The Ancient Era
The Ancient Era of Political Philosophy is arguably the most important of the various eras associated with political philosophy. From this era emerged such great minds as Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These men not only questioned authority and challenged the masses to exercise their minds, they also laid the foundation for the concepts of political philosophy, which subsequently has helped shape societies and their governments for more than two thousand years.
The first contributors to the legacy of the Ancient Era were the Presocratics who emerged in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Presocratic thinkers occupied themselves primarily with explaining the origin and regularities of the physical world and the place of the human soul within it. Many of the Presocratics are also labeled Sophists. Sophists taught useful subjects, concentrating heavily on the art of public speaking, in order to prepare young men for the cultivated, competitive, and democratic Greek society.
Their philosophies reflected numerous political ideals, including relativism, skepticism, and realism. Protagoras, a highly recognized Sophist and relativist, subscribed to the notion that man's concern for transcendent reality is subordinate to his concern for life in the present world. Protagoras also taught that it is possible to argue for or against any proposition equally well. This is a defining principle in modern-American politics; as America has sustained a largely two-party system for the better part of a century, many propositions are often presented in opposing Democratic vs. Republican viewpoints with both sides supporting their opinions equally well. Through their powerful force of reason and argumentation, the Sophist perspective became very popular and useful in the course of Athenian democracy. Eventually, these arguments and persuasive philosophers would prove to be a political catalyst in the life of a young Athenian named Plato.
In 469 B.C.,