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Durham e-Theses
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Virtue, liberty, and justice: ‘original principles’ in Algernon Sidney’s political thought exploration of context and intellectual foundations of the discourses concerning government

Lenk, Martin (2002) Virtue, liberty, and justice: ‘original principles’ in Algernon Sidney’s political thought exploration of context and intellectual foundations of the discourses concerning government. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores significant aspects of Algernon Sidney's pohtical thought that have hitherto been neglected. By closely analysing Sidney’s contribution to seventeenth-century discourse this study reveals new sources inherent in his thought, and thus offers the basis for a much wider appreciation and understanding of Sidney's political heritage. An emphasis is put on Sidney's Discourses, written between 1681-1683. Although originally conceived as a polemic against Sir Robert Filmer the Discourses contain a political theory that can be considered independently from the immediate intention of the work. As becomes clear in his earlier writings, particularly the Court Maxims, Sidney developed a set of political ideas long before the Filmer controversy. His ideas, however, can be grasped fully only if seen in the context of Ancient Greek philosophy, as this dissertation argues. Sidney's thought is built on three key concepts: virtue, liberty and justice. In his Discourses Sidney’s manifold references to these concepts convey to the reader that these concepts ought to constitute the foundation of political order. While there are several recognised conscious concepts, i.e. direct references to Ancient Greek philosophy, the numerous implicit concepts in Sidney's text have remained undiscovered. By revealing these indirect, somewhat hidden references to Ancient Greek philosophy this study demonstrates its significant impact on Sidney’s thought. It becomes clear that Aristotle, especially as seen in Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, as well as Plato constitutes a main source of influence on Sidney. While taking into account other analyses of Sidney's work this hermeneutical approach towards Discourses and its ancient philosophical sources offers the framework for a much wider understanding of Sidney’s thought than has hitherto been suggested. It points beyond the limitations of Roman Republican ideas that have so far been regarded as guidelines for the study of his work.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2002
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:39

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