Using Several Different Criteria

Using Several Different Criteria


One of the following questions will be selected on the day of the examination:

1. Famously, Aristotle classified systems of government by using several different criteria. Describe his criteria and his classification system. Which form(s) of government did he consider best and why? Which form(s) of government did he consider the worst? Why? In what way did his view of optimal governance change in accordance with different circumstances? How did property ownership and/or wealth figure into his classification system? Finally, state whether you agree or disagree with Aristotle’s taxonomy of political regimes.

2. St. Augustine broke with the classical tradition in his understanding of the purpose of human governments. What was the classical tradition’s view of government’s purpose and what was the view that St. Augustine developed to replace it? Why did St. Augustine arrive at his conclusions about the aims of government (i.e. what sociological and/or spiritual realities did he use to ground his ideas)? Finally, in a couple of sentences state whether you agree with St. Augustine, and (briefly) defend your own view of the purpose of government.

3. Niccolo Machiavelli broke with the classical tradition as well, in focusing on power and self-interest as unavoidable aspects of political governance. Talk about what it meant for Machiavelli to take power as the central reality of political theory (and include in your answer at least a brief mention of how Machiavelli conceived of the role of violence in power politics). Describe also how Machiavelli differed from Plato and Aristotle in conceiving of government as being a matter of placating the self-interested desires of agents, rather than being a matter of transforming those self-interested desires into more commendable character states. Use examples as necessary. Finally, interact critically with Machiavelli and state whether you agree or disagree with his assertions about the bankruptcy of ideal theory and the importance of turning to the actual conduct of politics.

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