Introduction to Philosophy/Ancient Political Philosophy

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Ancient Political Philosophy, whose major representatives are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, is an inquiry into the nexus of arete (excellence, virtue) and politics. In other words, it emphasizes the connection between ethics as the care of the soul and politics as the care of the polis (city, state).

Perhaps the most important work of ancient political philsophy is Plato's Republic, a dialogue in which Socrates discusses the ideal city-state with other guests at the house of his friend Cephalus. This dialogue is the source of the idea that the state should be ruled by philosopher-kings, a specially trained class which has demonstrated their ability through a lifetime of musical, philosophical, military, and political training. It is also notable for its criticism of democracy: despite the modern enthusiasm for democracy and the democracy present in Athens at the time of its writing, Socrates lists democracy as the second worst of the four non-ideal forms of government. Another well-known work is Aristotle's Politics.