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Issue Reaction Paper: The Theory Of Democracy And Demos: A Reaction To A Quotation In Euripides's Play "The Suppliants".

1698 words - 7 pages

The following is the statement I will be responding to in this paper:"The demos cannot form proper judgments and therefore cannot rightly direct the state". Euripides, The Suppliants.Firstly, the statement is taken from Euripides's play The Suppliants, in which Euripides, using a Theban character expresses his critique of direct democracy. The demos or the people are the citizens of a city-state. The primary argument in the statement is that the average citizens of a city, like Athens, are unable to make intelligent political decisions. As a result, they cannot possibly run a democratic state suitably, and require direction from a superior or superiors. I disagree with the statement because I believe like the Athenians, that every citizen has minimum potential and if given the chance, ordinary citizens can help their cities thrive.Euripides's view is supported through many assumptions. One reason why the average citizen is unable to "form proper judgments" is simply because of the lack of leisure needed for active participation in politics, or as Euripides puts it, "A poor hind, granted be he not all unschooled would still be unable from his toil to give his mind to politics." Realistically speaking, the average citizen unlike the aristocrats did not have time to pursue the study of politics, let alone engage in political debates at assembly meetings, since priority always lay with work.In addition, Euripides mentions democracy's susceptibility to the dangers of demagoguery. "…the better sorts count it no healthy sign when the worthless man obtains a reputation by beguiling with words the populace, though aforetime he was not." The power of speech was very important to the Athenians. But it was not mastered by all; some were more convincible than others. This produced demagogues who tried to gain support of the masses for personal political endeavors, through oratory manipulation.Looking at the text in more detail it is clear that to Euripides, the Athenian democratic regime, or direct democracy is nothing more than an illusion. He refers to the democratic city being ruled by a "mob". Euripides feels that the politics in democracy are based on the mere opinion and interpretation of the people rather than the knowledge of a King or group of elites . The basis for this argument seems to mirror the Platonic philosophy that only the knowledgeable could govern, and so in the assembly, "how can non-craft specific people make decisions about certain things" ? Following the Platonic case, the knowledgeable people could only become wise through years of dialectic studies, and upon completion would rule in order to lead the inferiors to live the "good life" .Plato sees the liaison between the state and its citizens as that of a master and slave. For Plato, as outlined in his book The Republic, the subjugation of the inferior many by the enlightened few (or by the one), is necessary to achieve a communal society dedicated to the "higher truth". What...

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