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Philosophy

The name of Socrates is commonly used to define the idea of wisdom. Despite the Socratic problem (that lies in the fact that Socrates did not leave any written works), he made great contributions to the world philosophy. One of his most substantial ideas is the dialectic method of inquiry that means that dialogue is the main method of finding truth. Socrates used it to define key moral terms of wisdom or beauty. If earlier principles had existed as postulates, Socrates critically discussed all possible approaches. With the help of carefully posed questions, the philosopher distinguished false definitions, defined true ones and led the discourser to the truth. For the first time in philosophy, Socrates put a human, its nature and inner contradictions of his or her soul into the center of his philosophic thought. As a result, the knowledge changes from philosophic doubt “I know that I know nothing” to self-actualization “know yourself”.

Machiavelli is now known as a political philosopher but he was not a philosopher in the narrow sense of the concept. Because of his specific view on the nature of political life of Renaissance Italy, on the entity of power and the image of a powerful ruler, he takes a distinguished place among other political philosophers. His essay “The Prince” is a major reason why Machiavelli’s philosophic thoughts are sometimes considered cruel. In his work, he advocated for cruel measures if the situation demanded it. According to Machiavelli, the powerful ruler should be free from moral and religious obligations and know how “not to be good” at the fateful moment. As the base of his works, he took the real experience of everyday life instead of abstract ideas of God and God’s triumph as his predecessors did. What scholars tend to name “evil”, in Machiavelli’s works could also be seen as realism or pragmatism that makes Nicollo Machiavelli famous.

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Confucius was the founder of Confucianism, a philosophy, religion and way of life characterized with striving to stability and order. He stated that human beings should join the Universe by means of ancient rituals and music. Only a person with high moral values can reach the harmony. When family norms were expanded to government levels, China entered the period of prosperity as each person had his or her own place and responsibilities. The philosopher stated that a good government uses moral values to make decisions. In his book, The Analects Confucius asserted that he did not invent any of ideas described there; he just took them from ancient disciplines and teachings of the past. The philosopher combined his theological thoughts with political ideas. He did not believe in democratic society and thought that individuals may do harm to themselves by choosing the ruler because of the lack of intellect.

Plato’s contribution to the world philosophy lies in distinguishing materialism from idealism. He accepted the reality of non-material world and Platonism, the idealistic branch of philosophy, was named after him. One of the brightest examples of his works in political philosophy is his Plato’s dialogue “The Republic”. In ancient Greek society, the strongest could act in his or her own interest, steal and cheat, and this model was seen as a form of justice. Plato rejected this idea stating that being ethical can make people happy. He also thought that to make good ethical decisions, three parts of human soul (reason, spirit and appetite) should stay in balance. Plato did not accept Greek democracy of that time, it was far from real democracy with its discrimination of women’s voting rights and slavery. He had his own image of perfect city and the society of the future. In this ideal society, the order is kept by means of the lie that every citizen is destined to possess this concrete place in the world. In his theory of Forms, Plato stated that perfect form does not exist in material world; there exist only copies of it, like shadows on the wall of the cave.

John Locke’s political philosophy was built around the notion of natural law. As an empiricist, he stated that from childhood, an individual’s mind is clean from everything like “tabula rasa”, people get knowledge from life experience and learn from it. Locke’s political philosophy is based on the idea of social contract. He thought that people are reasonable and tolerant by nature. According to Locke, three main rights of an individual are life, liberty and property. Revolutions can take place in a society and, even more, they are necessary, for example, when the government fails to protect natural rights of its people. Answering the question “What is a person?”, John Locke created a theory of psychological continuity. According to it, there is “a man”, a body that lives and thinks, and “a person” that exists at the mental level.

Ibn Khaldun was a Muslim social philosopher, historian and author of authentic ideas in the sphere of economics. He is thought to be a founder of cultural history, demography and sociology. His book Muqaddimah was the first attempt to analyze the Muslim history from the point of view of sociology and politics; in this work, Ibn Khaldun studies the nature of society. He proposed the cyclical model of history and came to conclusion that the development of nation depends on the ability of its people to become a solidary cultural group. As a founder of philosophy of history, to analyze historical events Ibn Khaldun used comparison, observation and critical view. He did not believe in any divine providence that rules human history, but this fact did not prevent him from believing in God. Although the philosopher did not doubt the existence of God and found inspiration in his faith, he stated that history was not the right place for metaphysics and was called atheist for this.

Malik Bennabi was an Algerian sociologist and philosopher who analyzed Muslim society and tried to find out the reasons of Muslim civilization fall. From his point of view, all problems of a society come from its people, and one should start solving individuals’ problems to solve the problems of the whole civilization. A key concept in Bennabi’s works is “civilization”. He created the formula of civilization; it equals Man plus Soil plus Time. The Soil here is used in the meaning of Earth in a global sense and Time is an inevitable factor as everything has its limited lifespan. Man is the most significant element, because he drives the civilization; he is a moving power of civilization and its product at the same time. It should be noted, therefore, that only these three elements are not enough to build a civilization. People need spiritual compound and religion that causes the rise of spiritual power of the stagnant civilization.

