This chapter examines the political ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In his Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821), Hegel articulates his views about reason, actuality, and philosophy. For Hegel, the task of philosophy is to identify and display the reason contained in the actual institutions and practices of the social world. Hegel believes that philosophy will be able to find reason in the institutions of the social world he inhabits. After providing a short biography of Hegel, this chapter considers some of the central themes and theses of the Philosophy of Right. It also explores several basic elements in Hegel's thought, including his concept of freedom, his ideas of spirit and dialectic, and his account of the institutions of property and contract. It concludes by reflecting on Hegel's significance as a political thinker.
Cary J. Nederman
This chapter examines Cicero's social and political theory, which rests upon his conception of human nature, namely that human beings are capable of speech and reason. It first provides a short biography of Cicero before discussing his discursive approach to republican rule based on the claim that human nature can only be fully realized through articulate and wise speech. For Cicero, social order requires wise leaders who direct citizens toward the proper goals of cooperation and mutual advantage and who thus seek peace rather than war. The chapter proceeds by analysing Cicero's argument that political institutions must be built upon natural law and virtue, especially justice, along with his notion of patriotic citizenship and his views on war and peace; statesmanship, courage, and otium; the origins of political inequality; and republican government.
This chapter examines Mary Wollstonecraft's political thought. Wollstonecraft advances the argument that the private and public are interrelated and that God has given reason to both sexes. Among her ideas: ‘natural’ qualities, including masculinity and femininity, are socially constructed; reason and virtue require cultivation; private and public virtue demands non-sexually differentiated principles and standards, and freedom, equal rights, and political representation for women and men; tyranny in private, especially in marriage, undermines political virtue and active citizenship; education must be reformed, marriage transformed into an equal relationship between loving friends, and wives must have economic independence. After providing a short biography of Wollstonecraft, the chapter analyses her views on nature, sentiment, reason, men's rights and women's freedom, private virtue, and public order. It shows how Wollstonecraft's insights challenge standard conceptions of democracy.
This chapter examines David Hume's political thought and philosophy. Hume is regarded as a major influence on the development of conservative ideology and a significant precursor of utilitarianism. He is known as both a sceptical philosopher and a common-sense moralist and political theorist. In drawing sceptical conclusions from the prevailing empiricist theory of knowledge associated with John Locke, Hume is concerned to point out the limits of reason. In place of reason he offers an account of morality ‘naturalized’, that is rooted in the passions. After providing a short biography of Hume, the chapter analyses his views on experience and knowledge, facts and values, moral judgement, natural and artificial virtues, justice and conventions, property, government, and consent. It concludes with an assessment of Hume's legacy as a political thinker and philosopher.
Joseph V. Femia
This chapter examines Niccolò Machiavelli's contribution to political thought. It first provides a short biography of Machiavelli before discussing the main perspectives on Machiavelli and the reasons for their divergence. It then considers the historical and intellectual context that helped to shape Machiavelli's thinking, asking how the Renaissance differed from the Middle Ages, the extent to which Machiavelli was a man of the Renaissance, and why the Italian scene stimulated creative thought about politics. The chapter also explores Machiavelli's most innovative ideas: his rejection of metaphysics and teleology, whether of the Christian or aristotelian variety; his empirical and historical approach to the study of political affairs; and his anti-utopianism and belief in ‘reason of state’.