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Final Exam Paper for Philosophy

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Plato

Plato, a well-known philosopher of all times, was born in Athens, Greece. He criticized Athenian democracy and democracy on the whole. He believed in a different political system, i.e. the philosopher king (Chaffee 2010). For Plato, an ideal state is made up of three classes: a merchant class, a military class, and philosopher-kings. The merchant class meets the needs of the economic structure of any given society. The military class is in control of the security needs of a given country while philosopher kings are in charge of the political leadership. The class of each person is determined by the education that one has attained since birth up to the time the person has reached the maximum level of education considered to be compatible with his/her interest and ability. Philosopher-kings are those who have completed the entire process of education and are deemed to be the wisest. As a result, they are the ones in judge of leadership.

Plato affiliates Greek virtues with an ideal state. Temperance is a distinguishing virtue of the artisan class. Military class should have courage as a virtue while rulers are characterized by wisdom. The fourth virtue, justice, characterizes the society as a whole. In the just state, each class performs its own function in the best way possible without infringing into the activities of others.

According to Plato, the best political order should be driven with justice for all. Despite the fact that a large portion of the republic is committed to describing an ideal state as the one ruled by philosophers, the main theme for Plato is justice. It is quite evident that Plato does not bring in his political innovations for the intention of practical implementation. Instead, the vision of an ideal state is to exemplify justice. Justice which is understood as a virtue related to goodness is the basis of a good political order and it should be in everyone’s interest (Chaffee 2010). According to Plato, if justice is understood in the right way, it should be concerned with the common good for the advantage of everyone in the community, but not just to benefit few people in power. Justice provides a city with a sense of unity. Therefore, it is an essential condition for the health of the city. Lack of justice in any given community will lead to wars, hatred, and fighting among people while the presence of justice fosters friendship and a sense of common goal.

For Plato, the measure OF the best political order begins with the diversity in social issues and conflicting interests. These pose a danger of a civil war. The political community comprises different social classes: the noble, the rich, and the poor. Each class represents different values and interests. Therefore, it gives rise to a controversy of who should be the leader of the community and what would be the best political system. Plato argues that factionalism and civil strife are the greatest dangers to any city and are even more dangerous than a war with external enemies. He further argues that peace obtained by any class in the society cannot override the total peace that can be obtained by the whole society. According to Plato, peace is not a status quo idea that is only related to the privileged few, but it is a value that most, if not all, people usually desire. Neither does Plato stand for the victory nor the war of one class, but he stands for peace in the social diversity. Plato believes that the best political order is the one that promotes social peace by embracing cooperation and friendship among different social classes.  He advocates for the aristocracy or monarchy in the republic as the best political form of government, though in the laws he advocates for the elements of aristocratic, oligarchic, and democratic government that can reconcile different partisan groups.

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In the current world, many nations do advocate for the democracy with America being one of them. Democracy is believed to be the “the government of the people by the people and for the people” (Chaffee 2010). It is considered to be the best and most justifiable form of the political system. In the democratic world, people are free to choose their leaders and there is equality among all citizens. Surprisingly, Plato does not consider democratic system as the best form of government. He criticizes the unchecked and direct democracy in the republic during his time because of the leading features. Plato understands that freedom is a true value, but he fears that democracy might lead to excessive freedom of one doing as he/she likes. This may result in anarchy. In his second opinion, he argues that equality as a result of believing that every person has the right to rule may bring in political power seeking individuals who are motivated by self-gains instead of the general good for the whole public. As a result, Plato considers democracy to be highly evil and corruptible. It paves the way for demagogues and dictators, which can result in tyranny. Therefore, though it may not apply to the current liberal democracies, Plato’s main reason against democracy is it being unstable and as a result having a potential to leading to tyranny. He also argues that it lacks leaders who have right skills and morals. To him, democracy relies on a chance and it goes hand in hand with the competent leadership. Plato says that politics needs expert leaders who do not come by chance, but through extensive training. For him, making decisions in politics requires good judgment. Plato believes that a good politically ordered society contributes to the restoration of the morals. Such a society fosters education and good upbringing of young people who grow up to be better than their predecessors. He also believes that philosophers who are not only good in saying what is supposed to be done but also good in being practical in what they say must be chosen as leaders. They are expected to counter the destabilizing consequences of false beliefs within the society. Plato also suggests that corruption should be minimized at all costs even among good philosophers. He suggests that philosophers should only receive little remuneration from the state despite them being rulers. They should dine within common dinning halls and have their children mingle with other citizens freely. Plato believes that if rulers are allowed to acquire private land, private homes, and money, there is a high tendency of them becoming hostile masters of their citizens instead of being leaders. This destroys the ideal city. The ideal and finest city according to Plato is the one whose leaders neither govern it by desire of personal gain nor personal ambitions. He also appreciates the fact that philosopher rulers do not only rule basing on their knowledge, but they also rule on the basis of their love for the city, impartiality, and fairness (Chaffee 2010). Their authority in politics is not just rational, but a substantial moral based on the consent of the governed. They consider justice as an invaluable and essential facet in politics. Plato also understands that the government exists for all citizens regardless of their social class and it should intervene in conflicting interests. All citizens should be given equal opportunities to pursue happiness, but not at the expense of others. Basing on these views, Plato may criticize the current economic and political state to some extent.  Most leaders decide the kind of remuneration they want to get. In addition, most of them do not mingle with common citizens. According to Plato, it paves the way for such leaders to indulge into corruption. It is also understood that most current leaders are the same people who run the economies of their countries. This should not be the case according to Plato.

