The concept of State throughout history


The master of Plato, Socrates, was for him not only an example of wisdom and theoretical research of the truth, through continuous dialogue, but also as a moral and political behavior in the community, the polis, and power. From the beginning of his theoretical research, Plato's Socratic approach to philosophy understood as a science not only theoretical - search for truth - but also practical and moral - as the science of good and evil - and the purely theoretical thinking, reasoning, the discussion around the truth of the matter is held together with that of moral behavior, the political relationship between the citizen and the polis, between the individual and the community. The search for truth is, according to Socrates, awareness of what is good and what is bad; research that takes place in a context of human relationships, political and social, which was one of the polis (Athens) during the fifth century BC. The human and philosophical Socrates ends tragically, as we know, in 399 BC with the sentencing to death of the philosopher, who, sticking to its principles, while not recognizing guilty before the judges - guilty of betraying the Olympic religion and divert young people from the tradition - in person accepts and carries out his sentence drinking the hemlock. The socratic example is for Plato a starting point for his later philosophical journey that will detach himself, at one point, from the conception of the dialectic that Socrates had flocking to the “doctrine of ideas” that, instead of eliminating the need for philosophical question, will accentuate the need , on the part of those who seek the truth, to pursue the path of knowledge to those forms or ideas of things (eidos or idea in greek) that, unknown to the human soul, but must be laboriously brought back to memory. Socrates is a fundamental starting point for reflection and political activity of Plato, who, after the master's death, will travel to Syracuse in Sicily, at the court of the tyrant Dionysius the Elder, with the purpose of establishing, outside of Athens (the city that had condemned the wisest among men), a state in which political power and philosophy were organically united. The major disappointment, repeated in other two subsequent trips, which followed the meeting and the attempt of collaboration with the tyrant, pushed Plato to return to Athens, founding in 387 BC the Academy, to which he devoted himself for about 20 years, and to deal with in a mainly theoretical problems and political issues. In the early dialogues (Gorgias, Meno) of the second platonic period (the period of maturity which marks the separation from Socrates), are made mostly negative references to the policy being considered in a very pessimistic way. The policy, however, is defined ethically, that is, just like the conscious practice of the asset by the virtue of those who want to extend to the whole city, to all citizens and their overall behavior; thing that so far has eluded all ( false) politicians, and of which only Socrates is seriously busy. The political theory of Plato becomes more complex and articulated in the Republic where the philosopher is described as the perfect politician, and as the one who knows what justice is and apply it consciously. The dialogue begins with the question of what justice really is, landing in a fruitful analogy between justice and human justice in the state. From this point onwards it is sought from the genesis of the state, the origin of an economic nature, that is based on the need to satisfy the natural needs of persons and communities. On the other hand the state becomes “bloated luxury” that is, increasing the population increase and complicate those needs that stand apart from the initial naturalness and in need of enlargement, which causes wars, but especially internal imbalances. Justice is then identified with their balance, with the capacity of each one - and each class present in the state - to do its job well. But to do this requires full awareness of identity between self-interest and the interest of the state. The only ones to possess it, according to Plato, are the philosophers, who are entrusted with the supreme command. In this sense one can speak of Plato in a state and political relations between classes (philosopher-rulers, warriors-soldiers, artisans and farmers) in which the rules are in force noocrazia, namely the hegemony and power of those who know. As you can see here, where we did not expect, it requires the concept and the term nous, mind, knowledge and philosophical awareness, which alone can certainly identify with the political power. The perfection of state policy, in other words, presupposes the philosophical and ethical perfection of it, embodied by the class of philosophers to power.