Al-Farabi was Arabian philosopher, scientist and musician. In Eastern civilization, al-Farabi was often called “The Second Teacher” when Aristotle was “The First Teacher.” He wrote a number of works on political philosophy, physics, logic, law, and music. He was the first Islamic philosopher who distinguished religion from philosophy. Some of his treatises were devoted to the doctrine of an ideal state. Taking into account political and ethical ideas of Greek philosophers and using social ideas of civilization, al-Farabi developed a coherent theory of social order. Philosophers by nature look for political power. That is why at the head of virtuous cities stand philosophers who perform functions of religious leaders. The head of virtuous city strives to make all its citizens truly happy. In perfect city, Good and Justice dominate over Evil and Insolence. The perfect city opposes cities the heads of which have no idea of true happiness and only pay attention to material world, physical aspect of life, pleasure and wealth. Happiness is the key concept of al-Farabi’s philosophy and, according to him, in an ideal society, people work together to reach happiness.

Ibn Rushd was not only a philosopher but also a physician. His philosophic view formed under the influence of Aristotle’s ideas and he was famous for the most detailed comments of Aristotle’s works. Ibn Rushd supported the idea of the world’s eternity and stated that it exists out of time. He understood God as the moving power, an independent force that makes everything in the world move. The soul of the human originates from the universal soul that unites everyone in the world. Ibn Rushd tried to find a theory where philosophy and religion coexist peacefully and do not deny each other. He interpreted thoughts of some European philosophers who accepted the existence of “the double truth” – one for philosophy and another for religion. In fact, Ibn Rushd did not believe in the double truth standard, but there can be two categories of truth like two sides of the same coin.

Al-Ghazali was one of the most influential Islamic philosophers and claimed to be the first Muslim to study philosophy so seriously. He rejected Greek philosophic ideas and analyzed the world and philosophy in connection with the traditional Islamic believes. Al-Ghazali stated that the world was created by God and found the idea of the world’s eternity incoherent. He also rejected the concept of Greek thinkers that resurrection is impossible. Al-Ghazali developed the idea that God is able to do anything, even to bring back to life the dead body. All these thoughts were included into his book The Incoherence of the Philosophers that was the critique of the philosophical doctrine of Ibn Sina (Avicenna). According to Al-Ghazali, to understand God and true nature of life, a philosopher should have mystic experience. He supported the idea of Sufism and was a true representative of Islamic cultural heritage.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is a former president of the United Arab Emirates and the head of Abu Dhabi. His main goal was to create the atmosphere of prosperity for his people, and he had been serving his country with great dedication for more than 30 years until his death in 2004. Sheikh Zayed was not just a national leader, but a widely honored Arab and world political leader. One foundation of his political philosophy was that the resources of a country should be fully used to the bene%uFB01t of its people. The %uFB01nancial resources were used by his government as a tool to enhance the development of Emirati people, and, especially, the younger generation. As Sheikh Zayed stated, wealth is not money, wealth lies in men. He directed all resources on developing individuals and used the wealth for growth and prosperity of the UAE. According to Sheikh Zayed, when wealth is not used in conjunction with knowledge, and when there are no enlightened intellects to direct it, in future it will disappear. Money can be the most efficient only when it is invested in education and training of people.

Sheikh Zayed believed that both men and women should play their role. Recognizing that, in the past, a lack of education and development had prevented females from making a proper contribution to most of social activities, he took action to ensure that this situation would change in the nearest future. In the UAE, women are now playing active part in political and economic life, with the %uFB01rst woman being appointed to the Cabinet late in 2004. Sheikh Zayed stated that it is vital to cherish the environment, because it is an integral part of country, history and heritage, as people lived and survived in this environment long ago, both on land and in the sea. They were able to do so only because they realized the need to save it, to take from it only what was necessary, and to preserve it for future generations.

The system of the UAE government is based on the Muslim religion; that is why Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said that democracy is not suitable for his country.

To conclude, almost all philosophers of Greek, Chinese or Muslim origin had their own thoughts concerning political and social philosophy. Plato developed his theory of the Republic, Machiavelli created the image of an ideal ruler who sometimes is obliged to take desperate measures. Unlike Machiavelli, Confucius thought that a good ruler should consider moral values while making decisions. Al-Farabi proposed his own model of virtuous city where main aim is to reach true happiness.

In Muslim tradition, the above-mentioned thinkers respected Islamic religion a lot and it greatly affected their philosophic thought. Al-Farabi, therefore, managed to distinguish philosophy from religion. Malik Bennabi presented the formula of civilization and underlined that civilization needs religion to develop successful and happy society.

Plato’s allegory of the Cave, which is also connected to his theory of Forms, finds its reflection in works of many ancient and contemporary philosophers. The cave can be interpreted as the material world where a human, a prisoner, cannot see perfect forms but only their shadows on the wall of the cave. The majority of people live in the world of their own opinion and unaware of the world of knowledge. Concerning the history of philosophy, it is interesting that in the course of time, philosophers fell under the influence of each other’s works and borrowed different ideas from each other. Nowadays, one can see a kind of mixture of philosophic thoughts where it is impossible to find out who of them is right, because there is no universal truth, there are just many interpretations of it.

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