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Political Theory in Greek Period: The Epicureans Upul Abeyrathne, Dept. of Economics, Univeristy of Ruhuna, Matara.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Theory in Greek Period: The Epicureans Upul Abeyrathne, Dept. of Economics, Univeristy of Ruhuna, Matara."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Theory in Greek Period: The Epicureans Upul Abeyrathne, Dept. of Economics, Univeristy of Ruhuna, Matara

2 Characteristics of Post Aristotelian Thought Greek Political thought and theory can be divided into Hellenic and Hellenistic Phases. Greek Civilization was in its full vigor during Hellenic Phase. It was round the city states to which to look after all aspects of an individual’s life. Greek Political Theory reached to its watermark during this period represented by Plato and Aristotle.

3 It must be noted that even during their life time city state based life has started to crumble. Macedonian Empire and later Roman Empire dealt death blow on city state and free life in Greece. The Hellenic political theory uphold that the city state is the best form of political life. They stood for individual merging himself in beloved city state and finding good life and fruition of personality through the medium of city state.

4 They had believed on the superiority of the Greek over the non Greek and Freeman over the slave. They had strived to establish a link between ethics and good life.

5 Post Hellenic Political Theorists They had realized if they were to write any meaningful, had to abandon Plato and Aristotle and their postulates. The challenge become finding new postulates and ideals. Platonic ideas become irrelevant in the context of disappearance of city state. Aristotalian dictum “ a man outside the city state was iether a god or beast” became irrelevant.

6 Crumbling of city state left the individual to his own resources and inclinations. Post Hellenic phase had witnessed the emergence of imperial system giving rise to new social, economic and political problems compelling them to be seen in novel way. Empires include people of different races, African, Asiatic and European knit together.

7 Previously discarded classes came into their own in the imperial systems and demanded recognition. Active participation in civic affairs as the ideal of individual lost its relevance. Failure of city state left the individual helpless. He lost interest in politics and political speculation. Subsequently, individual rather than the state became the subject of speculation and study.

8 Emphasis shifted from improvement of civic life to personal improvement. The cumulative effect of these forces has been 1.Endocentric Tendency: Individual concentrate on himslef 2.Exocentric Tendency: Which made him devoted to humanity at large.

9 Results Greek political theory became 1.More individualistic: Happiness of the individual became the subject of inquiry. 2.More Universal or cosmopolitan: The demise of city state made possible to imagine that cosmopolitan outlook is not only possible but also inevitable. 3.Average citizen would not find opportunities of participation in public life and service. He had to find good life outside the state. Norms of individual and public conduct ceased to be identical. (These are feature of the features that can be found in Epicurean and Stoic political theory. They have divorced ethics from politics. ) Securing of individual happiness became the ideal for both Epicureans and Stoics.

10 Epicureans The Founder of the school is Epicurus (342 B.C.). However, the greatest representative is a Roman Poet known as Lucretius. In his the Nature of the Things has expounded the teaching of the school.

11 Basic Tenants “ The aim of the life was the achievement of individual happiness”. They advocate the satisfaction of physical and mental happiness within certain limits Epicurus said men seek pleasure and avoid pain. “The wise man is he who master his desires and does not seek to satisfy every one of them”. A wise man will reduce his pursuit after pleasure to a minimum.

12 According to Epicurean, the degree of individual’s pleasure is independent of material environment. Lucretius said “one ought to avoid mixing in civil society because active membership of it creates desires and ambitions in a man’’. Even try to avoid family life too because it brings pain very often. Frienship suffices. Limited number of wants lead to spend one’s energy on self improvement internally. Political life is something vicious and try to avoid it unless participation was necessary in self interests.

13 The Epicureans advocate happiness in life but not blind pursuit of pleasure. Moderate satisfaction of desires, pleasure of the soul rather than of the body. The principle of happiness in life principle had made people thinks of things instead of judging them from the moral point of view. The Greek principles of right, virtue and justice have been notions of happiness and utility.

14 Epicureans on the Origin of State Epicurean concept of the origin of state is the forerunner to the social contract theory. They believed men to be essentially selfish. Curbing of selfishness necessitated a common superior authority. Men had entered into a contract in self interest with each other. On the basis of that contract founded the state government, law and justice.

15 According to Epicureans, morality is identical with expediency. Standards of rightness and justice of conduct varied with circumstances and with time and spaces. The test law and government lay in expediency and their capacity to ensure security and easy social intercourse.

16 States and laws were to check acts of brutality and injustice. (This is the utility of founding the state) Epicureans on the whole ignored the state and concentrated on the individual. Therefore, the form of government was immaterial to them. Efficient tyranny is as good as a good polity. They advocate submission to any de facto government. The above principle helped the Roman Rulers in Greece.

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