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Earned Bachelor Degree from the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (Class of 2013) Major: Political Science Minor: Sociology ------------------- I am your typical nerd/geek/otaku. I like to ride my bike, read, write, and surf the internet. Otaku(noun)(おたく/オタク)- is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and/or video games.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Feudal Society -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #10

Text: Bloch, Mark "Feudal Society" (excerpts)
Required Readings: pages 280-214, 219, 241-242,  248-266, 270-279
Blog Started: Sunday, May 3, 2012 at 8:21 p.m.

Mark Bloch in this section talks about how after roughly the year 1000 onwards, charters and other documents began to become more commonplace amongst lords, vassals, & serfs. There was a greater demand for "legal clarity" (page 276) as more people began to get educated. Yet, despite the greater value placed upon these legally binding contracts, people were still very much illiterate and thus relied upon members of the clergy, merchants, and jurists in the immediate area to help them understand and interpret the documents. In fact, according to Bloch, there were "...substantial advantages which had been recorded in writing".

Two charters that held such significance were the charters of Beaumont-au-Argonne and the charter of Lorris, both of which had given certain customary rights to those living in the recently founded settlement, and the other, older one (page 276). A provision was included in both of these charters that they would be officially put forth in motion by the sound of assarter's axes (as both were "on the verge of great woodland areas"). It was perhaps only fitting to include that as a memorable visual christening. This, in a way, showed the townsfolk that there were benefits to written decrees, giving certain obligations importance, credibility, and validity.

I find it rather shocking that this novel idea to have a "So let it be written, so it shall be done" (commonly known quote from The Ten Commandments (1956 film)) policy wasn't put into practice sooner. Fortunately however, things appeared to be looking a bit more favorable for those not in power especially since a newfound appreciation for education seemingly allowed for a bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness (as one can imagine that people relied on each other for the sake of understanding the charters). The sentiments of obligation and mutual-trust eventually came to be transferred onto parchment, thus clearly defining the terms agreed upon between two or more individuals and that was a significant achievement for the time.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Feudal Society -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #9

Text: Bloch, Mark "Feudal Society" (excerpts)
Required Readings: pages 109-120, 145-152, 155-168
Blog Statred: Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 7:20 p.m.

In this excerpt, Mark Bloch discusses education and Roman Law in coordination with the feudal era. Perhaps the most interesting point made was that "the knowledge of Latin-the language in which all the old continental legal documents were written-was virtually the monopoly of the clergy." (Page 112) Many of the people of the era became woefully illiterate. Mark Bloch continues to elaborate on the severity and depth of this dilemma by stating that "knowledge of the old law-books would not have been completely lost if a legal profession had existed. But the procedure did not call for advocates, and every chief was a judge. This meant in practice that the majority of judges were unable to read a state of affairs unfavourable to the maintenance of a written law."(Page 112)

Typically, this goes without say, but for all intensive purposes, I'm going to say it here and now. Knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility. It's the burden of a government or society to be literate (or capable of reading and writing well) enough to the point that they can uphold and maintain the laws. If they fail to do so, they become outdated and unenforceable. This holds true even to this day as technological prowess has become so prominent that the laws must protect the privacy and rights of the individual as well as the rest of the public.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Feudal Society -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #8

Text: Bloch, Mark "Feudal Society" (excerpts)
Required Readings: xvii-xx, 3, 11-14,39-42, 52-6,69-75,79-87
Blog Statred: Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 3:43 p.m.

In these excerpts, Mark Bloch gives the reader an intricate retelling of the main historical events that occurred during the feudal era. He discusses, the fiefs (or property, often land), and the constant wars that ravaged the plains. There was "a profound decay of monasticism"(page 40), resulting in a lack of knowledge as the Church had the highest authority and power at the time. Books were burned and monasteries were pillaged. There also were a lack of methods to measure the duration of time passing (page 73), and what was available wasn't always accurate (i.e. sundials aren't very effective when it's cloudy or raining). The lords, who gained their revenues from the land given to their vassals, were impoverished (because of Vikings and other barbarians burning harvests and taking over with brute strength and intimidation) leaving peasants to fend for themselves with little currency and more often than not, they fell victim to disease & famine (pages 39-40). Low hygiene, poor life expectancy, and the insecurity of daily life caused great emo­tional instability.

