Plato: The Grandfather of Democracy
The history and the evolution of what we know as law, has developed out of many different viewpoints and philosophies. It has been the result of the operational and manipulative aspects of public affairs, and also seems to be the creation of different philosophical systems. There have been many that have been innovators in this area of thought from political leaders and dictators, to others who were simple political idealists and philosophers. Through the wisdom and teachings of Plato, law has evolved into many different systems, and through this paper we will discuss the impact this particular philosopher had had on our modern system of democracy. We will also try to recognize that law will continue to evolve, as does man throughout history.
Many people believe that Plato, whose life span was 427-348 B.C., has exerted a greater influence over human thought than any other individual studied throughout history. He was a student of another tremendous contributor to human thought, Socrates. Plato had written a commentary on democracy called "The Republic." In this book he discusses the ill effects democracy has on the people, but also analyzes the inevitable need for political leaders. Plato argues that the inherent weakness of democracy exists and calls it the "extreme of popular liberty"(Plato's, The Republic). But, when we discuss Plato's views, we must take into account that his vision of democracy is much different than the modern system of democracy that we know today. Plato goes on to say…"this system is where slaves -male and female- have the same liberty as their owners," and where there is "complete equality and liberty in the relations between the sexes"(The Republic).
Another quote from "The Republic" shows how different it was from our own current view of the democratic system. "Then in democracy," I went on, "there's no compulsion either to exercise authority if you are capable of it, or to submit to authority if you don't want to; you needn't fight if there's a war, or you can wage a private war in peacetime if you don't like peace; and if there's any law that debars you from political or judicial office, you will none the less take either if they come your way. It's a wonderfully pleasant way if carrying on in the short run, isn't it?"(The Republic).
In "An Introduction to Plato's Republic" by Julia Annas, she argues "Plato presents democracy as defined by tolerant pluralism, but Athens was a populist democracy, with a clearly defined way of life separating those with power from those without, and about as tolerant of openly expressed nonconformity as McCarthyite America!" Here, Annus is using the comparison of democracy to "tolerant pluralism," as a way of saying that within Plato's view of this type of political system there exists many different realities, and seems to question if law exists at all. She compares his so-called "democracy" as what is commonly...