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Plato’s Theory of Political Philosophy

428 B. C. E was the birth time of Plato into an Athenian aristocratic family (Dave & Judy, 1998, 21). His father was Ariston who was believed to have connection to one of the early kings of Athens. His mother was Perictione, who related to 6th – century B. C reformer of the Athenian constitution, Solon. His father died when he was a child, and Plato eventually became Socrates’ disciple. Plato’s works consisted of a set of 41 so-called “dialogues” plus a collection of 13 letters and a book of Definitions (Bernard Suzanne, 2001, Internet).

The Republic is Plato’s most famous work (Plato, Internet). The most impressive legacy of Plato was the “Academy” that he found in 387. Throughout his lifetime, Plato dramatically contributed to our understanding of Socrates and his restoration of Western philosophical tenet. Plato died in c. 348 B. C in Athens (may be in the Academy). The Republic, the central work of his middle years (Plato, Internet), was the world’s first great work of political philosophy (Murry & Mauria, 1988, 7).

In it Plato elaborated arguments that were to affect profoundly subsequent discussions in Greece, Rome, medieval Christendom, and the modern world around man, society, government, and morality (Murry & Mauria, 1988, 7). Variety of ideas, theories, doctrines, arguments, knowledge were written in this Republic. Amongst these precepts were his simile (allegory/myth) of the cave, the concept of ‘virtue’, mythology, aesthetics, literary criticism, the quest for justiceetc. But the most astounding aspect of Plato (written in the Republic and that has erupted the world) was his “political philosophy”.

Plato’s political theory will be our best focal point. In the Republic, discussion about justice was in the first hierarchy, because Plato thought this justice would lead to “ideal state (utopia)”. This justice was referred to everyone had the proper job in accordance to their aptitudes to full-fill their potentialities (Dr. Naret, 2003, 10). In Platos mind, a man should not partake in more than one job at once as this would cause him to be projecting a misrepresentation of his character and his talents which would lead him to unhappiness (Plato, Internet).

In the ideal polis (utopia), citizens were divided into three classes; philosopher rulers (high class). For Plato, The philosopher king, the ruler comes upon his powers through various means, upbringing and through the study of Forms. This would then qualify him to rule Athens’ utopia after a life of study in truth and justice and the other virtues (Plato, Internet). Furthermore, the rulers of the state must be those who had certain knowledge and certain virtues such as; good ethics, calmness, and patience, and only those who has right and good reasons are capable to rule.

In all Plato’s utopia must encompasses these qualities iHigh knowledge to understand machinery of government iCourage, which is the virtue of the protectors. iConsciousness and justice that are the virtues of all the citizens of the model state (Dr. Naret, 2003, 11). And if there are four virtues in the city, then justice must be left over after the other three have been identified (Plato, Internet). Moreover, in this ideal state, only the philosopher-ruler that was capable of maintaining moral values, because only philosopher-ruler or king that had come across the rigorous scientific training.

Resulting from these ideas, Plato blamed the amateur principle of democratic government for what he regarded as it serious dificiencies, because it made people confused due to too many choices. Bestroding in the second class was the “soldier class”, whose duties were to keep the state harmonious, and citizens in this class was called the “guardians” by Plato. Guardians will operated according to wisdom and will rule over those who function according to courage, the auxiliaries, and temperance, government officials (middle class), and labourers and traders (low class).

Guardians were to be selected during the common process of education which both class initially shared. Both guardians and philospher-kings would be the lawmakers, and the philosophers and warriors must live a totally communal life, with not only property but women and children in common, in order to prevent them from having a conflict between public and private interest (Plato, Internet). The lowest class was the civilian population that Plat called ‘labourers or traders’. These people are excluded from any part in government; their role is to obey, and to supply the community’s needs by engaging in useful trades.

