Plato's Rule By Philosopher Kings Essay

1519 words - 6 pages

The purpose of this essay is to examine whether or how far Plato's argument that philosophers should be the rulers of the Republic is valid and persuasive. In The Republic, Plato argues that kings should become philosophers or that philosophers should become kings, or philosopher kings, as they possess a special level of knowledge, which is required to rule the Republic successfully. The essay will argue that Plato's argument for the philosopher kings' rule is neither persuasive nor realistic in theory, but that traces of the characteristics of his ideal form of rule do appear in the modern state. To set out this argument, the essay will firstly consider Plato's argument for the philosopher kings, as well as its limitations, and secondly and finally consider what characteristics of the philosopher kings' rule are valid and realistic in terms of the modern state.The definition of democracy is key in understanding Plato's argument for rule by philosophers. Nowadays, most modern states are democratic, in the sense that people have a say in the running of the state. Since Plato's time there has been a debate regarding what democracy is: whether it is the idea of majority rule, or what has come to be known as the 'Madisonian view' that democracy involves the protection of minorities. To Plato, it all boils down to what democracy means, literally. Democracy is 'the rule by the demos', where 'demos' can be understood as 'the people', and as "'the mob'…the unfit" (Wolff; 2006, 67). As Wolff argues, "Making political decisions requires judgement and skill. It should, Plato urges, be left to the experts." (Wolff; 2006, 67). To further emphasize this, Plato uses the 'craft analogy', drawing on the allegory of the ship. In Plato's The Republic, Socrates sets out an example of a ship led by men ignorant of navigation, who"don't understand that a true captain must pay attention to the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all that pertains to his craft, if he's really to be the ruler of a ship. And they don't believe that there is any craft that would enable him to determine how he should steer the ship, whether the others want him to or not, or any possibility of mastering this alleged craft or of practicing it at the same time as the craft of navigation. Don't you think that the true captain will be called a real stargazer, a babbler, and a good-for-nothing by those who sail in ships governed in that way?" (Plato; 2007, 204).With this allegory, Plato is not only stressing the idea that specialization is key to the running of the Republic, but also that philosophers were unappreciated in 420 BC Athens, and thus useless because the world would not use them and their knowledge. It also stresses the dangers of liberty and equality, as well as the unnaturalness of democracy.Plato's idea of specialization is also linked to justice, which he considers to be structural, as political justice is a result of a structured city, where individual...

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