a decidedly grim view of the human condition, and we would be lying to ourselves if we said it was all butterflies and roses. What Hobbes gets right is that we are miserable, self-serving, egotistical, not altruistic, and unequal in respect to bodily and mental capacities. He calls this the state of nature, and he is terrified of it, as well he should be. However, his conclusion that there is no objective morality is false. Morality, by its very nature, is objective. Truth, good, and evil are the same for you as they are for me. That is what I believe. When Hobbes’s only right of nature is that we all have “the freedom to use our power in any way we wish for purposes of self-preservation, even if this entails attack on another’s body,” I disagree with him (Falikowski, 2004, p. 403). I agree that we have the freedom to do what we want in regards to self-preservation, but it does not necessarily make such actions morally right. Since our right of nature as Hobbes terms it is to take whatever we can, then what is to stop us from abusing others less equal to us in bodily strength or intellectual capability? Nothing. Is this morally right? Hobbes solution is to give over our right of nature to government, an absolute sovereignty. We will be kept in check by fear of retribution. However, what happens when the government starts abusing the people? The government is absolute, one cannot do anything about it. Therefore, I conclude that Hobbes’s Commonwealth is not a place where I would wish to call my home.
As with Marxism, which we will explore after this next political philosophy, the Aristocracy presented by Plato is beautiful, idealistic, and, unfortunately, not something that would last very long. In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, Plato’s Aristocracy is looking for a veritable coup d’état to raze it to the ground. After all, picture for a moment that you are a highly intelligent young person with much potential. Your parents are from the Artisan class, but you have the opportunity to advance to the Philosopher Kings/Ruler class. Wonderful, right? Well, unfortunately for you, Jane or Joe Love-of-my-life is now no longer able to be married to you, as you had planned. They are beneath you, and mixing their blood with yours would be a no-no. You can have children with others of your own intellectual bracket, but do not expect to be able to raise them yourself. Perhaps, you have always been a high-spirited child and have the opportunity to join the Auxiliaries. Well, then do not expect any personal property, and you cannot marry anyone; you get to defend the people who do. I do not know about anyone else, but I would be ready for a revolt at this point. I want to get married to the girl I want to get married to, have some kids that I can call my own, and pursue the profession of my choice. Now, the logic of the Aristocracy is not wasted on me. Plato is not some twisted man who is trying to make life miserable by making you choose between two goals you really want in life; he believes that the Rulers will rule better without favoring their own offspring, and the Auxiliaries will be better off without ties such as personal property or families. But are we just cogs in the wheel of some government? We are so much more than that. We are people with dreams and aspirations that an impersonal government that is run like a clock cannot understand.
Next, we come to Marxism, a source of immense conflict for many people. I really want to like Marxism, it seems like such a beautiful, idealistic political philosophy; however, I cannot accept it wholeheartedly. There are some holes in his philosophy that make it very susceptible to sabotage. As was the case with Lenin and Stalin, what started out as Marxism turned into a hell for the people living under it. Marx does not seem to recognize human beings innate sinfulness. As human history points out for us countless times, government can so easily turn into an evil if not carefully monitored. I find that Marx has some noteworthy observations, such as the alienation, dehumanization, and idolatry/fetishism of commodities that capitalism creates. However, I am a strong believer in the economics of capitalism; the attainment of private property puts forth a tasty incentive for people to work hard. When rational people put the time and work into something, they care for it and respect it. The opposite is true for people who have not worked for something. One can talk all day about how splendid communism is and how we could all work for the good of each other, but I need to ask: have you seen the people in this world? Have you seen the selfish, awful acts they commit? Would you be willing to trust them to uphold your utopian ideal? Or better yet, would you, would I destroy it for them because we are too corrupt not to? Unless we can somehow find a way to change all of our hearts and minds from their inherent depravity and toward an altruistic love for others and ourselves, Marxist Communism will never work as it ought to.
I have enjoyed every moment of my time learning about philosophy. It inspires me, makes me think, and nudges me on to confront beliefs that are not valid. Picking a political philosophy was a difficult choice, but no less so than philosophies of life, epistemology/metaphysics, or ethics. Learning about them all has made me grow as a person, and I am better for it. Philosophy is not a useless and antiquated endeavor, but a thriving and arresting world that draws one in and is instrumental in the understanding of oneself and the world. There is so much I still do not know. My ignorance, like my shadow, grows all the larger as I attempt to learn by walking under the sun. In fact, I might be inclined to agree with Descartes when he said that, “to live without philosophizing is in truth the same as keeping the eyes closed without attempting to open them” (Descartes).
The European Graduate School. “Rene Descartes – Quotes.” 28 Apr. 2014. http://www.egs.edu/library/ rene-descartes/quotes/
Falikowski, Anthony F. (2004). Experiencing Philosophy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.