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What is the good citizen?

How should we  understand political philosophy?

Roughly speaking, in Ancient political philosophy, politics in the best case was devoted to the cultivation of virtue in the citizens, whereas in the modern world, particularly in liberal democracy, the aim of politics is to secure an individual freedom equally shared by all.

It was perhaps Machiavelli who first lowered the sights of politics, urging that we "stop focusing on imagined republics" (or any ideal state in which you could cultivate virtue) and instead focus on politics as it is really practiced in the here and now, and on attaining what is good for it.

Do we agree with the modern focus on success in the political world? Or is there something important to be said with the ancients that political philosophy should be directed at something ultimately beyond the political world?

What can we moderns learn from the ancient focus on virtue? Do we even agree that political discourse these days has lost a concern with virtue? Or is virtue simply understood differently?

P.S. No partisan politics please.

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  • Brian

    Something I hoped to develop: Being thrust into the logos (as language) makes us political animals. Our given language embeds us in conventions, along with competing rational interests. But this same enabling principle which thrusts us into 'the political' (from below), is also what makes possible 'talking through' animosities and prejudices toward the good that (as stated in the meetup description)is beyond the political (the above). Does this make sense?

    June 16, 2013

    • Brian

      I believe the philebus has something to say about the good enabling discourse at all

      June 16, 2013

    • Isabella

      Interesting discussion, it's like we are trying to find out the why of this and it is hard to pin down. Logos was also said to create order out of chaos, to be the intelligence that permeates the cosmos and this tendency would then exist in us and be in one way expressed in politics, as in, we want to create order and yet don't necessarily agree on what that order should look like.

      1 · June 16, 2013

  • Mirjana

    While this is an excellent topic and could be a great debate, we will not do it justice next Saturday if there is a PC proviso in place. I believe that in today's society a "good" citizen is one who forsakes reason and objective truth for subjective virtue.

    2 · June 10, 2013

    • Isabella

      This is a tough one, for me anyway, I often wonder why I feel the need to be informed, why another person does not feel that need. I generally try not to get involved in conversations about the information with most people, knowing that passions run high, so what is the point of my having a perspective on those things that I rarely speak about? ;)

      June 14, 2013

    • Erik C.

      I think that being informed is crucial for determining how it is that you should act. Knowing what a 'good citizen' is doesn't seem to depend upon this information; however, it does serve as the other half of the understanding of how to act.

      June 15, 2013

  • Jack

    probable

    June 15, 2013

  • Brian

    Kierkegaard had a POV relelvant here. For him, his own age had become passionless and had forgotten how to be authentically 'a single individual'. Instead he saw his age expressing individuality only as a part of the crowd, with deference to public opinion

    1 · May 5, 2013

    • Isabella

      I think this point is still relevant, that's the world I see where public opinion very much defines the ideal citizen. Those that do not take a predetermined publicized, and usually polarized stance, are not considered relevant - as if not partaking in proper dialogue that seems to always consist of seemingly opposite choices.

      2 · June 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    1st time here.

    June 12, 2013

    • Brian

      Yay, welcome Maggie

      June 12, 2013

  • Mirjana

    Brian, I absolutely understand the need for discipline even though I believe that the young group of intellectuals I had the privilege of meeting last month would never stoop to partisan politics. Having said that, I also believe that in order to discuss your proposed topic with honesty, integrity and clarity we should not have to resort to ‘fabricating the specifics’, or should we?
    In particular,
    “…What can we moderns learn from the ancient focus on virtue? Do we even agree that political discourse these days has lost a concern with virtue? Or is virtue simply understood differently?..”

    I am sure the topic will be navigated well whatever course it takes.

    1 · June 10, 2013

    • Brian

      I look forward to the discussion with you, Mirjana =] Yes, the Wednesday discussion you attended was a good demonstration of the kind of care we can bring to conversation, with an eye toward culture and philosophical friendship. Of course, on the other hand, this group IS open to the public..and the word 'politics' does tend to draw people with strong emotions out by the nose. Fortunately, looking at the attendance list, we can expect a balanced and thoughtful discussion on saturday. =]

      June 10, 2013

  • Brian

    Initial thought: The importance of the greek idea that 'only through the political can we attain to human excellence' is that it unites us, despite our differences. When we have an original conception of what humans are are going toward, it helps us see we are disagreeing *about the same thing*

    May 9, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    How are we supposed to talk about modern politics without talking about "current politics"? That doesn't make any sense.

    May 5, 2013

    • Brian

      modern political philosophy doesnt mean obama/tea party/John Stewart. We'll stick to principles

      May 5, 2013

  • Jesse H.

    I might be late. I am supposed to work. But I do need a night off!

    May 5, 2013

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