The unjust acts committed against one's fellow man were simply appalling and atrocious. It must have been maddening for those living in the feudal era to live day by day not knowing if some band of rogues were to pillage their village or if they would be able to find their next meal. It is a most pitiable situation. Yet, if there is one solace, it is in knowing that the people of the feudal era were more closely connected with mother nature, relying on her grace and bounty (i.e. honey, berries, game).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The City of God by Saint Augustine -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #7

Textbook: The City of God by Saint Augustine (Translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.)
Blog Started 9:10 p.m on Thursday April 26, 2012
Required Reading:  Book XIX: 14-21, 24-28; Book XX: 1-3; Book: XXII: 16-19, 22, 30
What I'm covering: Book XX page 1
[]=Student's note/input

In this excerpt from Saint Augustine's twentieth book, Saint Augustine discusses the final judgment day and the consequences of sin. Saint Augustine argues that one must believe in the divinity of God's declarations, fear and yield to them, as well as his final judgement in order to truly have a concept of right & wrong (justice & injustice). This point is emphasized when Augustine states that "...no man acts rightly save by the assistance of divine aid; and no man or devil acts unrighteously save by the permission of the divine and most just judgement." (Book XX: page 1). He also mentions that although no one knows when the final judgement will commence nor of the duration, he argues that we must be ever vigilant because we are constantly being observed by the watchful eyes of God. God can be quite determined in what he sees fit. In fact, he states that God "...did not spare the angels who sinned, whose prince [Lucifer, a.k.a the Devil, presumably], overcome by envy, seduced men after being himself seduced."(Book XX: page 1) God also judges us humans (the sons and daughters of Adam & Eve) not only because of the original sin but on our own voluntary and personal unjust actions.

It's, in a way, quite terrifying that our actions are constantly being measured against our character. Yet, if you think hard about it now, it's like that with modern technology and surveillance (i.e. cameras in stores and banks). We are perhaps a better society BECAUSE "big brother is constantly watching" (1984 reference) and as such, one MUST do the right thing, for either fear of the consequences and penalties, or for the sake of knowing that it's the noble and sensible action. There is (arguably) no choice because if you constantly do what satisfies your desires, regardless of the harm it causes you or others longterm, you will be condemned to an eternity in damnation according to these passages. As a result, the only logical thing to do would be to live the just life.

So, in the end, is that a choice? Perhaps...it's just not ever a favorable one. I believe there's the potential to be a hero in all of us, a role model if you will, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with honor, even though sometimes we have to be patient and steady, often sacrificing the things in life that we want the most...even if they're our dreams and ambitions.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The City of God by Saint Augustine -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #6

Textbook: The City of God by Saint Augustine (Translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.)
Blog Started 9:43 a.m on Sunday April 22, 2012
Required Reading: Book XVIII (18): pages 1-2; Book XIX: pages 4-13
What I'm covering: Page 5
[] = Student's note

In this passage by Saint Augustine, the complexities of human friendship are elaborated upon. He states that we cannot truly rely on friendship as an element of the City of God as "...secret treachery has often broken it up, and produced enmity [or hostility] as bitter as the amity [peaceful harmony] was sweet, or seemed sweet by the most perfect dissimulation [deceptions]?" (Book XIX: 5). Saint Augustine mentions that friends can be more dangerous than one's enemies (and at one point, quotes Cicero on this matter) as it is a person that feigns close friendship that is worse than someone that is a distant enemy.

I agree with this sentiment because a person's best friend is their confidant and knows all of their secrets whether they be of noble deeds or unjust ones. Thus, they are the most dangerous people to betray you as they know of your weaknesses and faults. So perhaps one must keep a constant and vigilant effort to surround oneself with good virtuous people in order to emphasize and create good habits and be weary of getting too close. In a sense, by knowing one's foes, one can focus upon human grievances and then shift those perceptions to their friends in the effort to hold them to a higher standard and (in some cases) a higher regard. I suppose the point that Saint Augustine is trying to emphasize is the well known saying "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The City of God by Saint Augustine -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #5

