Criticism Of Democracy As A Criticism On How To Live One’s Life

1090 words - 4 pages

The majority of Socrates’ criticism of democracy in the Republic deals with how he ideally thinks a society should be structured. However, if individuals witnessing this dialogue in fifth century Athens were considering this argument simply in terms of how a government should run, they would be missing Socrates’ main point. For Socrates is actually discussing something much more personal to his audience through means of the republic, their soul. He states this when he introduces the republic, “Therefore, I suggest that we first consider the nature of justice and injustice as they appear in the republic, and then examine the individual, going from the larger and the smaller and then comparing them” (Anderson 56). For the thoughtful citizens of late fifth-century Athens, Plato’s Republic would provide a very useful tool to criticize not just simply democracy but more so how the way they form their government affects the balance of their souls. Socrates criticizes democracy as insufficiently balancing the souls of its people, and he does this in two ways. First, Socrates’ criticizes democracy for its lack of cultivating rationality among its citizens, meaning that the people of democracy do not reason with truth but rather faulty opinion because of their governmental structure. Secondly, Socrates’ criticizes democracy for encouraging the lack of self-control over one’s pleasures, meaning that a democratic society is both born by and fosters the incorrect belief that all there is to life is freedom. Socrates’ creates a republic to criticize democracy, and by doing this he compares the healthy soul to the unbalanced one.
Socrates’ indirectly attacks democracy in ancient Athens when he discusses the differences between opinion and knowledge, and furthermore when he explores inferior “shadows” in relation to absolute truth. Democracy makes decisions based on what opinions the people dialogue during the decision making process. It is made clear that opinion is inferior to knowledge when Glaucon states, “How could any reasonable person equate a power that is in fallible with one that is fallible?” (212). Socrates earlier talked about citizens of Athens as, “…these amusing creatures who are constantly passing laws in the hope that they will finally bring an end to fraud and dishonesty…They don’t know that they are really cutting off Hydra’s head and that two more will immediately grow in its place” (139). Socrates makes it clear that the people of a democracy do not decide using absolute truth, but rather with half truths and knowledge.
This knowledge is brought up by Socrates in his allegory of the cave. The cave can be seen as representing a prison of opinions. The prisoners, who represent the people of a democracy, believe that the forms (areas between the truth and falsehood) before their eyes are real. Socrates says that all democracy is run by is the useless moving around of these opinions. For example, people are honored based on who...

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