Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)
1] Trace the evolution of Western Political Thought from ancient to contemporary period. [2020/20m/250w/4a]
Western political thought traces its lineage to ancient Greece. The Greek civilisation knew of democracy and politics was seen as an extension of ethics. The political philosophers of ancient Greece questioned the basis and purpose of government. And the major thinkers of the times included Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
This was followed by the medieval period of thinkers like Aquinas and St. Augustine who lived during the early Christian era and infused Christian morality into politics.
The medieval period witnessed renaissance, which, along with the scientific revolution, brought in the idea of humanism and rationality. The moment was of turmoil and gave birth to the first modern Western thinker, Machiavelli who separated ethics from politics and gave birth to realism. In his book the Prince, Machiavelli gives absolute power to the monarch, reflecting the circumstances of his time.
Hobbes lived during the era of reformation and glorious revolution, a time of violence and trouble. the masses chose to keep the absolute monarchy in order to get rid of church dominance. Hobbes rejected the theory of the divine rights of the king and came up with the social contract theory of the state.
It was also the contemporary of Hobbes, John Locke who gave the fundamental idea of classical liberalism that the state is brought in by social contract to protect the natural right to life, liberty and property. Classical liberalism was taken forward by the utilitarian theory of Bentham, the philosophy of the greatest good of the greatest number.
At the same time, the French Revolution, a beacon of liberalism gave rise to conservative thoughts led by Edmund Burke who believed rights come from society and tradition.
In the late 19th century when industrialisation increased the inequality in Western Europe, the idea of liberty was relooked by Modern liberals like TH Green who gave the idea of positive liberty and gave birth to the welfare democracies of the 20th century.
Simultaneously, the gore consequences of industrialisation also gave birth to socialism which questioned individualism and the right to property. Karl Marx gave the philosophy of scientific communism and the idea of dialectical materialism, surplus value and importantly his critical analysis of capitalism.
The mid-20th century saw the rise of fascism when the middle class was squeezed between the growing business class and labour union. The mid-20th century also saw the debate on the end of ideology which was followed by the rise of postmodernists who reject the objectivity and foundationalism of the modern period.
Today, we are in a world full of ‘posts’, post-industrial, post-colonial, post-capitalist world. Western political thought has come a long way since its inception, but the original concerns of justice, equality and liberty still hold their place. [451 words]
2] Explain Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s Idealism. [2019/20m/250w/2a]
Plato is seen as the father of idealism whereas Aristotle, who was his student was critical of Plato and is considered the father of realism.
Plato believed in the existence of a separate realm of Forms or Ideas, which he considered to be the ultimate reality. According to Plato, physical objects in the world are merely imperfect copies of these ideal Forms. Aristotle, on the other hand, criticized this notion of a separate realm of Forms. He argued that the Forms are not separate entities but rather abstract concepts that exist within the objects themselves. For Aristotle, the essence or form of an object is inseparable from its physical existence.
Plato viewed the Forms as the ultimate causes and explanations for the existence and characteristics of things in the physical world. Aristotle, however, rejected the idea that the Forms serve as efficient causes. He believed that the causes and explanations for the properties and behavior of things should be sought within the natural world itself, rather than in a transcendent realm.
Plato believed that universal concepts or ideas, such as justice or beauty, have a higher existence in the realm of Forms. Aristotle disagreed with this view, asserting that universals exist within individual objects and are derived from our observations and experiences of the world. According to Aristotle, universal concepts are abstractions formed by generalizing from particular instances.
Aristotle being a realist emphasized the importance of empirical observation and experience as the foundation of knowledge. He criticized Plato’s reliance on abstract reasoning and believed that knowledge should be grounded in the observation of the physical world. Aristotle’s philosophy was more focused on understanding the natural world through systematic observation and analysis.
Even though Aristotle had criticisms of Plato’s idealism, he still respected Plato’s intellectual contributions and built upon them to develop his own philosophical system. [305 words]
The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)