The Greeks are the beginning of political thought, and the form political thought took from the beginning was related to the rationalism of the Greek mind. Greek philosophy in general attempted to explain the universe that could be observed and to analyze that which could not in rational terms. One of the primary conditions for the development of political thought in Greece was a sense of the value of the individual, and this also meant that one of the issues that had to be addressed was the proper relationship between the individual and the collective, between the individual and the state:
That sense had its manifestation as much in practice as in theory; and it issued into action in the shape of a practical conception of free citizenship of a self-governing community--a conception which forms the essence of the Greek city-state. Whatever may be said of the "sacrifice" of the individual to the State in Greek politics or in Greek theory, the fact remains that in Greece, as contrasted with the rest of the ancient world, man was less sacrificed to the whole to which he belonged than he was elsewhere (Barker 2).
The classical features of Greek democratic tradition was an emphasis on disbursing political power among all citizens, and the participation of all citizens was seen as essential both to the well-being of the state and the citizen himself. This tradition is embodied in aspects of the political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, as will be indicated in an exploration of certain of the themes that recur in Greek political philosophy, such as the question of justice and the nature and meaning of citizenship.
PLATO ON THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE STATE
Plato presents an explicit statement of the relationship between the individual and society--even an unjust society--in the form of the "Apology," the statement of Socrates to the court that finally sentences him to death. The speech represents the conflict between th...