It has long been talked about and discussed the historical and philosophical Platonic state, if it is only a utopia (a perfect idea but difficult to achieve), or has a normative character to reality, that is a model to which the States must, as far as possible, rebuild. Hegel argued in various ways that the state was a Platonic 'real utopia', and that is certainly a product of thought, but not a perfect vacuum, rather the concept of state who best grasped the nature of Greek ethics. On the other hand Plato's Republic is objectively in the experience lived by him with the story of Socrates, which resulted from the need for a profound political reform, which would contain the balance in a democracy, however, and the real possibility of founding of the State moved by special interests, private but universal and general. The political thought of Plato, after the Republic, was further developed in the Statesman and the Laws, as well as in the Timaeus (where the analogy between the structure of the individual and that of the State is extended to the whole universe), all works of old age , in which the strong dualism between the world of ideas and the world of reality is in some sense lessened, and on the other hand the idea of ​​the state as a conscious and balanced implementation of justice is accompanied by the need to observe the laws. In the Statesman is considered the form of the democratic constitution as the least dangerous - even if the constitution 'directed' still remains the ideal, but alas lost forever - because the division of powers limits the harmful trends from non-compliance the laws and the prevalence of particular forces. In this dialogue, you take as a theme the need, on the part of the State which intends to improve, to give themselves a constitution, a set of laws, measured and balanced as possible. In Acts will also be stretched by Plato a real positive legislation, ie a code of laws covering all areas of law, from the constitutional to the public to the private sector. This greater sense of the concrete that the last Plato seems to manifest in his research in the political field, located in the State Spartan constitutional in a better firm because they essentially mixed: the unity of the monarchical principle is in the shape of the King, of the aristocratic in the Council of elderly and the democratic in the ephorat. The predilection for the Platonic political spartan compared to that of Athens, actually dates to the time of youth, but here it is expressed with specific references to the field of law that previously had not been taken into account. In conclusion we can say that the last Plato has evolved more pessimistic with regard to the policy, to the extent that notes the increasing difficulty of founding a state truly fair and balanced (see also the negative political experiences lived in Sicily); on the other hand, however, he does not abandon his deep conviction of the need to keep organically united political life with the philosophical life, the knowledge of man with that of the State, that of the state with that of the universe. In this sense - and here we mention only - the Timaeus is paradigmatic, because establishing a universal ethical nexus one might say that ethics itself, in this dialogue, receive a cosmic foundation. Like the mythical Demiurge is the creator of the world and of man, so man must create a state based on balances that remind those of universal harmony. Socrates and Glaucon in Book I had started with Polemarchus, Cephalus, Thrasymachus, Adeimantus and other citizens to speak of 'justice'. What is justice? The debt repayments, to do good to friends and harm to enemies, competence in managing their own affairs, and so on? In close dialogue between Socrates and Polemarchus Thrasymachus violently intervenes (the sophist) proposing a clear definition of justice: it is the advantage of the stronger. But the strongest, in a community, the polis, it is certainly those who govern. Then one of two things: either the ruler pursues its own interests or the profit of his subjects. For Thrasymachus - Socrates is convinced of its basic immoralism - justice is certainly a tool, those in power use it for their own purposes, to strengthen, not to promote the good of the community. So what is right for the strongest is unfair to the weaker and does not necessarily coincide with the interests of all. Justice, so understood, is reversed into its opposite rather, injustice. But the injustice as such - Socrates presses - although considered superior to justice, can it be the glue of a social group, a community, an alliance between men? The Socratic conviction is clear in this respect: within a community (small or large) cannot to be the case that injustice and the pursuit by its members of its exclusive interest, otherwise the failure will driven to itself. The injustice, Socrates says, is what breaks and breaks the unity that you wanted to achieve . This is an authentic and Socrates' Platonic' at the same time. The story of Socrates, the prosecution and conviction of Socrates by the democratic polis, means that the words he uttered here, against the vision of justice by Thrasymachus, acquire a concreteness in place, lively and accurate. The Common Good is what prompted Socrates to dialogue with his fellow citizens but also acceptance, firm and immovable, of the death sentence. The personal interest of the individual sinks in front of the need for the universal interest of the polis is implemented and maintained. The Platonic vision of the polity (that is not a polis any but the perfect polis) is primarily intended to maintain the overall balance of a living structure in differentiated itself which is the political: the balance between the parties, which is identified with that very justice, which alone is able to realise the universal Good. The discussion around what is justice continues without reaching a certain definition. In Book II of the dialogue partners intend to seek what is justice in itself and what effect, comparing it with injustice. But Socrates expands and complicates the level of discussion, making direct reference to the need that men have to join in community to fulfill their good and satisfy their needs. Its direct interlocutor is currently Adimantus. “So If you want to try first thing in the city that never be justice, and then in this way we will observe in each taken separately, considering the Similarity of what is largest in the idea of ​​what is smallest.” Socrates establishing an analogy here apparently of little importance, functional to search for the meaning of justice, in reality though, in hindsight, of great ethical impact. His proposal is to move the point of view of the individual single search (what is justice for everyone) to the polis (what is justice for “the whole city”). The individual plan of morality, without which the interlocutors of Socrates can immediately notice, is adapted to the ethical-political plane. The distinction between the two is initially presented as a quantitative difference, one that is right for the individual man, the city is 'big' (ie in a more suitable observation), but - adds Socrates - the research must establish a similarity between the one and the other justice, must find “the likeness of that which is larger, in the idea of ​​what is smallest.” And that must start from justice in the polis and then ensure compatibility with that of the individual: to transfer, by similarity, what is right and in the city (what is right 'politically') in consideration of individual justice. The method proposed by Socrates and so exposed is theoretically justified. The 'see' is the dividing line of research. What you see better, because it is larger, should take precedence over what is seen less well, because it is smaller.

The etymology of the term 'theoretical' can be traced back to theoréo greek word that means just watch. Therefore the proposed research by Socrates, around what is justice, has a purely theoretical character, ie literally 'visual' and 'observational'. The object to be defined is much better known and recognized if it is visible. The smallest thing is explained through the observation of what resembles, but in scale of greater magnitude. As you know, even the Greek root of idéa see the very act of seeing.

The dialogue then continues with the question that Socrates addresses Adimantus origin of the polis. “… many mates and people who help each other come together in one place, and this coexistence we give the name of the city. Is not it? ” …“But the first and the greatest needs is to get food to exist and live.

The origin of the state (that is, of the polis) in the greek world is traced from Socrates-Plato to the 'need' and the necessity for humans to meet their own needs. It is unthinkable to the satisfaction of the primary needs and even more materials (such as finding and preparing food) in a condition of asociality and isolation. The single individual is not enough in himself, can not be preserved, not even reproduce. The reproduction of the individual man can only take place in a context of 'Community'; sharing of the individual to the 'common thing' is dictated by the awareness of the benefits it brings. The advantage of “existing and living” ,that is to reproduce.

Although the opening words Socratic origin of the state seems almost obvious and a simple formulation, actually it hides a complex interweaving between the 'materiality' of human reproduction and the politics that goes with it. The preservation of the individual (his being alive) can be realized only in the context of relationships with other men, a stable relationship between individuality that, strictly speaking, are no longer such. The individual alone can neither be nor live. The origin of the polis, therefore, although it is dictated by 'materialistic' motivations, at the same time it is essentially characterized by elements that are already going beyond the simple reproduction of a man. The relationship between men and the way they reproduce each other, in the knowledge of their relationship 'political', is what is called in the Socratic reasoning ab initio reconstruction of statehood. On the other hand it should be noted as Plato also faced the birth of the polis, certainly economically materialistically, that exceed the limited horizon of the individual and that found the same political relations among men. The natural multiplication of needs (food, housing, clothes, etc.) determines the need for socially divide the work. This is likely, therefore, a city-state composite and complex in its economic and political relations. In this regard, Socrates goes on to say: “Come on then, I said, how the city will manage to get all these things? The one will be farmer, the other architect, the other still weaver?, Or in the same place will also be adding a shoemaker and a doctor of the body?”

