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Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought

From Plato to Machiavelli

Kevin Dooley

Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought: From Plato to Machiavelli examines allegories and metaphors that best exemplify the ideologies of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Author Kevin Dooley’s approach allows readers to gain a greater understanding of each thinker’s ideas through the lens of metaphor, which stimulates imaginative discussions and more thoughtful reflections.

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Chapter 1: Introduction


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The American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson spent a lifetime assessing the limitations of language.1 For Emerson, human fallibility is evidenced not only in moralistic terms but also in our use of and appreciation for words when trying to convey and comprehend philosophical and metaphysical sentiments. Clearly we need words to help us make sense of the world, but our language, like our morality, is limited. The words we choose when conveying ideas require a contextual framework as well as a level of universality to be understood.

The philosophers in this collection shared Emerson’s concerns. Thus, they utilized allegories and metaphors to foster greater insight, understanding, and, subsequently, further investigation into human nature. The use of allegories and metaphors in the Western tradition can be traced back to the mythology of the ancient Greeks.2 Greek tragedy described a sensational interconnectedness among beasts, humans, and gods that forces us to investigate our own lives and to seek answers to the questions of love and hate, war and peace, and wisdom and folly. The story of Icarus is useful because it is multifaceted.3 It was not only intended to demonstrate that children should listen to the guidance of their parents, but also that we should be wary of our own hubris. Humans may not own an oversized pair of wax wings unable to withstand the heat of the sun, but we may carry a reckless ego that overpowers our best judgments. ← 1...

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