Plato's Ideas About Philosopher Kings Depicted In Republic

1737 words - 7 pages

In Plato's most famous work 'Republic' he puts forward the view that only the study of philosophy would allow man to see what was good and just. Therefore to cure the ill's of society it would be necessary to either make kings philosophers or make philosophers kings. I intend to show how Plato justifies this view and then attempt to point out some possible problems with this justification and to forward my own view that 'the people' should ultimately be king.

Plato's starting point was his recognition that justice was one of four cardinal virtues, along with wisdom, courage and moderation, that when working harmoniously together in a high level of order - he felt equalled the elusive 'good life'.
Plato thought that the best way to discover what justice was, was to create a 'perfect soul' - this he did by first creating a theoretical 'perfect city', which would have a good soul and all four virtues. Using the theory that the 'polis is the individual writ large' he intended to compare his perfect city with a perfect person and subsequently evaluate justice.

Plato's perfect city was to be a model of order, efficiency and discipline. Above all it would be governed by the strict adherence to what White refers to as 'the natural division of labour'. This was to take the form of vocational and social division within the city. Everyone had one job in order to specialise and become good at it. 'We forbade our shoemaker to try his hand at farming or weaving or building and told him to stick to his last, in order that our shoemaking should be well done.'
More fundamentally however the city was to be divided into three distinct social classes, in which people would be raised from birth. These classes consisted of the producers, the guardians and the rulers. These correlated to a high degree with their microcosm in the individual soul in which they took the form of reason, spirit/emotion and appetite/desire.

The producers were to be the farmers and artisans who were responsible for the supply of food, clothing and other such essential but basic needs. They would be highly specialised and allowed money and private property as their main incentive. In the individual soul the producers equated to desire as they were not governed by true reason. In the same way that ungoverned desire e.g. I must eat this cake even though it is not mine, created conflict in an individual that must be controlled, the producers were susceptible to the temptation to take land with better soil or more area for example. Therefore a second class was necessary - to protect from both internal and external threats and keep both the city and the soul in order. The perfect city maintained order by using guardians, the guardians were the warrior class that protected the city. These warrior characteristics made them a potential internal threat, so Plato decided to neutralise volatile factors such as greed or envy by denying the guardians access to money or private property. The...

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