The dialogue between Socrates and Adeimantus then focuses on specialization and differentiation of social work divided between each member of the polis. It 's more convenient for the community and the natural disposition of the individual that each individual acquire knowledge and get specialised in a particular art, rather than having to take all to meet his various needs. But the needs of each individual are infinite, then a city of four or five people is absolutely limited and insufficient. The carpenters and smiths build the instruments of labor for the farmer, the shepherds will take care of the flock, and so on. The city will therefore increasingly diverse and complex. Its size will progressively increase.

“On the other hand, I continued, to found a city that in some place where it is not necessary to import goods, is almost impossible.”

Below is a roundup of new and peculiar social figures that come into political relationship between them within the city. The economic derive directly from the natural needs expressed by men gathered in the community, but from the outset relations and economic distinctions that come spontaneously to create it.

“And then? In the same city that will take all of those things that each one produces? …. “As a result we will have a market and a currency symbol such as conventional because of the exchange.”

Reproduction strictly economic of the polis (the exchange of products between citizens now for distinct skills related to division of labor pooled) is imposed on that natural and immediately founded on the basic needs. The citizen then represented within the political community receives a peculiar determination of social and economic: it is not only an individual, is not just of their own reproduction and reproduction of even common in an undifferentiated way. It is art work organically inserted into a wide social articulation of labor, such as that necessarily depending on. The exchange of products in the agora raises new social figures, such as retailers, the attendants, and so on. So the city is populated and further increases its consistency.

“Perhaps then, Adeimantus, is now grown in our city, so as to be perfect?” “Maybe” “So where is the justice in it and where injustice?.”

The justice then, in a city like that, would be in the way that mutually intersect and meet the needs of each. The injustice in the failure to satisfy one or the other need, interruption of profit generated by the interweaving of work activities. But such a city - comes forward Glaucon - it is still a small and simple town. In practice, though, the polis presents “opulent”, meaning “swollen luxury” and much more complex than previously described. The original simplicity and 'Spartan' costumes will be replaced by the most demanding lifestyles, far away from the sheer need to survive. The social figures that gradually will be created to multiply the eye (the hunter, the artist, the poet, the nurse, etc..) : population increases and with it increases the need for additional resources, including what is not produced by the city itself. The conquest of other lands and other cities, the war, will be the direct result of the expansion beyond measure of needs and luxury. The Art of War shall not be exercised by the citizens themselves, intent in carrying out other activities. You will need to set up a special class of men, the guardians, who will deal exclusively warrior art. The division into three different classes (philosopher-guardians, guardians-warriors, artisans and merchants) will structure and organize the life of the polis, in which may be said, if perfectly formed (Politeia), will reign peace when the right balance between the responsibilities of each category will be achieved. The Platonic vision of the state, and more specifically of its origin, from where and how the polis, is a political community of men in which different relationships of mutual exchange and assistance, in full awareness of the common good and the public interest. It may be easily confused with a series of contracts, that is instead the agreement for the simple reproduction of the community in its entirety. Giving accloser look to the role of the individual in the polis is logically and historically subordinate to that of the city itself: the first is the political configuration in which citizens live and reproduce, then comes the possibility for the individual, “to exist and live “as such. The single man, isolated politically, it is not unthinkable, but doomed to cease to exist. Only after the logos (ie reasoning) of a man has shed light on the social and economic structure of the city-state, you can turn his thoughts to ethical and political role of the individual, that is his way of life in the city. The origin of the state certainly has its roots in the material needs of man, but, as Plato seems to take out from the mouth of Socrates, not of the human individual, rather in men in the broadest sense and generic. The community (koinonia) is the most immediate form of mutual subsistence implemented by men; the polis is a step forward, because it divides what was pooled according to criteria of justice and balance, ie ethics criteria, which they have in themselves and not in the simple reproduction of material things.

The economic origin of the polis (the city that plays through the division of labor, the men united in the community) can only appear as profoundly ethical, according to Plato, if the is first and foremost reason is the common good , ie the mutual ethos to which individuals must refer to both when they need something or when the produce usefully : common utility in mutual need, the balance between the different skills.


The ethical life of man, according to Aristotle, is realized in the political, that is, in the polis, first as a social life, as the realization of the deepest nature of man, which is to be essentially a politicón zoon, a “political animal” ( or outgoing), that is intended to live in the polis. So politics, in the thought of Aristotle, must be studied in its connection with ethics. The Socratic problem of Good, or rather the “true”, that is not that only for himself but also for us, as it is highly attractive, is set by Aristotle in order to criticize the Platonic dualism between reason and will, among reason and passion, between the rational part of the soul and the morals. Aristotle does not intend to follow the Socratic intellectualism, ie the immediate coincidence of knowledge of good and virtue, between knowledge of what is truly good and the consequent practice of it. In the Eudemea Ethics and in the Nicomachean Ethics are indeed distinct virtue as “practical wisdom” from the “contemplative wisdom”, the practical life of man, his sensible and conscious act is distinct from the purely theoretical (In this sense, the philosopher is a man that can only do what the political advisor says, but he can not replace it in his specific functions of government and command). The knowledge of good does not ensure its realization, since the level of the intellect is not immediately united to that of the will. Aristotle therefore seeks to find a middle term that combines the rational element of the “resolution” (the awareness to pursue what is good) to that of the irrational '“craving” (the urge to do so). The “purpose for them” is what unites the two seemingly separate plans. Virtue, the full realization of the right, is the ethical essence of man according to Aristotle, with just the right balance to the purpose, with the research that is of constant mediation between rational and irrational elements elements, between intellect and will , knowledge and action. The habit of virtue ensures the continuity of conscious practice as well. The ethical life, active life, is realized in the policy, since the social life, for the man, it is a natural requirement. The barbarian who does not know the polis is a servant by nature, the greek instead is by nature a “political animal” means any animal that is ethical realises what is, politically speaking, the common good. The formation of the state is not derived from an agreement signed by an individual. On the contrary, it's a the social structure to which tend all other forms of cohabitation (the family , the village). Aristotle's Politics is presented into 8 divided books written in different periods. As for the Metaphysics and Physics, also here the questions follow each other in a way not always homogeneous, appearing therefore with a certain autonomy from one another. The first book, which will be considered here, is clearly the origin of the polis, ie the state. The oikos (home, family) is the original community, in which the greek man, free “by nature”, reproduces and maintains thetypical male-female relationship. The physics, the natural basis inwhich these reports originate, is the essence of ethics; a human which is already 'policy' that establishes the constitution of the polis. The set of most families is the village (kome) and more villages are the “so-called polis.” Self-sufficiency and the ability to reproduce independently of the social whole (be it family or political) is the ethical purpose to which human nature is immediately thrust, it is the realization of the same happiness. The family economics and management of family wealth is the material basic from which everything else is built on.

