In my opinion, the nature of politics is a broad concept that has no one definition because it can be altered in various ways based on what each individual considers to be most important. Today, the nature of politics has taken a broader approach and encompasses the government, laws, and political affairs. It considers economics, sociology, behavior, and the history of the government, looking at what has worked or what has not worked in the past. However, back then, the nature of politics referred to human behavior and the relationship between people and how they viewed the government.
There are multiple ways to approach politics and form an individual style or idea of what political theories means to you. Things to consider include justice, equality, and good morals and virtue. In the end, the nature of politics is all inclusive, in the sense that the end goal is typically about justice and morals and the most efficient ways to fulfill these.
The three thinkers I am going to discuss are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle, so they are all linked by a common thread, yet they all have individualized thoughts on the understanding of politics as a whole and their styles and approach were unique to each.
Socrates valued conversation and wisdom. He had no written work and simply talked to people and questioned them. He believed that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates at 37 d-e). To Socrates, asking questions was his way of gaining wisdom and in the pursuit of virtue.
Although he was found to be annoying, Socrates continued to ask hard questions about people’s expertise that he realized people did not want to answer. However, since he valued wisdom so much, he simply could not stop. He admitted that he did not know everything, and to him, that made him the wisest. Socrates considered the people around him to be ignorant, as they did not care for his lifestyle and search for wisdom. According to Plato’s written works, he believed that a philosopher would be suited to govern other people, however a philosopher would not be happy in doing so. He argued that people should be led by wisdom, not by the majority vote.
Plato wrote in dialogue frequently. He was considered an idealist, examining things such as truth and justice. He wrote many works, including those about Socrates, his way of thinking, and values in life. People questioned which were actually his thoughts and which were Socrates thoughts. Plato was considered an idealist because he believed in a government that was not based on any realities. He compared politics to a dark cave. There were prisoners chained inside the cave, with no knowledge of the world outside. There was a fire behind them that gave a faint source of light, casting shadows on the wall of people, animals, and other objects. One prisoner gets freed and runs outside, but gets blinded by the sunlight. He is later shown that the shadows are just reflections of real objects. Amazed, he goes back into the cave to tell the other prisoners. The other prisoners do not believe him, and refuse to be freed to go outside of the cave. Plato uses this as an analogy of what he feels it is like trying to educate people. The escaped prisoner is like a philosopher trying to bestow wisdom upon the people, but the prisoners inside the cave are ignorant and do not accept what he is saying. However, Plato still believes philosophers are meant to educate the people, and that they should govern.
Aristotle valued definitions and treatise, writing in systematic orders. He structured his government from previous constitutions, found what he assumed to be errors, and adjusted it. He examined Plato’s work of ideology, and reworked it to what he believed was a more realistic government. He ultimately believed politics was about helping the people of the city live a good life. Virtue and excellence were strived for in a political life, as happiness should be the goal for everyone. Aristotle practiced practical wisdom, which was the ability for one to determine good ends and living a well life overall, instead of philosophical wisdom, which was considered knowledge and reasoning. Aristotle stated, “Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it…” (Aristotle, “The Politics”, pg 112). This quote can be interpreted various ways, but Aristotle believed man was a political animal because of their social nature and ability for speech and moral reasoning.
Overall, I believe that the nature of politics has to do with an individual’s morals and beliefs. Because of this, the definition of politics varies from person to person. When it comes to solving problems posed by human nature, I think it is both a blessing and a curse. The good thing about it is that since everyone thinks different, and values certain things more than others, you can have many opinions and ideas on just one topic, leading to creative ways to solve problems. The problem with it is that there’s a great chance that people will butt heads a lot or be ignorant to others’ opinions, leading to conflicts. One example of this today would be environmental issues and development. Some people value the farmland, parks on the national and community levels, and forests, while others believe it is wasted space and want to tear it down for industry and housing. Politics plays an important role in the decision making process, showing how the environment is recognized, protected, and how we benefit from it. In this case, it is the government’s role to educate the public on the benefits and importance of both sides, and ultimately make a decision on what is most beneficial for the people, along with taking into consideration what the people it is affecting want.