Explain Why Plato Thinks Philosophers Should Be Kings?

1219 words - 5 pages

Plato's strategy in the Republic is to explicate the primary notion of societal or political justice and then parallel it to the concept of individual justice. Before he can prove that justice is a good thing, Plato must first state its definition, by showing justice in its perfect form in order to discover the true essence of it. Therefore, Socrates claims that the only way to have a perfect state is if the state has a perfect leader, thus he introduces the concept of the philosopher-king.Plato identifies political justice as harmony in a structured political body. An ideal state consists of three main classes of people: producers, auxiliaries, and the guardians (rulers); a state is just when relations between these three classes are right. Justice is a principle of specialization: a principle that requires that each person fulfils the societal role to which nature fitted him or her, and does not interfere in any other business.Socrates describes philosophers as "those who love the sight of truth" (475-e). He claims that what makes philosophers different from lovers of sights and sounds is that they apprehend the Forms. While lovers of sights and sounds love beautiful things, they are unable to see the nature of beauty itself. The Philosophers, on the other hand, believe that beauty exists and can see both it and the things it participates in. In order to back up this claim, that only philosophers can have knowledge, Socrates paints a metaphysical and epistemological picture. He divides the concept of knowledge into: what is, what is not and an intermediate between being and not being. This intermediate between knowledge and ignorance is what he defines as an opinion and casts it as a fallible power. Furthermore, knowledge is the strongest infallible power that is set over the "being" or what is. Given that only philosophers can have knowledge, Socrates emphasizes that they are clearly the ones best able to grasp what is good for the state, and so are in the best position to know how to run and govern it.Plato offers a more intuitive explanation for why the philosophers are virtuous. He idealizes them as being focused and determined because they are fond of learning the function of the being, which does not wander between coming to be and decaying. At the end of Book IV, Plato argues that the nature of the state and the individual are the same. Furthermore, he promotes the notion that when the virtues of reason, passion, and desire act in perfect harmony the individual and consequently the state will become just. Though it is not directly stated, it is fair to make the allusion that Plato would have assumed the same for the Philosophers. Their desires also incline strongly for learning, therefore, weakening other pleasures of the soul. Their emotions and appetites no longer provide a strong impetus toward vice, making the Philosophers moderate in character. Courage also considered as an important characteristic, is defined as "the power to...

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