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Posts tagged ‘Place of Protagoras in Humanist Political Philosophy’

Politics, Spiritualism and the Ideal State

“Political thought, ever since the days of Plato, has theorized about the Ideal State, – a political organization of society in which the relations between man and man would be governed by justice.

Throughout the Antiquity and the Middle ages, political thought was dominated by abstract notion which served either the harmless purpose of building utopias or the sinister design of hiding the concrete realities of life. Plato was not quite the utopian that he has been made out by many uncritical historians of political philosophy. Nevertheless, his doctrine of the ideal state rested on a postulate which still holds good. For him, justice was not a vague conception. His definition of the notion of justice, which confounded thought throughout ages, was bitterly criticized by his opponents, particularly the sophists. But Plato did give a definition of the notion of justice, which set a concrete ideal for politics. Justice is good life; to establish good life, therefore, is the purpose of politics. In other words, an ideal state is that which established good life.
This clear purpose of politics could be confused so long as life was divided in to two compartments – spiritual and temporal. What appeared to be bad for the temporal life, for life on this earth, was not the criterion of good life. There was a life after – the spiritual life. The goodness of that life could not be measured by the standards of the life on this earth. Bad life on this earth could after all be the condition for a good life after. In other words, the hope of a good life after, justified a miserable life on this earth.

Political thought was developed in this direction by astute theologians in Europe as well as in India. Thomas Acquinas was a landmark in the history of political thought. He was a European by accident of birth. The political philosophy of the ancients, which started not from Plato’s idealism, but from the dictum of the Sophist Protagoras, that man is the measure of everything, was completely overwhelmed by theological sophistries which subordinated human relations to the metaphysical laws of a teleological moral order of the Universe.”

M.N. Roy,
Problem of Freedom,
(Collection of articles written by him for the weekly journal,
Independent India.)

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