“Because we see that every city [or State] is a kind of community and every community is established with a view of a certain good (in fact, thanks to what everyone does everything seems fine), it is clear that all take aim at some good , but above it is clear that the most important of all things and covering all the other goods, is the so-called polis or political community. So then, those who believe that the politician and the king and the administrator and the despot is the same, do not say good, because the more and less of each of these identify those differences. Like in several fields of science it is necessary to divide the mixture [syntheton] up to the simple elements (ie, the smaller parts of the whole), in this way, examining elements of which it consists, we shall see the city and also with regard to these, where every part is different from each other. You can even accommodate a scientific notion of each part of it.

So, in regard of things of unfold origin, as in other fields, even in these it would result in a perfect vision. And 'you must first join a couple who can not be one without the other, such as the female and the male for reproduction [ghenéseos], …

The system of those who command and those who by nature is controlled by the conservation. … So from these two communities [male\female and master\slave] lies primarily on family [oikia]… The first community is formed by several families in view of needs of everyday village [kome]…. The community that results from most villages is the perfect city that, staying now, so to speak, on the verge of complete self-sufficiency [autarkeías], has been formed to make life possible, but in reality exists to make possible a good live. Therefore every city exists by nature, even if the first communities exist in nature, because it is their end [telos], and nature is the end. In addition, the cause and the end of a thing is the best combination, and self-sufficiency is the end and the best. From these things it is evident that the polis works according to nature and that man is by nature a political animal, and who is stateless by nature and not for adventure is certainly an incompetent or a being superior to man. In fact, as we say, nature do nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has the word [logon], the [Phone] certainly is a sign of pain and pleasure, therefore, is also found among other animals, but the word [logos] is made to express what is useful and what is harmful, even so the just and the unjust, and this fact is proper to man from other animals, to have him only the perception of good and bad, of right and wrong and the rest, and now, the common possession [koinonia] of these things makes the family and the city. And the city is by nature prior to the family and each of us, for it is necessary that the whole is prior to the parties. That the city exists by nature and before each one, it is evident: for if each alone is not sufficient, it will be in the same condition of the parts to the whole, so who can not live in the community or does not need anything, if sufficing to itself, is not part of the city, as a result of being a beast or a god. Now, justice as virtuous practice [dikaiosyne] is a political element, because the law [dike] is the sort of a political community and justice [dike] is choosing what is right. [Politics, I] The origin of the polis ethic is put on clear connection with Aristotle: the “good” is the essence around which is to form a community of men. The city, however, is not a single community, which tends to any good, since it tends to the supreme good and common of many communities connected to each other under a leadership. The political community, therefore, is first of all a ethic connection of communities, an entire ethical ordered and articulated, it is both part (a city) of all (includes other cities). This is the political order as such, which is formed according to hierarchical distinctions between its various components. How and by whom is the polis governed? It is a legitimate question, however misplaced if the differences between the various forms of government were surveyed at random, without method, responding with a quantitative explanation (there are those who rules over a few people, who instead of many, etc..) instead not specific. The various functions of command and political administration have their raison d'être and satisfy the logically internal to the shape of the polis, the articulation of the entire system of ethics and politics. The specific form in which the polis is presented to the eyes of the person that philosophically looks for a proper definition: it corresponds exactly to its constituent form, the principle of determination of the investigated reality is his own essential nature. This correspondence between the theoretical investigation and the object under investigation it is guaranteed by the method which, according to Aristotle, common political science has to be found in all the others communities. The polis, as we have seen, is a “compound”, a collection of communities, a whole that is, according to the scientific method, broken down into its individual parts, without which it is lost the connection of the whole. We are looking for a scientific notion that distinguishes the characteristics of each form of government, keeping it within the generic definition of the polis. The political community is a unit, however, being a compound articulated; it is distinguished according to the different form of connection that holds together the parts; polis, therefore, there is not one, but there can be several species. Aristotle researched the origin of the polis. The formation of the political community is a process that must be observed in its full swing, with its starting point and its accomplished end. The first reason for which men will form a community is that of reproduction. Reproduction of this kind, however, is not only guaranteed by the coupling male-female, but on maintaining its possibilities within a family context and household in which there is the natural relationship between as the master and the slave. The reproduction of the family (community gender) and its conservation (community domain home), their indissoluble unity, and natural, are the original social configuration in which the individual man is necessarily covered by it. The village is rather to be derived from the concept of family: the union of several families.

