Plato is one of the most outstanding philosophers of his time. This ancient Greek philosopher produced a significant influence on the development of philosophical thought throughout Europe for many centuries ahead. It is even possible to say that the impact of his views may also be traced nowadays. What makes his works particularly important for a researcher is the fact that he suggested a particular view on a variety of problems and his interpretations and understanding of certain phenomena, societal, or moral laws, etc. is noteworthy and, being to a significant extent original and unique, remains at the same time the product of the ancient epoch. In other words, Plato’s views and ideas help better understand the mentality, way of thinking and fundamental principles of ancient Greek civilization.
At this respect, his philosophical works concerning the state are particularly interesting because they are wholly original and reflect the philosopher’s view on the problem of the state, especially concerning what he considered to be as an ideal state which would make the life of all people right. It is why Plato’s views on the state and ideal rulers and order within it will be discussed regarding this paper.
The entity of the problem
Speaking about the problem of state and its rulers, it should be pointed out that Plato paid a lot of attention to the possibly better structuring of rules and rulers as well as to the precise classification of citizens of the state. From the beginning, it should say that his early and later views on state are to a certain extent different that indicates at the fact that he consistently worked on this problem and attempted to find out what an ideal state and rulers are eventually. By the way, you can get professional research paper help on Plato topics from academic experts.
His views on this problem were presented in his famous work the Republic, where he attempts to convey to readers his understanding of a state and his recommendations as for the creation of an ideal one headed by the not less perfect government. Notably, he rejects many of state models and sorts of regulations, which were popular in his time such as tyranny or oligarchy. Moreover, he even denies democracy, which, according to him, is not ideal either. In contrast, he suggests that only philosophers are the best rulers for people living in a state. Quite remarkably though, such a view seems to be idealistic because often philosophers, being very influential in different spheres of life, including politics such as Aristotle who was a tutor of Alexander the Great, but in actuality they did not govern states as Plato suggested that, in a way, explains the complaints concerning the state which was obviously not ideal.
Plato’s ideas and views concerning state and rulers
Thus, on realizing the fact that Plato is very critical of a nation and its government, it is necessary to explain his position and discuss what he suggested instead of the currently existing forms of state and governments.
First of all, a few words should be said about the structure of the society, which the government rules in the state. According to Plato, the community is structured and consists of several classes. At this respect, it is important to underline that his classification of society is based on the explicit association of a human soul for Plato firmly believes that the structure of the society directly corresponds to the structure of the individual soul. Consequently, it is primarily necessary to describe the structure of the human soul, as Plato understood it. So, he structured the soul on three primary domain: appetite, spirit, reason. Due to such a structure of the individual soul, he attempts to build up the classification of the societal structure since the society consists of individuals and they are influenced by these appetite, spirit, and reason.
As a result, he defines three classes within the structure of the society: productive (workers), protective (warriors), and governing (rulers). The productive class (workers) consists of the laborers, carpenters, plumbers, merchants, farmers, etc., i.e., those who correspond to the “appetite” part of the soul. Protective class (warriors) consists of those who are adventurous, strong brave, in the armed forces, in which the “spirit” part of the soul prevail. And finally, governors are those who are intelligent, wise, rational, self-controlled and who are well suited to make decisions for the community and corresponding to the “reason” part of the soul. By the way, Plato underlined that governors are very few, especially good ones.
Judging from such a classification, Plato strictly divides the society into classes, and the level of governors includes those who are wise and intelligent and are subordinated to the power of reason. Apparently, in such a situation, philosophers are the most suitable for ruling in the state because they possess the necessary qualities, skills, and abilities that are essential for a good, if not ideal, ruler, according to Plato.
Furthermore, according to such a model created by Plato, the principles of Athenian democracy, as it existed in his days, are rejected. The philosopher explains that these laws are not applicable to rule in an ideal state. Moreover, only a few of such principles may be used by a wise and good ruler in the perfect country. He rejects rhetoric and persuasion that are so typical for democracy as useless for governing and instead he suggests that reason and wisdom should primarily rule. Equally, he rejects tyranny, despotism, and oligarchy as far not ideal forms and consequently they are not suitable for the perfect state.
As a result the logical conclusion he arrives to is the idea that it is philosophers who should rule the state, notably he says: “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and are leading men genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils,… no, I think, will the human race” (Plato 473c-d).
In such a way, philosophers are the best or ideal “kings” basically because they are “those who love the sight of truth” (Plato 475c). Furthermore, metaphorically, Plato compares the work of rulers of a state with that of the captain of a shi and a doctor and his medicine. To rule the state, according to Plato, is very similar to the work of a captain and a doctor because of sailing and health, as well as governing the state, are not things that everyone is qualified to practice by nature. Consequently only few may be right in this work and those who are predisposed to rule, who are real philosophers should develop their skills and abilities with the help of the educational system that, according to Plato, should be set up to produce these philosopher kings.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Plato worked thoroughly on the problem of state and the product of his work is his Republic in which he classifies the society and analyses critical societal and state problems. He focuses on the issue of the state which could be ideal for people and which could take a primary concern of its citizens. In fact, he raises fundamental questions as for the development of perfect state and educating ideal rulers who are wise and intelligent to rule the nation. His work is of paramount importance since it provokes many discussions as for the perfect state but what is probably more important is the fact that his Republic makes many people, including not only philosophers but rulers, as well as ordinary citizens, to think about the state and government in complex for he suggests not just an ideal image of a good king, but he indicates at the necessity to develop education, promote personal qualities and characteristics of rulers and citizens of the state so that the life of people would be better.
1. Plato, Republic. New York: Penguin Classics, 1998.
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