Textbook: The City of God by Saint Augustine (Translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.)
Blog Started 7:43p.m on Saturday April 21, 2012
Required Reading: Book X: 6; Book XI: 1-2, 22, 27; Book XII: 3, 8, 23; Book XIV: 1, 5-6, 9-26, 28; Book XV: 1, 4, 5
Chosen Portion: Book XII; Page 8

In this excerpt from Saint Augustine's City of God, Saint Augustine describes the faults of the human soul. He starts by mentioning that God is perfect and incorruptible, yet human nature is not insusceptible to the allure of wickedness. As such, Saint Augustine specifies that it is not the creations of God that are evil but the intentions of them. So for instance, greed is not a poor trait inherent of gold, but in the man that excessively loves gold, especially in cases where it becomes an obstruction of justice, which (according to Augustine) should be held in much higher regard. I agree with Augustine in part that it is the motive of a man that drives him to commit unjust acts.

However, I disagree with him in that "avarice" is not a trait of natural things. I still hold firm to the belief that money is the root of all evil as it is a form of power. It is versatile and as such, can inflict one's will upon others in a manner similar to peer pressure (or in some cases duress. i.e. holding someone for ransom). Money (or gold) can however be used as a tool for good in places where it is needed most like in hospitals and the like. Yet it seems as though it always draws some sort of need AND a desire. As it has been stated countless times by people of this era, with more gold or cash, one can accomplish more and as such, men tend to turn from God in times of abundance as his divine intervention may not be fully realized or praised. (Loss of respect for God etc.) The manner in which this money is obtained also affects one's "nature" as one can become prideful in the tactful way in which it was earned. Sometimes causing a man to act unknowingly arrogant or inconcieveably boastful.

To be blunt, I think if this nation eliminated some of its capitalistic tendencies, and perhaps went back to a bartering system, the world would be a more just society.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The City of God by Saint Augustine -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #4

Textbook: The City of God by Saint Augustine (Translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.)
Blog Started 8:13p.m. April 19, 2012
Required Reading: Book IV, 3-4, 15; Book V:8-22, 26 (pp.223-24 only); Book VI: Preface

In this passage, Saint Augustine discusses matters regarding free will and the role that it plays in relation to fate. He vehemently opposes Cicero's belief that one (whether it be man or God) can not have knowledge of future events and that if there is fate or pre-destiny, then free will cannot exist as it has already been determined what shall come to pass. (The City of God by Saint Augustine pg. 137; Book V: pg 9). Augustine argues that if there is no such thing as freedom of will, then laws are made in vain as there is no suitable punishment for the wicked and no suitable reward for the just man. Augustine states that for the religious man, there is both free will AND pre-destiny. I agree with the concept, but it is difficult to see Augustine's reasoning behind his argument as it takes a sort of small leap of faith in order to acknowledge the omnipotence and omniscience of God. It is also difficult to defend because one does not know the future events beforehand and thus the feeling of not being in control of one's own destiny becomes foreboding (for those that feel as that there is no free will because if free will exists, then the foreknowledge of God is susceptible to change or worse, non-existent thereby nullifying the status of God).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The City of God by Saint Augustine -- Foundations of Political Thought -- Blog Post #3

Sunday, April 15, 2012 7:40p.m.
The City of God by Saint Augustine
Selected Readings: (Book II) Pages 1, 7, 17-21, 26, 28, & 29

In these passages, Saint Augustine attempts to persuade Romans to reject Christianity as the one true faith. He does this by using examples of the misfortunes that had plagued them (and Greece) before the birth of Christ to show that the worship of false Gods lead to faults in morality and political interaction. Interestingly enough, one could make distinct comparison's with Plato's cave theory and how Augustine states that "...even after the truth has been as fully demonstrated as man can prove it to man, they hold for the very truth their own unreasonable fancies, either on account of their great blindness, which prevents them from seeing what is plainly set before them, or on account of their opinionative obstinacy, which prevents them from acknowledging the force of what they do see." (City of God pg. 37; Book II pg. 1).