The city is the last compound in which converges more family units together in villages. But the completed city (perfect) is the one which shows to be in itself self-sufficient and independent, that reproduces itself and allows simple parts that make up (communities, namely the family and the village) to live in relationship with one another. The origin of the polis therefore is totally natural, to the extent that, Aristotle says, it was formed to allow the “living” of its internal joints; its natural essence (which corresponds to the process that is vital as such) coincides with the ethical essence of “good”. Politically it means to live, to live well actually. The good toward which the “compound” (the polis) coincides with the full self-sufficiency reproductive system, which is why it is the final goal of evolution of the polis (the family, the village, the town). The family itself is not enough in itself, so the single village, from which, in view of the “best” it is full of self-sufficiency, is necessarily shaped the city. The political compound, that is, the polis, is nature, fine and best for the family and the village, as well as the essential cause of their own political evolution. Man is by nature a political animal, therefore, destined to live in the city, which is only given to live and live well. The unnatural isolation (ie not accidental and unnatural) has sub-human or divine characteristics. Conversely, the man, being in possession of the logos, that is, the ability to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, the “compound” from its simple parts, wants to know that the “political community” and its natural and ethical context. He knows that outside of it he would have no chance to live, but even more he knows that the polis ontologically and logically precedes the life of the family and the village. These are in fact the individual members as a body, in which they have only the life assured. If a party became divorced from the whole, it would not have more life and it would not be what it is. If the good is the natural and necessary end toward which the polis moves, it is realized practically in the virtue of justice. As it could be seen from the analysis of the text, the deduction of Aristotelian polis revolves around a series of keywords, which are made to interact with each other in order to find a scientific definition (logic and ontological) of the form of the policy of a community. The beginning is explicitly ethical, as well as the conclusion. The natural tendency to “good” that drives men to do everything they do, is revealed as a natural boost to the common possession of the good and happiness, which in turn are realized in a wider political and lived legally ordered according to justice by his members. The individual man, the individual, do not play any essential place in the formation of the polis and its philosophical exposition. Let us see what are the basic categories that allow Aristotle to explain scientifically the original development of the city-state. First, the physics, that is “by nature”, which is the basis for all tournament. Human nature, mankind, is such only because it plays in the community and not in isolation. The awareness of being a natural essence (the Ghenos) distinguishes man from other animals. The logos therefore presents itself first and foremost as human capacity to know their specific physics, that of being the human race. But this is not the kind of social relations except within the data: the male-female community and the community's master-slave. The oikia is not only the lineage-family, then the continuity of the blood of the genre, but also its place within social relations of domination historical data, which inevitably arise as second nature for those in them reproduces. So the domestic community is the source from which it moves, according to Aristotle, the polis. At this point the question of method. It might seem a digression, an extrinsic one, posed by Aristotle to address the entire analysis to the concept of the unity of politics as a “compound”. But, as we shall see, it is inextricably linked to its ethical-political concept of “living well.” The compound is in fact the body which cannot detach themselves from the individual members, without any possibility of “living” and “living well.” The method is proper to philosophy and all science that claims that: consider the last as the first, and the first as the last. The exposure from some of the elements that must be more abstract and simple (the family and the village), leading to the more concrete and comprehensive (the polis), however, must maintain an awareness of the logical and ontological priority of the organic compound with respect to its components. So the city-state is certainly not the last in the show, since it is the end (telos) and the essential nature of the family unit and the village, but it is the first because it is their unity fully realized only within those that can live and reproduce. And the purpose or nature of a thing, says Aristotle, is also on the cause (to ou éneka), that is the root cause of their own development. But the cause of a development brought to fulfillment is the “best”, that is an ethical value that, according to Aristotle, in the political sphere can not identify with the “good life” that is, according to justice. The virtuous practice of justice and the right sort of a polis, self-sufficiency, ensure its full reproductive system, a guarantee of life in the compound, which is organic just because it reproduces itself. So, as it has been noted, the whole argument is strongly Aristotelian dialectic and synthetic, that is aimed at identifying in a real development, that of the polis, the intrinsic connection of those elements that mark individual stages of evolution. On the other hand, the political conception of Aristotle presents itself not only linked to the ethical level of human behavior, but also to the logical one. The man is such only because it has the logos, due to which distinguishes and recognizes the true good, that is, the political, in which, as it has already been said, individuality, singularity, is not themed, precisely because of that the analysis method described previously.


The western and Latin patristic, to Augustine and Tertullian part, has no force of speculative personality as the Eastern (Clement of Alexandria 150-213d.C., And Origene185 (6) -254d.C.). However, this also comes in strong opposition, as well as to paganism, to those heresies that had spread at the same time to the Christian religion, which had penetrated throughout the Roman Empire even during the age of Commodus (died 193 AD). Under Diocletian, the persecution of Christians (303-304 AD) was opposed by the powerful effort of Christianity to define and secure the contents of the Orthodox faith. The third century A.D. in fact, sees a rapid recurrence of different heresies, to which a number of councils, between the fourth and fifth centuries, they replied with conviction. The patristic therefore, unlike the apologetic literature, is characterized essentially of defensive intention of authentic Christian doctrine, as opposed to heretical movements.

The age of Constantine

The Edict of Milan (313 AD) stated the end of the persecution of Christians; it sees the rise of the Roman-Christian. In 325 the Council of Nicea officially condemned the Arian heresy and the Church acquires a unitary and universal character (catholic ecclesia). After the age of Julian the Apostate (331-363 AD), the Council of Constantinople (381), it is confirmed and completed the doctrine of the Trinity. Although Theodosius (378-395) had reunified the Empire - whose capital was moved to Byzantium by Constantine in 330, leading to a clear separation of political and cultural between East and West - the episode that involved him in 390, when he was compelled by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, to repent publicly for the massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica, shows how the emperor sought support in holding the empire together, right in the authority of the Latin clergy, the only one left in the gradual disintegration of the organization of the West. It is no coincidence that as early as 380 the Emperor recognized the Bishop of Rome as the highest religious authority. In 410 the Western Empire suffers a hard and symbolic defeat at the hands of the barbarians: the Visigoths of Alaric invaded and sacked Rome. In 455 Rome succumbed to a new invasion by the Vandals. Pope Leo I showed the only authority present and active on site during the second plunder. then the end of the Roman Empire is marked by the deposition of Romulus Augustus in 476 by Odoacer (king of the Heruli and commander of the imperial army, a vassal of the Emperor of Constantinople). Thus it began the age of the Roman-Germanic kingdoms. The period of the decadence of the Roman Empire is fully experienced by Augustine (354-430d.C.). Born in Africa, and after a period of dissipated life, the reading the Hortensius by Cicero introduced him to philosophy. he adheres after Manichaeism, but coming to Rome in 383 approaches the academic probabilism. In 384 he was in Milan, and through the preaching of Ambrose and the proximity of the Catholic mother, he converted to Catholicism. On 386 he produce a number of highly relevant documents, even at odds with his previous beliefs, but most of the criticism aimed at the more contemporary heresies. Appointed Bishop of Hippo in 396, where he died in 430 during the siege by the Vandals of Genseric. The City of God, written between 413 and 426, is his greatest political-religious work because it responds to the accusation brought against the first Christians, after the sack of Rome, to be the cause of the decline of imperial politics. In fact, the political thought of Augustine is more complex and not reducible to a simple defense of Christianity against Rome. The origin of the existing political order (the earthly city) is intertwined with the divine order (the Heavenly City), according to a dualism that is intended to break cleanly at the end of time and the advent of the kingdom of God. All the work (divided into 22 chapters) is presented as a comment and a particularly thorough the Holy Scriptures.