Confucius

Confucius was born in China.  He believed that any ruler should learn to have a sense of self-discipline. He should rule his subjects by example and treat them with affection and concern.  According to him, if the people are led by laws and uniformity achieved by punishment, they will attempt to escape punishment and will have no sense of shame. On the other hand, if the same people are led by virtue and uniformity sought by practicing ritual propriety, they will be filled with a sense of shame and come for punishment at their own will. During his times, those advocating for legalistic methods were against his ideas. Confucius was troubled by the fact that during his time, political institutions had broken down. He attributed this to the fact that those in power and their subordinates were not qualified to hold the positions they had been holding by then. It is reported that Confucius was asked by the ruler of Qi, Lu state. Concerning the principles of a good governance, he replied that good governance is when a ruler is a ruler, a father is a father, a minister is a minister, and the son plays his role as a son (Chaffee 2010). Confucius advocated that any person with a given title should live up to the means of the title he/she claims to be holding. In Confucius’ theory of zhengming, he analyses lack of relation between the actualities and their names. In the Analects, Confucius tells his disciple, Zilu, that the foremost thing he can do if he was to take an administrative office is to ensure that every person plays his/her role. According to Confucius, zhengming do not merely mean the rectification of names. Instead, it means changing people’s behavior in order to correspond to the language they identify themselves with. He further argues that the rectification process should begin at the top of the government. He believed it was at the top where the variance between names and the actualities had begun.   To him, rectifying the ruler’s behavior would facilitate those below him to follow his suit. While conversing with Ji Kangzi, he advised him that if his desire was for good, the people he led will also be good. To him, the ruler’s moral character is the wind while the the moral character of those beneath him is in the grass. Any time the wind blows, grass will always bend. Confucius believed that superior leadership is characterized by the possession of “virtue”.  Virtue is a sort of moral power that permits one to win without resorting to physical force. The virtue enables a ruler to maintain order in his/her state without necessary troubling himself/herself or relying on deputies. For Confucius, any ruler who governs by virtue is like a pole-star. It remains in its place while other small stars homage around it. Views held by Confucius were for the interest of common citizen. The leaders of the current world rarely act as examples. They hold offices with the aim of personal gains. Their work in the office is to give directions, yet they themselves cannot even follow them. It saddens that some incumbent leaders appoint people who are not even qualified for the job. This is against the Confucius’s ideas advocate people not just to hold offices by names, but instead be qualified for the job. In the current world, legal measures are put in place to punish those who go astray. This can be criticized by Confucius as he believed that people should only be led by virtue and not by punishment. There are many other factors that Confucius would criticize the entire political system for.

Locke

Locke, a known political philosopher, believed in the doctrine that men posses certain rights naturally. These rights include life, liberty, and right to property. He said that rulers derived their political powers from the consent of people they led. He was of the idea that any government should be like a contract between those in power and their subjects. For Locke, people give up some of their rights expecting to get just rule. Therefore, rulers should hold their powers only if they use them in a just way. Aristotle believed that reality was the world people lived in. Aristotle believed that nature followed discoverable laws and that these laws could be discovered.  He was behind the invention of logic that could be used to determine the truth and falsity in any statement. Morally, he was of the idea that all humans sought flourishment. For him, the main reason for politics is to make individuals flourish. He argues that character and virtue determines the goodness and badness of an individual. Basing on this, there is a likelihood of Aristotle supporting the idea of Locke concerning democracy. While Locke advocates for leaders who do not perform to step aside, Aristotle sees such leaders as those who lack character and virtue to serve people. In a democratic world by Aristotle, leaders should be guided by the virtue and character to serve people, which is in accordance with what Locke advocates for in the democratic world. Leaders should be able to serve their subjects in the best way possible.

