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14. Hume  

Paul Kelly

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.

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15. Montesquieu  

Yoshie Kawade

This chapter examines Montesquieu's political theory. Montesquieu's political theory, and his Spirit of the Laws in particular, has been considered a complex mosaic of varied and sometimes disparate intellectual traditions. Despite the forbidding structure of his works, important and impressive discussions of issues such as the justification of universal justice, a scientific approach to the law, a new typology of governments, a materialistic theory of climate, and the idea of a free state based on separate and balanced powers can be found there. After providing a short biography of Montesquieu, the chapter analyses his critique of despotism as well as the key themes of his mature political theory: the separation of powers, the three forms of government, the lessons of history, and the conditions of political liberty.

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20. Bentham  

Paul Kelly

This chapter examines Jeremy Bentham's political thought. Bentham is both an advocate of laissez-faire and an interventionist, a liberal rationalist and an equivocally liberal thinker prepared to sacrifice the rights of individuals to the well-being of the multitude. His ideas remain contested from all quarters, yet the outline of his actual political thought remains obscure. This chapter defends an interpretation of Bentham as an important liberal thinker with a commitment to the role of government in defending personal security and well-being, but also with a strong scepticism about government as a vehicle for harm as well as good. It first provides a short biography of Bentham before discussing his psychological theory as well as his account of value and duty. It also explores Bentham's views on psychological hedonism, obligations and rules, sovereignty and law, and representative democracy. It concludes with an assessment of Bentham's complex relationship with liberalism.

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33. Foucault  

Paul Patton

This chapter examines Michel Foucault's approach to the history of systems of thought, which relied upon a distinctive concept of discourse he defined in terms of rules governing the production of statements in a given empirical field at a given time. The study of these rules formed the basis of Foucault's archaeology of knowledge. The chapter first considers Foucault's conception of philosophy as the critique of the present before explaining how his criticism combined archaeological and genealogical methods of writing history and operated along three distinct methodological axes corresponding to knowledge, power, and ethics. It then describes Foucault's archaeological approach to the study of systems of thought or discourse, along with his historical approach to truth. It also discusses Foucault's theory of freedom, his views on the nature and tasks of government, and his ideas about subjectivity in relation to care for the self.

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6. Cicero  

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.

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13. John Locke  

Jeremy Waldron

This chapter examines and defends the relevance of John Locke's writings as political philosophy. Locke's political philosophy continues to have an enormous impact on the framing and the pursuit of liberal ideas in modern political thought — ideas about social contract, government by consent, natural law, equality, individual rights, civil disobedience, and private property. The discussion and application of Locke's arguments is thus an indispensable feature of political philosophy as it is practised today. After providing a short biography of Locke, the chapter considers his views on equality and natural law, property, economy, and disagreement, as well as limited government, toleration, and the rule of law. It concludes with an assessment of Locke's legacy as a political thinker.

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8. Aquinas  

Joseph Canning

This chapter examines St Thomas Aquinas' political ideas. Aquinas combined Aristotelian ideas with Christian concepts, distinguishing between the natural and supernatural orders, and attributing inherent validity to the natural order, including political life. His theory of law linked, through reason, the eternal law of God, natural law, human positive law, and divine law. According to Aquinas, government's justification was its purpose — securing the common good. He favoured limited monarchy in a mixed constitution. The chapter first provides a short biography of Aquinas before discussing his views on natural and supernatural orders, government, tyranny, and temporal and spiritual power. It concludes with an assessment of Aquinas' contribution to political thought in the area of just war theory.

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9. Marsiglio of Padua  

Cary J. Nederman

This chapter examines Marsiglio of Padua's political theory, tracing it to his opposition to the pope's interference in secular political affairs, especially Italy and the Holy Roman Empire. Marsiglio formulates theoretical principles to explain the origins and nature of the political community that depend upon a strict distinction between the temporal and spiritual realms. For Marsiglio, government and law exist in order to support the civil peace. After providing a short biography of Marsiglio, the chapter analyses his views on peace, conciliarism, consent, and ecclesiology. It also considers Marsiglio's claim that all secular governments should oppose the ecclesiastical hierarchy, that political society arises from infirmities of human nature, and that citizenship derives from all vital functions in society.