“Two loves have built two different cities: the love of oneself even to contempt of God, the earthly city, the love of God to the contempt of self, the heavenly city. So one get glories in itself, the other in the Lord. Since it first asks its glory for men, while for the second the greatest glory is God, the witness of his conscience. The first raises its head in its own glory, the second says to his God: ” You are my glory, thou exalt my Head. “In one such principles as the subjugated nations are dominated by the lust for domination, in the other they all serve each other with mutual charity, with the rulers taking care of his subjects, the subjects obedient to the rulers. One in his head loves its own strength, the other says to its God: “I will love you, O Lord, you are my strength.” And therefore the wise men of the earthly city, living according to the flesh, have sought the good of the body or soul or both, and those who have been able to know God “have not honored as God, nor were thankful, but you are lost in the nothingness of their arguments, their foolish heart was filled with darkness, proclaiming himself wise, dominated by pride, in their wisdom,” they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image made in the likeness of man corruptible, birds, quadrupeds, snakes, “because in worshiping statues of this kind are made guide or followers of their peoples,” offered the homage of worship and servitude to the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. “In the heavenly city instead there is no human wisdom, if not the piety with which righteousness is offered as worship of the true God, looking for the prize in the holy society, not only of men but also of the angels” so that God may be all in all. ” [St. Augustine, City of God] The earthly city (ie the Roman Empire and, more generally, the history of man on earth) is kept separate from Augustine by the heavenly city (the kingdom of God, the afterlife). The occurrence of one does not exclude the other; vice versa, although their raison d'être is distinct as distinct are the “two loves” (the only one facing toward the man and the things of this world, the 'more to the Creator and the afterlife), the heavenly city is present in history and manifests itself as the history of the Church and Christianity in the world. The theological origin of the two cities is common, it dates back to the very genesis, that is the very origin of the human race, as evidenced by the Holy Scriptures. “What cannot be denied is that Cain was the first of all to be born from the union of man and woman. … A Cain followed Abel, who was killed by his older brother and first showed in a sort of foreshadowing how unfair persecution of the pilgrim city of God would have to endure from the wicked, men rooted to the earth, that is, those who love their earthly origin …. Since then they divided the generations, on the one hand those descendants of Cain on the other those who descended from Adam … These two series of generations, a descendant of Seth, the other by Cain, representing the two cities, we are dealing, in their distinct orders, one heavenly and earthly pilgrimage, the other earthly aspiring to earthly joys and attaches to them as if they were the only joys. ” [St. Augustine, City of God] So the two cities are nothing more than the same generation dualistic man by God: the descendants of Abel (and Seth) on one side and the other descendants of Cain. Throughout history there is an actual and unsurpassed mixture of the two “orders”, the heavenly city (the descendants of Abel) lives as “pilgrim” in this world, aspiring to part with it permanently until the end of time and all generations . The sacred history is therefore the history of the people of Israel and of Christianity, which it receives from revelation the absolute certainty of their final redemption. The Church of Christ, Augustine says, is the city of God, who in this world by establishing the universality (the universal possibility of salvation), shows the presence of the eternal in the historical temporality. The same decadence of the Roman Empire is providential, as it is the providential end of paganism as such, although even in this world and in that age are traceable values ​​and virtues “natural” to preserve and re-evaluate in a Christian sense. Earthly peace (ie politics) is desirable precisely because it prepares the heavenly peace, then the Christian will adapt to live in those worldly institutions that ensure the peaceful coexistence among men. “So even the earthly city, which does not live by faith, want peace on earth and directs the concord of the citizens, in commanding and obeying, so there is, as the interests of their mortal life, a certain composition of the human will . Whilst the heavenly city, or rather that part of it which is a pilgrim in this mortality, and lives by faith, it is necessary that also uses this peace, until you switch this mortality, that a peace cosiffatta is required. ”

We are still far from a true theocratic conception of political power, although as an emperor Theodosius is given as an example of realization of peace on earth. On the other hand, says Augustine, Christian soldiers were able to be on the side of Julian the Apostate, because they knew how to distinguish obedience to God from obedience to earthly authorities. So there is a mixture in the history, inextricable elements, between heavenly and earthly elements, between Babylon and Jerusalem, a mixture of men and values, that the Christian thanks to Revelation, able to distinguish and also respect, while living as a pilgrim in this world .