With relation to Plato's allegory of the cave, when returning to the cave with this new-found knowledge, a person would be met with fierce opposition and resentment (Plato's Republic, 517a) so, that same idea can be applied to the absolute truth (being that Christ is the one true God) as the light. In one example, Augustine claims that the "teachings of the philosophers were not the commandments of the gods" and that they were but the discoveries of mere men, who were, by nature, flawed (City of God pg.42-43; Book II: pg. 7). Some of them apparently made great discoveries with God's help but when left to themselves, they were betrayed by their own human weaknesses.

In a way, I suppose I agree in-part with Saint Augustine (in a sense). I can see how man has created an imperfect just society in that for example, when enacting punishment or retribution against those that are unjust or have committed a crime against another just person, the punishment can sometimes be cruel and unusual and that the punishment, by nature, is often an unjust act (there are exceptions to the rules). There has be much debate even now on whether justice comes from divine inspiration with much scrutiny on the religious aspects. If there is anything to take from Saint Augustine it is that it is not deeds that create virtue (as he uses the youth's desire to hear of Jupiter's tales of valor) but humility in all things.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Aristotle: The Nicomachean Ethics -- Foundations of Political Thought Blog Post #2

Foundations of Political Thought Blog Post #2
Text: Aristotle: The Nicomachean Ethics (pages 3-9,13-16, 18-25, 27-30) Book I: i-vii, vii-xi, xiii
Editor's note: I'm covering pages 3-9
Posted on February 28, 2012 at 11:27 p.m.

In Aristotle's first book, titled "The Object of Life", Aristotle attempts to educate his readers on the essence of life and attempts to shed some thoughtful insight as to man's purpose in the grand spectrum. He also talks about the role of political science and the purpose (goal, objective, or ends) of one's pursuits (Book I: i-ii). For the most part, I agree with a majority of what Aristotle states and I would argue that his reasoning is fairly sound. However, when he stated that "...a young man is not a fit person to attend lectures on political science, because he is not versed in the practical business of life from which politics draws its premises and subject matter." (Book I: iii). I wholeheartedly disagree, because a student is one whom is willing to learn (or at least SHOULD be) and as such should not be denied the right to partake in the bountiful knowledge that can be gained from attending such lectures simply because they have not lived as long as their would-be mentor. Aristotle's claim that because of a young male's tenacity "to follow his feelings" he will make no progress is far-fetched and too accusatory of the young or youthful at heart. Aristotle seems to view all young men as impudent and incapable of self-restraint. If one were to give them the time and patience necessary to learn, I'm sure that they would meet or exceed their potential for understanding.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thucydides: On Justice, Power, and Human Nature -- Foundations of Political Thought - Blog Post #1

Thucydides: On Justice, Power, and Human Nature, 66-95 (Book III, sec.37-68, 81.2-85; Book IV, sec. 47.3-48)
Post Started: February 2, 2012 at 8:47p.m.

Selected Section: Book III, sec.37-68 (I focused just on the the Mytilenean Debate for the sake of a shorter argument. The Plataean Debate is also pertinent to the ideas presented here, albeit with an alternate result as the final outcome.)

This passage, a debate between Cleon and Diodotus (as told by Thucydides) concerned what penalty should be given to the Mytileneans for their betrayal of the alliance they had once formed with Athens. The Mytileneans had been a former ally of Athens until in the summer of 428 when they rebelled alongside those residing on the island of Lesbos. On the one hand of the debate, Cleon advocated that those Mytileneans of military age should all be put to death as retribution for their insolence and those remaining Mytileneans not of military age should be enslaved while Diodotus on the other hand, vehemently rejected and opposed this cruel suggestion of capital punishment.

I was more in favor of Diodotus as he stated that "We should not...[rely] on capital punishment to protect us, or set such hopeless conditions that our rebels have no opportunity to repent and atone for their crime as quickly as possible." It seemed a rather harsh proposal to have the women and children atone for the sins (or unjust actions) of a select few (those that lead their followers to rebellion) and have them bare the burden for years to come, possibly making them MORE resentful than their fathers had been of Athenian Empirical rule especially considering that the casualties of war alone are a sufficient enough punishment (at least in my own opinion). By Cleon's judgement, it would only serve to "rub salt on an open wound". Diodotus instead thought that the assembly should "impose moderate penalties to ensure that we will, in the future, be able to make use of cities that can make us substantial payments".