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    Descartes', Freud, Aristotle political theory

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    Referencing three theorists from different eras, compare and contrast their views of the nature of man. How, in each case, did those views influence their theories of politics? Your job is to establish the causal link between a thinker's assumptions about human nature and his political philosophy - not merely to describe that philosophy.

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    I am going to outline the views of the nature of man to the political theories of three, Des Cartes, Aristotle, and Freud. From these you should be able to complete by choosing the similarities and differences as you see them. Theories are used to explain situations. So they are, in many cases, individualized interpretations of how one can explain the situation. With this in mind, you should edit the theories and links based on your own thoughts and knowledge, in other words, how you would interpret them.

    Freud - Modern times. Died within the time of Hitler invasions, forcing a dying Freud to leave his home and flee. Freud said human nature is always a conflict between the subconscious (id), the conscious (Ego), and the SuperEgo (which uses guilt to control the id). Most people work through life on repressing their instincts and other aspects such as guilt, memories, and fantasies. The id is responsible for most of what we are, but we are in tune with this. The Superego controls this subconscious thought. For individuals like Hitler, the Superego is not used effectively to control the id's determination. Other leaders have varying degrees of superego control over the id, but as leaders, the id is strong and controls rational decisions. Freud believed that politics was only one road to suppression of healthy debate and saw the United States, for example, as an experiment destined to fail due to its lack of manners and inhibitions. Governments, in Freud's opinion was difficult and often irrationality control government and government rule.

    Cartesian theory of the nature of humans saw only the thinking as important for man. The body could not think and were therefore of little value other than maintaining a place for the self (as a thinking entity), but it is also useful for knowing the material world. People have to be certain and this translates to using thinking powers correctly. However, the self is outside of society and the place of self within society is only secure when the certainty is clear about one's own existence and place in society. Descartes' considered rationality to be the foundation of all thought and purpose. His establishment that the individual is the basis for social organization, through certainty of one's place, the state was "a simple matter of coercion (as political imposition of authority, whether mild or harsh, upon that individual, and contradicted any truly political organization of society" (Reiss, 1991, pg 108). Descartes lived in the time of the Thirty Years War. His philosophy can be traced to the revolt of the Bohemians from the rule of Ferdinand to elect a monarch, Protestant and not Catholic, and therefore lay the foundation for the bourgeoisie view of government rule. He also thought when all possible means of power had been exhausted, subtlety was the best method. Force or the perception that force existed was a first means for success in control, but subtlety was the method when force was not available.

    Aristotle believed that people were rational and social. Body and soul were part of each person's nature and people had to determine their own true human potential to have a successful life. Rationality was the natural function of humans and is what set humans apart from other animals.
    Rationality gave humans the opportunity to choose the path of their lives. Because they are rational, by nature, humans are political. The political community exists by nature. There are inconsistencies in the idea that political formation and continuation is dependent on the education of people by those in the position of statesman (Nederman, 1994, 283). The idea that ruling is an art that must be learned is one difference in the consideration that political associations exist by nature. The second conflict is with the first idea that education is necessary. Natural entities have within themselves the ability to change with themselves as the source. This is Aristotle's definition in Physics. If people are rational and set the potential for change from within themselves and political communities are natural, then change must come from within the people who are part of the political community.

    Similarities and differences
    Otherwise, the polis grows and changes outside of the citizens.
    Political change only comes when people want change, which is much like the Descartes theory explaining that when people were tired of the ongoing rule of people in power, who subjected their subjects to fight wars, then the people will rise up and demand change.


    Nederman, C.J. (1994) The puzzle of the political animal: nature and artifice in Aristotle's political theory. The Review of Politics. 56(2), 283-304.

    Reiss, T. J. (1991) Descartes, the Palatinate, and Thirty Years War: Political theory ad political practices. Yale French Studies. 80, 108-145.

    http://www.carroll.edu/msmillie/philhumbeing/theorieshumannature.htm#Cartesian Relg Exist

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