The dualism between the two cities seems to relate more to their end that their origin, their different fate is the consequence of a free separation of man from God, as well as the transience of earthly city will be the consequence of the failure to recognize the truth revealed by man. The Christian instead, recognizing the eternal in time, the word of God and the teaching of Christ in this world - even the during the decadence of the Roman Empire - can fulfill political tasks with an attitude aimed at achieving a peace and universal happiness. So a Christian emperor could better than anyone else revive the fortunes of the West, as it would have at heart the salvation of man already on this earth. “And it was not for this we say happy some Christian emperors, because they held very long to power, … because it dominated the enemies of the state ….. Such Christian emperors, we say that they are happy now in hope and in reality, until it will come the day that we wait. ”

The universality of the divine word, the value of man as such, liberation from all earthly bondage, the realization of spiritual happiness, the absoluteness of revealed faith in an afterlife, and yet its convergence with the world, are the cornerstones of the Augustinian Patristic, which certainly comes to terms with the political order of the Roman Empire, with its decadence, but also with its possible redemption, thanks to the work of Christians in the world. Augustine, so hard criticizing and condemning paganism, even from a moral point of view, not less deviates significantly from the Jewish tradition, considering the chosen people (descended from Abel and Seth) mixed and materially indistinct materially from the unbeliever (descending from Cain). As well as the heavenly city Jerusalem is not exactly, well, is not identified with any political ground material, but rather a spiritual order that Revelation has made it clear. The earthly city, and the men who persist in believing and love only this, will have the same fate of the evil angelic forces. “The human race has been distributed into two orders, one of those who live according to the man, the other of those who live according to God.These two companies, of which one is predestined to reign eternally with God, the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil. But this is their order which will be discussed later. Currently, however, as we have already said enough of their origin is between the angels, whose number is unknown to us. Since the development of the two cities is stretched for all this space of time or century in which the generations of men followed one another according to the alternate story of nature and of death. ”

The relationship between these two ground “orders”, their common origin, but their different predestination, are the central nodes of the Augustinian theology of history and the resulting sacralization of politics, also seen as the difficult construction of the eternal in the temporal, or how to reach the land of peace that will be absolute and universal at the end of the history.


The Renaissance in Italy is politically characterized by the formation of principalities and dominions, in the Europe of the great monarchies. The political and legal thought of the fifteenth and sixteenth century flourishes and at the same time just after the events involving the history of individual states, a strong theoretical opposition to the Aristotelian tradition and medieval treatises. The lack of training of the national state in Italy, - while France with the establishment of national monarchy after the end of the war of 100 years, England after the “War of the Roses” which ended in 1485, Spain with the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1492 and the expulsion of the last Muslim kingdom on Spanish soil - poses to political thinkers of the specific problem of the formation and preservation of the State, as well as that of the foundation of its legitimacy and sovereignty, on the other hand the spread of the struggles of religion requires to consider closely and in more detail the relationship between politics and religion, making them both back to a requirement of human nature. The initial period of the Renaissance was called Humanism due to the rediscovery and the cult of Humanae litterae, which mainly characterizes the Italian culture since the end of the fourteenth century until the first half of the fifteenth. Florence is the humanist city par excellence, whose intellectuals are dedicated to reading and study of Greek and Latin classics, which is intended to capture the originality and specificity than the “medieval barbarity.” The recovery of the past is not as simple repetition and imitation, but a source of cultural and scientific progress. The reconquest of the historicity of man (son of yesteryear whose truth is projected into the present) characterizes not only the humanist philology, but also affects the whole of the Italian political and cultural relations, reviewing in particular the Church as an institution and as sole possessor of truth (remember the philological evidence provided by Valla on the falsity of the “Donation of Constantine”, the figure of Erasmus and then especially the Protestant Reformation). Certainly the secularization of culture is the dividing line that marks the differences between the traditional universities of the Middle Ages and the new “studies” and academies that flourish under the patronage of princes and lords (Medici in Florence, the Sforza in Milan, Montefeltro in Urbino, etc.). On the other hand the medieval age is not completely outdated, not even from the cultural point of view, since, for example, in the first decades of the fifteenth century, European universities are still dominated by the contrast between realism and nominalism, that is, between Platonic-Aristotelian tradition and ockamistica, as well as argument for the superiority of the Pope on the Council. The “literate” humanist (not only a philologist but also a writer of political and moral, more and more tied to the favors of princes and patrons, adverse to the theoretical systems of science education), having a new concept more properly philosophical, sees substantial homogeneity nature and man. This conviction will form the basis of scientific Renaissance, especially once to subdue, to know and grasp the hidden secrets of the natural world. Physics, chemistry and astronomy (also next to magic, alchemy and astrology) will be explored and cultivated with a tradition of learning that does not have continuity solutions from the physical ockhamistica of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Leonardo, Copernicus and Kepler. The Platonism and Aristotelianism are characterised by a recovery of Aristotle's writings on politics, poetics and rhetoric, the other as a rediscovery of the thought and work of Plato, of which little was known in the Middle Ages. The rediscovery of the ancient world also leads to consider in a new light Stoicism and Epicureanism, depending largely on anti-Platonic and Aristotelian ideas. The philosophical issues that are treated are primarily ethical-moral and political as well. Two phases can be distinguished in the history of the humanistic Renaissance in the Italian political thought: the first clash sees two opposing ideals of State, the “Republican” and “civil” which featured Florence as the heir to the “freedom” of the ancient Roman Republic, as opposed to that of the “tyranny” Visconti in Milan, from which emerged then a political ideal inspired by Plato's Republic. The ideal of the “perfect prince”, educated in the humanities and capable of being surrounded by an elite group of equally talented employees. The second phase of Italian political thought corresponds to the crisis of the regional states and balance Medici broken by the wars between France and Spain, which ended only in 1559 with the subjugation of Italy to Spain. The idealizations of the first period are obviously replaced by a consideration of a “realistic” view of the prince and the politician, who could create a new political reality, with the unscrupulous use of all possible means at its disposal and a “wise” knowledge of human nature. The situation itself suggested an attitude aimed at the effective implementation of political affairs and history as such. In this complex historical and cultural framework the figure of Machiavelli (1469-1527) came into the scene, the greatest political thinker of the first half of the sixteenth century. His research focuses on the reflection of an internal logic that governs the political dynamics, freeing it from references and dependencies on moral and religious promciples. All his works (the Prince, the Discourses on Livy, The History of Florence) show us a conception of “historicist” and together “natural” that Machiavelli had on the political process. On the one hand it is necessary to trace the past history of those principles that preserve the decay of a political community: this observation to the past sheds light on human nature as such. The return to the Roman Republic, as a principle and political customs guarantor of stability, does not constitute the yearning for the author of an “ideal state”, being its analysis once all the way to reality as it “is” and not what it “should to be. ” The figure of the “prince”, as a manufacturer of a conservative state, it is realistically needed in a historical and political context, which was the sixteenth-century, in which Italy which was maintained under conditions of anarchy and servitude, both in respect of the formation of the great monarchies European and in view of the fact that a republican regime can be useful to a state already well established. Conversely, for the foundation of it you need a strong principality, where the prince can force the evil forces of unruly human to respect the laws, choosing from time to time act like a “fox” or “lion”, unscrupulously using the means necessary to achieve his ends. The moral and religious judgment on “the means” used politics in general has be suspended: it must be judged rather according to the profit and according to the interest, and not according to good or evil. The prince, therefore, can and must also be “not good” and not limited in its cruelty only when it can come useful to his State. Violence founded a state, but to keep it, it should not be perpetuated, and the prince must indeed stem the randomness of events and exercise the “virtues” which refers rather to the pagan virtus good citizen than to the Christian salvation, which indeed would have degenerated and weakened the current man compared to the ancients. Machiavelli corrects more pessimistim that naturalism, typical of the Renaissance, when it proposes a concept of “nature” of man as essentially immobile and can not be improved. What drives men to action is the greed of gain and power.

