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Political Theory of Plato

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Socrates 469 BC–399 BC, was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes. Many would claim that Plato's dialogues are the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity. Through his portrayal in Plato's dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, and it is this Platonic Socrates who also lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method.

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Plato is a well known Greek philosopher, scientist, historian, and political theorist. He is the son of the statuary, Sophroniscus, and of the midwife, Phaenarete. Plato was a disciple of Socrates. He was born in Athens in June of 427 B.C

He excelled in the fields of astrology, geometry and was acquainted with the doctrines of Greek leaders. Because he was a close follower of the teachings of Socrates, the majority of his ideas about the system of justice and his perception of how the system operates in society, directly represent those of Socrates. Thus, his relationship with Socrates leads him to learn the art of crafting and shaping his own theories that identify with his own individuality. That fact that his works mirror those of Socrates has brought him much fame throughout history. Because his works are so significant to the political field, he is credited as the most celebrated Greek moralist. His early efforts in defending and defining the system of justice has gained him fame in the political field. However, though he has proposed many great theories that have benefited the society significantly, Plato’s greatest contribution to political science is essentially his powerful yet impartial definition of system. In The Republic, Plato explains that the common perception of justice in the contemporary world is that those who behave unjustly naturally gain power and become rulers and stronger people in society. On the other hand, when weak people behave in accordance with justice, they are disadvantaged, and the strong gain the advantage. In the “second title, Concerning Justice” Plato equates justice with virtue, thus making them equal. Notwithstanding, as one attempts to explain justice within the context of political discipline, one sees that laws were initially created to bring peace and social order to society. According to Bruell, The Republic presents itself as a consideration of justice. This is an important statement because it shows Plato’s argument about the system of justice as a dynamic political philosophy. The fact that it is perceived as a “consideration” of justice shows it is the work of the humanistic intellect rather than expose of a universal truth. Plato’s consideration of justice shows that in the domain of justice there are multiple ways to designate its private and public place in the society. He argues that justice is an orderly system and it functions according to the needs of the society and the individual. In fact, the system itself is so powerful it can become manipulative in regulating the lives of innocent individuals when such a system rests in the hands of powerful rulers who practice lawlessness.

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Plato’s theory of the ideal state is crippled by the description of the elements of the ideal state. The jus state according to plats description is a model of hell for the lower members of the society. Women are confined to their traditional roles on their other side the men in the society are expected to lead. The ideal city is a tyranny where the rights of vulnerable groups are trampled by the absolute dictatorship of the ruling class. Children are taken away from their mothers at birth and breeding between the vulnerable groups. Only the strong should be allowed to procreate and produce the future generation. Plato’s political theory crumbles at the weight of its inconsistencies. The function of the ideal in Plato’s political theory is to act as a standard measure or as a yardstick for the ideal form of government (Douglas, C., 2007). Aristotle disagreed with Plato on the version of the ideal society, but concurred with him that the society should formulate social values that should act as a light house to all those who are charged with the responsibility of steering the ship of the state across the tumultuous waters of politics. The notion of the ideal state was adopted by post-modern scholars. Karl max proposed the communist utopia. A society that is free from the yokes of materialism. Each individual in the society is equal to the other and the economic resources are shared equally among the citizens. Marx’s postulation was similar to Plato’s just city in that the ownership of private property is discouraged. Unlike Plato’s political theory, the communist utopian political theory was tried resulted into a tragic failure. All utopian political theories would suffer the same fate including Plato’s political theory succeeds in the definition of the philosopher king. The Philosopher king would make the best political leader and is the most experienced statecraft. The concept of the philosopher king is best postulation of the ideal leader to commandeer a state. Plato acknowledges the existence of ‘the war between every man and the state’. Platonic utopia or the ideal city, makes it impossible to achieve the values that it seeks to promote

The utopia, instead of creating justice is promotes injustice, it breeds hatred instead of love. The implementation of the political manifesto would lead to chaos and anarchy. The model of government led by the philosopher king would be an aberration of reason. It is presumed that the philosopher king would have a comprehensive understanding of the justice. ‘The philosopher king would rule according to the universal truths’. He will be called to pilot the ship of the state instead of appointment or through hereditary. The fact that the philosopher king would either be a god or a mortal with the trappings of a deity, underscores the fact that the political theory is impractical (Blackburn, S., 2006).

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By and large, the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle can be found embedded in many of the ideologies used to guide most modern states. Those imbued with Platonism, tend to direct the lives of their citizens and impose utopias that end up shrinking the liberties of their subjects in the name of virtue

On the other hand, although Aristotle defended slavery and was not found of financial activities , he set the foundations of freer societies based on the belief that education could give people the tools to rule themselves with moderation, and give themselves the best laws.

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Blackburn, S., 2006. Plato's Republic: A Biography. 2nd ed. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Douglas, C., 2007. Pursuing the good. 2nd ed. London: University of Edinburgh Press..

Ferrari, G., 2007. The Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Monoson, S., 2008. Plato's Democratic Entanglements. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ostenfeld, E., 2008. Essays on Plato's Republic. 2nd ed. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

Appiah, A., 2008. Thinking it Through – An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy. 4th ed. London: Oxford University press.

Baumgartner, F. & Beth, L., 2007. Basic Interests: The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science. New York: Princeton University Press.

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