Plato's Criticism Of Democracy Essay

1159 words - 5 pages

Plato's Criticism of Democracy

Plato, having defined his perfect society, now seeks to compare contemporary 'imperfect' societies with his ideal standard. He initially criticises the imperfect society as a whole, before leading onto a criticism of any given individual within that society; the imperfect character. He has already dealt with the Oligarchic society and character and now moves onto Democracy and the democratic character.
Plato states that the Oligarchy, where the ultimate desire is for wealth and character governs emotions without reason, will ultimately collapse and become a Democracy. The lower, drone class are exploited by the avaricious oligarchic class: this leads the drones into discontent, and they plot against their rulers. When the two classes come into contact with each other, the lean and sunburnt lower class will find themselves beside the sheltered upper class with their superfluous flesh. They will realise that they can seize power, and perhaps call upon some form of external force to aid their struggle. Therefore, democracy originates when the poor win, kill or exile their opponents, and give the rest equal civil rights and opportunities.
Plato's description of events bears a remarkable resemblance to the reality of the French Revolution, when the decadent and affluent upper class were deposed and destroyed by the poor, drone class. However, though a democratic state was declared, it failed to materialise as France sublimed to a tyrranic period of terror with no real democracy before it.
However, Plato now describes the Democracy that has been implemented by the lower classes with the aim of leading onto the democratic character. With new freedom and liberty, the average individual will arrange his life as pleases him best; this leads to a great variety of individual character within the society. This variety and colour may catch the attention of those who have little understanding of important matters (Plato uses the example of women and children to illustrate his point). However, this lack of order does not encourage the development of well-balanced characters, as Plato demonstrates.
Platonic psychology supports the view that any mind should be made up of three hierarchical levels: the desires and emotions being the lowest tier; the character, as decided by upbringing occupies the intermediate tier; and reason is at the top of the hierarchy. Plato further divides the desires into two categories: the necessary, acquisitive desires (i.e., those that benefit us and are essential to life) and the unnecessary, wasteful desires (i.e., those that harm us physically or mentally and can be controlled). With the Oligarchic psyche, the character governs the emotions but without any reason behind it, i.e., the Oligarchic character balances his desires in order to gain the greatest wealth, but he does not really know why he does this. He is driven by motives hidden to him.
Plato bases his description of the...

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