From the views raised by great philosophers, although they lived in a totally different world as compared to the one we are living in today, they have a great lesson for the present politicians. For instance, Locke’s view is that leaders are obliged to lead their subjects in a just way and in case they fail, they should step aside. Modern leaders more than often occupy offices without considering the life of the common citizen. They perceive political offices as avenues for them to flourish. This makes them insensitive to the feelings of their subjects. Only if such leaders could learn from the great philosopher, they would deliver the best leadership. Leaders should also understand that failing to deliver it may necessitate them to step aside and allow one who is competent and able of leading to be in office. There is also a tendency of most democratically elected leaders once reaching the office to failing to deliver what they have promised to citizens. If such leaders could learn from Locke, they would be more concerned with fulfilling the promises they have made to citizens before they were elected. Confucius acts as a role model to the present world. Basing on his views that a leader should be a role model to his/her subjects, there are a lot of lessons that we need to learn from his views. Most present leaders would advocate for implementing laws that the citizens should follow, yet leaders themselves do not follow them. Leaders of today should learn and appreciate the views raised by Confucius. If they want a better society, they should be on the forefront to lead others on how a better society can be achieved. Present leaders are only in the office to give direction, which is contrary to the views given by Confucius. Plato also plays a vital role in shaping today’s world. His view concerning the philosopher king gives an insight on what kind of leaders we should consider as ideal. Though he was against democracy, he advocated for the right leadership where every person should perform his/her duties without meddling into the affairs of others. This should be a lesson that we need to learn from his teachings since more than often political leaders want to be in judge of everything. This leads to conflicts within the society. Plato also appreciated the fact that there are different classes of people within a nation. This is evident in our modern societies where people are grouped according to their social classes. Politicians should always have the interest of all classes at their heart, but not to favor one class. Favoring one class has a likelihood of leading to the civil strife as we have learned from the Plato’s views.

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment causing adverse changes. Pollution can be in the form of chemical substances or in an energy form, for instance, heat, noise, or light. There can be air pollution, water pollution, or soil pollution. The main source of pollution is gases from industries and vehicles among others.  The development of industries by now has been on the rise since times immemorial. It has happened due to the increased development of civilization in different countries. The major source of air pollution has been associated with fossil fuels. The beginning of the industrial revolution meant a lot of coal and other fossil fuels to be used. Fossil fuels are known to produce exceptionally high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Other gases emitted as a result of burning fossil fuel are nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. These gases have increased tremendously with the continued use of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide increases the green house effect in the atmosphere and leads to global warming. Sulphur and nitrogen oxides are combined with moisture in the atmosphere to form acid rain that causes rusting of metallic materials and also interferes with the soil pH, which hampers the growth of pH specific crops. This pollutes the environment greatly. Though measures have been put in place to limit the production of pollutants within the environment, the levels of pollution are still high.

Leopold Kohr

Leopold’s view concerning the environment is that when land is viewed as a community to which every individual belongs, it might be used with some shreds of love and respect. He believed that land faces a serious threat with the increase in mechanization. As a result, he suggested that management of forests was for the good of the humanity. He suggested a shift to the biotic conservation. Leopold challenged humans that if they really understood how useful nature was, then they should have been the last creatures disturbing its balance if they wanted to preserve their superiority as human beings. In his view, he implemented several facets, for instance, land and Homo sapiens. For him, land should be perceived as a community, but not as a commodity. He also acknowledged the fact that Homo sapiens are the members of the community rather than masters.  The role of the man was to maintain the integrity and the beauty of the biotic community. Chief Seattle viewed land as an invaluable asset. In his letter to the Americans, he reminds humans that they do not own the land and as a result, it is illogical for them to buy it. He views every part of the land as sacred to his people. Therefore, it meant that land should be protected at all costs since it is a community. If Leopold and Chief Seattle were to recommend on the current situation of pollution, they would probably be of the idea that we should lower the levels of pollution. For them, environment is a part of lives of human beings and if they destroy it, they will be destroying their own lives. According to the studies done, industrial wastes have been known to be the leading source of pollution. The use of fossil fuel has been cited as the leading pollutant. Fossil fuel is used mostly as a source of energy, if an alternative source of energy like hydroelectric power, geothermal power, and wind power are used to substitute fossil fuel and there will be reduced levels of pollution from industries and motor vehicles. There is also a need to plant more trees and reclaim lands that are unproductive. Industries should be forced to put filters in their chimneys to remove toxic gases before they are released into the atmosphere.

