Social Scientists

Monday, 19 March 2012 08:16

John Stuart Mill: Men of Ideas

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John Stuart Mill (1806-1893) was an English utilitarian thinker and prolific writer on assorted subjects, including representative democracy. We have reviewed utilitarianism while talking about Jeremy Bentham and will look at John Stuart Mill mainly in regard to his writing on representative government, though he obviously wrote extensively on utilitarianism. His book, On Liberty, is considered a classic on utilitarian approach to governance and democracy. John’s father, James Mill, apparently, subjected him to rigorous early childhood education, so that by age three he was reading and at an age most children were playing with other children he had mastered Latin,…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:14

Jean Jacques Rousseau: Men of Ideas

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Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is probably one of the greatest Political Philosophers produced by France. His ideas, especially those contained in his most famous book, Social Contract, influenced the French Revolution of 1789. His ideas also influenced other areas of human endeavor; his book, Emile, even set out to show how to raise children who would turn out well functioning citizens (a curious exercise in light of the fact that he abandoned his five children and never expended money or attention to their upbringing; ah, it is a lot easier to tell other people how to raise their children than…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:13


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Francois Marie Arouet aka Voltaire (1698-1778) was a French enlightenment writer. He wrote on many subjects: literary, philosophical, religious and political. His most famous book is probably Candide, a satirical look at belief in God in a world where natural forces seem to prove that nature governs the world, not god. Men believe in a benevolent god that supposedly protects them yet natural events like tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, draughts, plagues of virus, bacteria and fungi kill them, as they kill animals and trees. Looking at human existence one would think that the most obvious conclusion is that…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:12

Charles de Montesquieu: Men of Ideas

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Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) is known for one thing and one thing only, his elaboration of the good that he thought that he saw in the British form of government, the division of governmental powers into the three natural branches of governance: legislative, executive and judiciary. He believed that this trend boded well for England. He extrapolated from the English experience to make a universal argument that division of the powers of government into the three branches of government and having different actors man each, and each defending its powers would be one way to avoid tyranny in a polity.…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:10

John Locke: Men of Ideas

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John Locke (1632-1704) probably has had the greatest influence on English political thought? Certainly, he had profound influence on the American Revolution; in fact, the founding fathers of America, such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin etc carried his Second Treaty on Government with them and freely quoted from him and saw him as their source of inspiration. Locke’s influence did not end in the world of politics but extended to the world of philosophy. His essay on human understanding is considered by many the foundation of psychology, especially what is today called nurture, as opposed to nature, approach to human…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:39

Thomas Hobbes - Men of Ideas

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is generally considered the first English social scientist. By this is meant that he was the first Englishman to dispense with theological criteria in his efforts to understand human (political) behavior. Prior to him English men attempted to explain why human beings did what they did with the perspective of God, Satan and other theological categories. Hobbes who had travelled widely in Italy was influenced by Italian renaissance and the idea of understanding human beings behavior from the perspective of pure reason (that is, Greek perspective, as opposed to religious perspective). Instead of speculating on what the…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:34

Niccolo Machiavelli - Men of Ideas

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Whereas Aristotle is generally considered the first social scientist, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) is considered the first political realist. Machiavelli went from merely studying politics to suggesting how politics ought to be practiced. Based on his understanding of what people do in politics, as opposed to what they say that they would do, Machiavelli advised leaders, The Prince, (in this case, the Duke of his native Florence) to behave in a certain manner that he construed as politically realistic, if he wants to accomplish his political goals, that is. Machiavelli was born in Florence (part of what is now called Italy).…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:28

Aristotle - Men of Ideas

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We begin our review of seminal social scientists with Aristotle (384-322 BC) not because what Aristotle said could be construed as science by today’s understanding of what science is but because of his general approach to his studies. He self consciously determined to study things empirically, as they are, not as he wants them to be. His teacher, Plato, emphasized finding out the essence of things and that inquiry led him to asking such questions that the nature of things as they are to our physical eyes were ignored and, instead, observers wanted to understand their essence before they manifested…