In the field of moral and political values ​​there are stable things that can be determined in advance, by the very fact that human affairs are marked by the cyclical return that transforms the virtue in peace, the quiet idle, idleness in disorder, disorder in ruins, and this again in order and then in virtue, and so on.

“All states, all domains that have had and have dominion over men have been and are either republics or principalities. The principalities are either hereditary, … or e new. E' new, or are all new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are ad, or customary to live under a prince, or use to be free, obtained with the arms of others or with your own luck or virtue. ” [Machiavelli, The Prince] In 1513 Machiavelli composed his pamphlet de Principatibus, while the Medici in Florence were returning, after eighteen years of exile. The forced removal from his office and from his usual life, immersed in the political affairs of the city, however, leads him to put his interest in the “science” with its policy that he is about to be born. The Prince therefore cannot simply be regarded as the result of a personal reflection on certain political events, but it involves radically the author's private life, full of theory.

“The knowledge of the actions of great men, learned by myself with a long experience of modern things and a constant reading of the antique, which with great long exactitude as I had devised and tested, and now in a small volume reduced, send to your Magnificence . ” The Prince is composed of twenty-six chapters, each focused on a particular theme, but all claim to redeem the political decline of Florentine and Italian kingdom, searching for the reasons and remedies especially practical and effective. “But Sendo is my object to write something useful to whoever understands it, it seemed better to follow the truth of things … . Hence it is necessary for a prince, wanting to keep learning to be good, and not to use its power as needed. ” The central theme proposed by the author - that is, if it is possible to rationalize the multiplicity of human affairs and policies dominating with virtue - is intertwined with the disturbing function and assigned to the irreducible own fortune in the political field, the antinomy that is created between fortune and virtue is not resolved completely by Machiavelli, however, located in the historical figure of the prince a possible synthesis.

Among the good fortune and virtue there is also the strength, or rather the achievement at all costs of a politically useful result, which it can be completed by a personality aware of their abilities and objective condition in which it operates. In this sense, the story of Cesare Borgia is paradigmatic because it encompasses all three terms of political action: virtue (as the ability to take appropriate action on political matters), luck (as unavoidable randomness of human nature), strength ( as the ability to use its power without uncertainty). So the origin of the state, according to Machiavelli, is rather like the foundation of a principality for the work of a strong and virtuous political personality, which is able to reconcile the actual reality with the accidental nature of human affairs, and therefore knows how to choose a meaningful means by which form the principality. In addition, in the Discourses Machiavelli seems to prefer the Democratic-Republican regime, as collegiality and the alternation of power can better guarantee the flexibility and adaptability to circumstances that the individual is denied. “Whence comes that a republic has more life and has longer good luck that one principality, because it can better sit diversity de 'time, the diversity of' citizens that are in this, that a prince can not.”

The new principalities therefore pose the following problems: there is the case of a “private” that becomes the master of a “domain” (in the case of Cesare Borgia and Francesco Sforza), the case of a “prince” or “king “which adds a new domain to his former kingdom or principality (in the case of Ferdinand the Catholic and the Kingdom of Naples). The conquest of a domain from a private party or by a prince or king, implies problems if that domain was not originally “used to” live under a prince, but in freedom. The means to gain and maintain a land “use” of freedom are different from those used in relation to a land accustomed to being ruled by a prince. The conquest immediately poses the problem of “political means” of “his own arms” or “others”, the “virtue” and “luck”. The examples mentioned above of Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia, stand out above all the ability of the virtuous prince - which, in the long run, can prevail over the doom and objective difficulties encountered in the course of the conquest - the capabilities less virtuous but favored by fortune, that, therefore, prove to be extremely fragile and negative. The tone of Machiavelli's advice is obviously against the prince, in order to maintain stability in its domain, a word of advice though which is 'swinging' and not decisive, to the extent that does not solve all the way down the antinomy placed between virtue and fortune, though propose a political-utilitarian reading of the foundation and preservation of the State based on force, or on the relationship between political subjects and Prince personified and controlled primarily by the latter, by virtue of its ability domain, whatever the cost.

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