Aristotle

Aristotle was a Plato’s student. Just like his teacher, he was of the idea that the benefit of the many outweighs the benefit of the few. Nevertheless, Aristotle argues that this should only happen in extreme situations and if there is need to take care of the few, the many must be considered first. More than often, people disagree about the nature and the terms of happiness. Some people believe that happiness is about having wealth, pleasure, honor, and virtue. For Aristotle, happiness is not all about wealth since the latter is a monetary value, though it can be used to achieve happiness. He also argues that honor is not happiness since it focuses more on people that honor than on the honoree. He disqualifies pleasure as happiness on grounds that it is just a life of gratification. For virtue, it is not happiness since some people may have the virtue, but will never use it. Aristotle concludes that in order for the happiness to exist, the four must go hand in hand.  Therefore, he describes a good life as the one during which an individual expresses all his/her virtues with a sufficient supply of external goods in all life. Therefore, a good life comprises moral and intellectual virtues, goods and friendship. Aristotle believes that living entails activity that is motivated by desire and pleasure always follows successful activities. He concludes by saying that every individual seeks to flourish in life. The aim of politics is to enable individuals to flourish. He also says that the character and virtue of an individual determines his/her goodness and badness.

Immanuel Kant

Kant believes that knowledge is the result of interaction between one’s mind and his/her senses. He was also of the idea that our motives are always controlled by reason. He argues that it is not possible to think of anything in the world or even beyond it as being good without qualifying it with the exception of a good will. For him, mind is like an organizational tool that creates an understanding from large data provided by senses. Kant perceives morality as being a formal one. For him, to judge whether one is right or wrong, you have to base this judgment on the universal law that applies to everyone. Kant was also of the idea that in a moral society, one should not lie. He views lying as declaring untruthful information intentionally to another person. He concludes by saying that being truthful in every declaration is being sacred and it should not be limited by any expediency with the human life included.

Mill

For Mill, qualifying whether a given deed is right or wrong should be based on the consequences of the actions, but not on universal laws. His basis of a moral society is the possession of the greatest happiness. For him, any action undertaken by anyone should have the highest degree of happiness to a large group of people. He believes that each person desires to achieve the greatest happiness. Happiness arises when there is no pain, but there is pleasure. Morality of any act is measured by the pleasure that act will induce to others.  Therefore, Mill advocates that a moral society is the one whose acts lead to the happiness of others. Thus, it means that before we do anything, we should always try to evaluate how it will affect others. If it happens that the act will deprive others of happiness, then we should not do it. We should only do things that will impart happiness not only to our lives, but also to the lives of others.

On the basis of what I have learned, I can conclude that the Americans do not make good and informed decisions. To start with, most Americans are concerned with their lives and happiness, but they are not bothered whether what they do will deprive one of happiness or will add happiness. In addition, the Americans are ever setting up new industries. It has been shown that the increased industrialization increases environmental pollution. This evidences that to some extent, Americans are not concerned with what happens to the environment. Though democracy is practiced in America, leaders still make decisions that do not favor all social classes in the society. Socrates believed that all humans were naturally good and ignorance made humans do bad things. In this state, Socrates would feel that people are doing unfair things because of their ignorance.

From the above mentioned discussions, it may be concluded that it is worth living a wise live. Living a wise life means being concerned with the entire human race. This will mean reduced levels of environmental pollution. One leading a wise life will also be more concerned about the feelings of others. This will help in reducing the levels of political strife that can arise as a result of leading an unwise life. As a result of the discussions, I opt to live a wise life. This will enable me to live a happy and fulfilling life. Though I expect to meet challenges in living a wise life, I believe I will manage.

Conclusion

In conclusion, philosophy is an invaluable discipline. It allows one to understand what the reality is. Through philosophy, one is able to understand how reality and human beings should be like. This will aid in guiding my behavior. Through philosophy, one is able to learn what is considered to be morally right. Morality is an essential virtue in the society that helps one to understand that a decision made by one person may have a great impact not only on his/her life, but also on the life of others. Philosophy also provides a great deal of knowledge that has enabled one to understand why some things happen the way they do. Through philosophy, critical thinking can be stimulated.

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