Due to Plato, the achievements that people in this class brought were the results of the philosopher-kings. It was assummed that heredity would do most of the work of assignment between classes; but Plato makes a point of saying that, if there are any misfits, promotion or demotion was to take place (H. R. Hare, 1991, 65). There were two aspects of the polis discussed by Plato. One aspect is that the polis is bigger than the individual. The other aspect is that the “polis begins because we can’t all be self sufficient.

Men got together for mutual support, because each person can only do one thing well. Plato’s basis of the ideal state is that one would “only need a few citizens, and they would live a satisfying but simple life, sharing their labor and their produce”, rather than this, the ideals state would “only need a few citizens, and they would live a satisfying but simple life, sharing their labor and their produce” (Plato, Internet). Regarding equality In Plato’s Republic, education encompassed all citizens of the state.

According to Plato, education is included to both women and men of the state. Since both men and women possessed ascribed dual virtues, women were included in Plato’s dynamic ideal state (Plato, Internet). Women were treated the same as men in every circumstance. It was assumed by Barnhart that the type of ideal society that Plato wanted to strive for was that of the aristocracy. An aristocracy, according to The World Book Dictionary is a “government in which a privileged upper class rules” (Barnhart 108).

And the other four types; Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democratic society, and tyrannical society (Plato, Internet). Do all of Plato’s ideas accomplish our moder world? The answers are both; ‘yeas and no’. Yes, the idea of having the philosopher-rulers is absolutely required by our modern world. The world is getting increasingly complicated, combining both negative and positive elements, so the philosopher-rulers would have more insightful mentalities to steer a huge number of population into more fruitful individuals.

According to Plato, all people ambitious, so they can do everything to fullfill their needs, except the philosophers, who have come across rigorous, logical training. These philosopher-rulers are psychologically enlightend and are not self-centred like the ordinary people, so their goals must focus on the collective goods, rather than their owns. And I really agree that philosopher-kings must possess all these virtues; good ethics, calmness, and patience, because governing is quite a dangerous work.

Moreover, I approve with Plato’s philosophical doctrine of dividing the roles of guarding the polis to the soldiers. Because, soldiers need to stumble across tough training, materialistic and mental, they have full capacities to keep the polis harmonious. Finally, I appreciate Plato’s idea of offering equal education to both men and women. With the innate curious mind, and probably some kinds of skills that can’t be replaced, women and men need to help each other in every circumstance in both civil and political vocations.

On the other hand, I really disagree with some of Plato’s ideas. For one thing, I don’t think that government by the people is confused, as Plato and Socrates stated. Nowadays, people are getting more educated in variety of fields, so their decisions to lead their country will be more likely to correspond to their desires. And I think that everyone should have their own choices, as Plato already acclaimed people were born innately curious for knowing, so they should accountable for selecting their own pleasures and happiness.

I don’t think any other person can better respond to their happiness rather than their own. Besides this, I distrust Plato’s idea of philosopher-rulers and warriors should live in community and prevent themselves from any private interest. This really contradicts to human’s hierarchy of needs, as Maslow asserted, people’s needs instigated from the physiological need, than to security, love, self-esteem, and end with the self-actualization (David, 1990, 314).

The class division of Plato really discourages people to struggle to study, to make a living, because when their status is already determine by someone else, this would block their set goals and make them reluctant from being aspiring people. When such a situation happens, the society will become the very primitive one, and this will slow down the economic and political development. This similar is similar to that of Hinduism that until now has brought social, and political upheaval to the whole nation.

Finally, the people of the ideal state should have only one job as their innate potentialities is very communist-oriented. The world is moving very rapidly, and even the Japanese claims that “we live to work”. Working is the whole status for human beings at this time, working will transform people’s lifestyle, and no matter how hard you work you will always have more. Such an idea happened already, in the Cambodia’s Democratic Kampuchea regime, and see how the people at that time looked and felt, comparing to nowadays. Just now I wonder that if Pot Pot’s, Karl Max’s, Hitler’s, Mao Zetong’s doctrines followed Plato’s.

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