Political philosophy – why how we think matters

We each have our own understanding of ourselves and what is right. Some think that human nature consists in our own individuality and independence, while others argue that what it means to be human is community spirit. Some think that we have particular duties to society and to the law. Others believe that we should focus on maximising certain values, such as happiness, freedom and equality.

Our thoughts and beliefs are important because they determine what society places value on, and the form that our political interaction takes. Below are some examples of how different values lie beneath different ways of living:

Democracy

Democracy is the form of politics where the government of a people is determined by the people themselves. It is achieved through free and fair elections where citizens can vote for the candidate or party they believe best represents them.

The foundation of democracy is the belief that humans are each worthy of having a say in the rules they live under. Therefore, support for democracy comes from those who value the equality and freedom of all to participate in the political process. Also important is a care for community, as collective decision-making lies beneath the democratic process.

Confucianism and Daoism – philosophies in China

China has two dominant philosophies – Confucianism and Daosim. Confucianism stresses the importance of correct behaviour, as well as duty and obedience to hierarchy. It also emphasises the importance of education in achieving worth and status. We see these principles underpinning much of the way China’s society and government is set up today. For example, the people defer to the CCP (the ruling Chinese Communist Party) in much of their political life, and officials are appointed through a system of rigorous exams.

Daoism advances the idea of living in harmony with ‘the Dao’, which is literally translated as ‘the Way’, and is said to be the source of natural harmony. In contrast with the life of duty and purpose embodied by Confucianism, the Daoist attitude towards life gives the more carefree side of its followers.

Both philosophies work together to provide a basis for respecting law and natural order within society. Similar sentiment can be found throughout Africa, where people believe in serving their community and the power of the natural world. 

Philosophy of the Niger Delta

Much of the philosophy of the Niger Delta can be revealed by ancient proverbs originating there. Those such as ‘more days, more wisdom’ and ‘what an old man sees seated, a youth does not see standing’ show the belief that age is important in gaining wisdom. For this reason, there is greater inclusion and importance of the elderly in the governance of African communities. 

Everyone has their own way of understanding themselves and the world around them. We should look to respect each other’s different beliefs and ways of living so that we may receive the same respect. We may even understand ourselves and our societies better when we first try to understand others!  

OLIVER BAKER

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